Frequently Asked Questions
Can MCTC accommodate my level of knowledge?
Yes, Manjushree Center of Tibetan Culture, MCTC, offers two levels of classes on written and spoken Tibetan: beginning and advanced. The beginning class starts mid-March with the alphabet and pronunciation and moves quickly into sentence structure, verb usage and vocabulary. The advanced classes are more individually tailored to the students. In general the advanced class will read Tibetan texts that are requested by the students in the class.
When are the classes?
The trimesters run from the middle of March to the middle of June, from mid-June to mid-September, and from mid-September to mid-December.
Could I attend for only one week?
No. MCTC asks students to commit to a minimum of three months of study.
Is tutoring available?
MCTC does not offer tutoring but it is easily available in the community. Students have found tutors for conversational Tibetan, handwriting in different scripts and for Buddhist terminology. The cost in generally in the Rs. 50 – Rs. 80/hour price range.
What texts should I bring?
You can purchase beginners’ texts from MCTC. Bring your dictionaries or buy them en route in Delhi or Kathmandu. Tape recorders are also useful.
What dialect is taught at MCTC?
All of the teachers at MCTC speak Lhasa dialect, most of them were born and educated in Lhasa, Tibet. Some of the teachers have had a traditional monastic education in Tibet and some have had a modern education in India.
What is the class size at MCTC
The beginners class averages around 10-15 people, while the advanced classes are around 3-6 people. In the spring time when school starts the class size is larger, and by the time monsoon is finished in September many students will have left, making the class size smaller.
Is MCTC also a Tibetan Buddhist Dharma center?
No, MCTC is a charitable trust that was established to help preserve the culture of the Tibetan people. Manjushree Center of Tibetan Culture was founded in 1988. It is registered and approved by the Department of Education of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
What kind of texts are available at MCTC?
MCTC has a small library that contains both Tibetan and English texts, although the majority of the books are English titles. There is a wide range of titles including Tibetan history, Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism, and Tibetan language. There is only one small book store selling Tibetan pecha in Darjeeling. There is a small shop selling a limited selection of Tibetan Buddhist text in English, for a wider selection you will need to go to Kathmandu, Delhi or Dharamsala.
Where can I find out more about Tibetan language?
There are many Tibetan language resources on the internet. Here are just a few:
Places to study Tibetan language http://www.tibet.com/Language/study-place.html
The Language of Tibet: Overview and Links http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/language.htm
The Tibetan Language Institute http://www.tibetanlanguage.org/
Tibetan Studies: Language, Literature, and Software http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVLPages/TibPages/tib-language.html
What about housing?
MCTC does not offer housing. However, Darjeeling is a tourist town where many kinds of living arrangements are available, including hotels, boarding houses, individual apartments and sharing a Tibetan family’s home. One can expect to pay in the range of US$1 to US$5 per night depending on the quality of the housing and if you need a kitchen or not. Once you reach Darjeeling contact the MCTC office for more information on housing options.
What about food?
Darjeeling offers many restaurants with a variety of cuisine. A meal costs from US$1 to US$3, though cooking one’s own food is cheaper. Fresh foods are available at open markets year-round.
How about communication?
MCTC has several fax lines. There are many commercial telephone, fax services, and e-mail services. Internet access cost about US$0.70/hour. Faxes to USA and Europe cost about US$1 per page. Normal mail takes from 10 – 15 days between Darjeeling and the USA or Europe. You can communicate with MCTC by email at email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the weather like?
The best seasons in Darjeeling are the spring and fall. During these times the sky is generally clear and the sun warm. Darjeeling is cool throughout the summer, never reaching above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 20 degrees Centigrade. The winter is cold with snow once or twice. The rainy season runs from June through the end of September. If you stay for the rainy season it is helpful to have a stock of airtight plastic bags to store clothes and books in, most everything will get moldy during this time. Ziploc brand Heavy Duty Freezer bag work very well for this purpose. Please note, Ziploc bags are not available in Darjeeling. Inside heating is difficult to obtain and is not available in the classrooms. All weather clothing is easily available for purchase in Darjeeling. If you are someone that gets cold quickly it is nice to bring a small electric heating pad. Remember that the electricity is 220 volts in India.
What kind of budget will I need to live in Darjeeling?
Not including the school fees, most people spend between US$100 and US$250 per month. If you cook your own food and eat vegetarian then your cost will be in the lower part of the range. If you get a more fancy room and eat out for every meal it will be on the high side.
Can I access my bank account?
Many students find ATMs to be the easiest way to get cash. There are now a few ATM machines in Darjeeling that accept most international ATM cards and credit cards. The ATMs are open 24 hours/day and the main one is located just opposite the State Bank of India. American Express traveler’s cheques are accepted at the banks; only US Dollar, British Pound and Euro. Some banks give cash advances on credit cards (Master Card and Visa only) but there is a service charge of US$5 per transaction. Wire transfers to accounts are difficult and often take months to clear.
Do I need a Indian visa?
Yes. Apply at the Indian consulate in your own country for a 1 or 5 year “tourist visa”. In some countries only 6 month Indian visas are possible. Currently Manjushree is unable to assist students in obtaining an official “student visa”. Once you are in India it is generally not possible to get your visa extended. When your visa is finished you will have to leave India and apply for a new visa. The closest places to do this are Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and sometimes it is possible in Nepal (but not always).
Can I use my computer in Darjeeling?
Yes. In India, the electricity should be 220 volts, but often the voltage varies quite a bit. It is best to bring a portable laptop computer, because there are often power cuts in Darjeeling. Also, you should invest in a good “automatic voltage stabilizer”, once you reach Darjeeling, because the power is often somewhere between 100-300 volts. A high quality automatic voltage stabilizer cost about US$20 here in Darjeeling. If you would like to setup your own internet account, there is local access phone number in Darjeeling. It will cost about US$10 for 100 hours of connect time or 1 year, which ever comes first. Prepaid internet accounts can be purchased from computer stores in Darjeeling. There is also now DSL internet access in Darjeeling. You connect your laptop to the network at Compuset Centre to use this high speed line.
Where can I find more information on India and Darjeeling?
Both the Lonely Planet Guide Book for India, and the Rough Guide for India present an overview of India, and more details of Darjeeling. Mapping the Tibetan World is the excellent guide book for Tibet, and also cover the areas of India, Nepal and Butan where Tibetans live (e.g. Darjeeling, Dharamsala, Kathmandu etc.) For lots of information and photos of Darjeeling take a look at http://www.tourismdarjeeling.com