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  • Locations: Nilgiris, India
  • Program Terms: Spring
  • Homepage: Click to visit
  • Restrictions: CU applicants only
Program Description:


At a glance
The NFLC is an engaged learning and research program where Cornell students and members of local communities live, study, and research together for 16 weeks each spring. Cornell students earn 15 credits in this innovative study abroad program, which requires completion of a 1-credit fall prep course.

Length – 1 Semester (Spring)
Eligibility – 3.0 GPA, Cornell student, second-semester sophomores and juniors
Requirements – Completion of two 1-credit prep seminars offered the semester before travel
Costs – Cornell tuition will cover housing, meals, local travel and fieldwork. Personal expenses and round-trip international airfare costs are not covered

For a presentation of the NFLC program, click here.
Student Spotlight - Hanna Reichel
Program Overview

LocationThe Nilgiris Field Learning Center (NFLC) is a unique partnership between Cornell University and the Keystone Foundation based in Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu. The program engages Cornell faculty and students with experts and community members in a learning and research experience.
Located in the “blue hills” of South India, The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve is incredibly rich in culture, communities, and biodiversity. It is an important ecosystem that covers three Indian states, and is home to a sizeable indigenous population. Across the Biosphere, small towns, tea, coffee, and spice plantations, vegetable cultivation, and tourist facilities are interspersed with forested lands and national parks that are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
The Keystone Foundation has been working with indigenous communities in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve for more than 20 years. The focus of Keystone’s work is eco-development initiatives that emphasize livelihood generation, conservation, environmental governance, and supporting and celebrating diverse local cultures and peoples. The Keystone campus in Kotagiri is a hub for local honey production, education, and skill development. Fifty staff members implement Keystone programs on campus and in field stations. Learn more about Keystone on their website.
The goal of the NFLC is to develop academic and research skills with a view toward developing practical solutions for complex problem.  Projects address community-identified issues:
  • Community wellness, access to medical resources, and changing modes of healing
  • Dietary diversity, eating habits, and sourcing patterns in local food systems
  • Contested forest lands as spaces for food, farming, & trade
  • Infant feeding practices in the context of maternal health & social networks
  • Water and waste infrastructure in an urbanizing environment
The NFLC provides transformative research experiences for faculty, students, community members, and professionals. Together, we engage in, give back, and benefit from the work done at the Center. Read more about the student experience on the Student Blogs!
Spring 2015 Student Blogs
Spring 2016 Student Blogs

Academic Overview

NFLC Students
This semester-long engaged learning and research program is taught by Cornell faculty in collaboration with Keystone staff.
  • In weeks 1-7, field trips and classroom modules will focus on the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve. Enjoy a spring break in week 8!
  • In weeks 9-15, you’ll team up for field work on community wellness, environmental governance, infant nutrition and diet diversity, and waste management issues. Together you’ll analyze what you’ve learned.
  • In week 16, you’ll make presentations in the local communities in which you’ve worked and to members and friends of the Keystone Foundation. A debrief and a celebration of your accomplishments round out the experience of lifetime.
All Cornell students are enrolled in 15 credits of coursework for the Spring semester, plus two 1-credit preparatory seminars the prior semester. All courses are letter grade only unless otherwise noted.
  • ANTHRO 1520: Tamil Conversation in Context, A. Willford (2 credits)
  • ANTHRO 4520: Society and Culture in the Nilgiris, A. Willford (3 credits)
  • CRP 3850; Society and Culture in the Nilgiris, N. Kudva (3 credits)
  • NTRES 4940: Environmental Governance in the Nilgiris, S. Wolf (3 credits)
  • Independent Study: Anthropology, Urban Planning, Natural Resources, Nutrition, or Global Public Health (4 credits each.  Note the independent study in Nutrition and Global and Public Health are S/U only).
Students live and dine in guest houses on the Keystone Foundation’s property, a former hillside tea plantation with spectacular views of the town and surrounding countryside. Meals are prepared by a local cook using ingredients fresh from the market. Central Kotagiri is a 15-minute walk from Keystone.

Kotagiri is a hill town located at 5,900 feet above sea level. The weather during the spring semester will be mild, with warm days and cool nights. Recreational opportunities – hiking, national parks – abound. Local travel is easy on public bus system, with access to regional train stations.




Faculty Admin

Cornell Faculty
Cornell faculty visit Keystone throughout the semester to lead educational modules and direct field work.  The Research Coordinator provides key support to NFLC students throughout the pre-departure course and semester abroad.
Neema Kudva, City and Regional Planning, NFLC Lead Faculty member
Rebecca Stoltzfus, Nutritional Sciences
Andrew Willford, Anthropology
Steven Wolf, Natural Resources
Shubh Swain, Research Coordinator

Keystone Partners
NGO professionals co-teach educational modules and direct field work.
Pratim Roy, Director
Anita Varghese, Deputy Director of Research
Sarasasmeeta "Sara" Pathy, Administrator in Charge
Somnath Sen, Managing Trustee, Keystone Foundation

Cornell Abroad
Cornell Abroad staff facilitate the administration of NFLC, supporting the faculty, students, and Keystone partners to make the program run smoothly for all.
Kathy Lynch, Financial Manager
Alayne Prine, Program Advisor

More Information



Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Approx. Start Approx. End
Spring 2020 09/15/2019
Rolling Admission TBA TBA

** Programs may fill long before their final deadline. * Recommendation--For SPRING: APPLY in MAY to study abroad the following spring. For FALL/YEAR: APPLY in DECEMBER. Late applications may be accepted, but colleges typically need time to process your approval.

Indicates that deadline has passed. See CUAbroad.