When UF religion professor Travis Smith was a junior in college, he traveled to Bodh Gaya, India, the birthplace of Buddha, for a study abroad trip.
"That was the most fruitful academic moment I've had," Smith said. "It was life transforming."
So when he was asked to lead a study abroad trip to India, the opportunity excited Smith.
Smith and his wife, Anita Anantharam, are leading the first study abroad program in India that is available to all students. The program will take place this summer on an organic farm and focus on sustainability. The deadline to apply for the program is March 3.
The farm, Bija Vidyapeeth, is a 20-acre plot of land in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
The program will work in cooperation with Navdanya, an organization promoting nonviolent farming and protection of Indian farmers.
Students in the program will meet rural organic farmers and learn about sustainability.
"The curriculum that we want to teach - sustainability, simplicity and social responsibility - are in keeping with the mission of Navdanya," Anantharam said.
Students will live in dormitories and classes will be held in an auditorium on the Bija Vidyapeeth property.
Engineering junior Tomasz Bacewicz, who is going on the trip, said living on an organic farm and doing yoga every day sounds appealing.
"I have always wanted to go to India because it is one of the centers of religion and has a strong traditional culture," Bacewicz said.
Planned trips include visits to Hindu and Buddist religious pilgrimage sites.
Anantharam said an excursion to the Himalayan foothills will teach students about medicinal plants and indigenous crops.
Smith and Anantharam want the program to give back to Bija Vidyapeeth by digging a well or learning farming techniques on the land, Anantharam said.
"The program will be largely experiential because learning happens not only in the classroom, but through sustained engagement with the everyday life on Navdanya farm," she said.