10 inspiring classes around the world

10 inspiring classes around the world

Whether you're into anime, flamenco, jungle survival or cheese, there's a destination -- and a class -- for you

There's more to appreciating a country than getting dreads and wearing Thai wrap pants. Enroll in one of these courses across the globe to get an up close cultural experience.

1. Manga drawing, Fukuoka, Japan

Manga drawing classGet this good in two weeks and we might give you a job. Or at least a gigantic "YATTAAAAAAA!"


WAHAHA may sound like an awkward transition from crying to laughing, but it’s actually the name of a short-term study school in Fukuoka, Japan.

The school’s two-week manga course includes two hours of manga drawing and three hours of Japanese language lessons, per day.

Students come away with the skills to make their own manga comic, learning how to develop stories, characters, render onomatopoeia, draw backgrounds and more.

The two-week course costs ¥79,000 (US$1,025).

WAHAHA Japanese Language School, Maizuru 4th floor, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan; +81 92 737 2288; http://www.wahahanihongo.com

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2. Cheese making, Wisconsin, United States

Cheese-making classWelcome to Wisconsin, the Pasteurized Promised Land.


It's still always good to show up high-brow cheese name-droppers. You can stay ready by taking a course in the real, undefeated cheese champion capital of the world -- Wisconsin, U.S.A.

An authentic, all-American homemade cheese experience in Edam Eden waits wannabe churners at The Cheese Maker, located in the cozy home of Steve and Mary Shapson in Mequon, Wisconsin.

The Shapsons' hands-on, three-day courses teach lovers of edible bacteria the craft of making and understanding Camembert, baby Brie, bleu, chevre, mozzarella, ricotta and feta.

Days consist of cheese workshops, wine and cheese socials and an all-inclusive lunch and gourmet dinner. The three-day course costs US$279, cheese kits, wine and cheese included.

The Cheese Maker, 11611 N. Grace Court, Mequon, Wisconsin, United States; +1 414 745 5483; www.thecheesemaker.com

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3. Flamenco, Seville, Spain

Flamenco classDeodorant is strongly advised for all levels of flamenco.


Throw out the cassette and clap/stomp to a live flamenco guitarist. 

In one of the most vibrant areas of Seville, the Taller Flamenco school provides instruction in different rhythms of flamenco, including seguiriyas, soleá, soleá por bulerías, alegrías and more.

Students are locals and tourists, beginners and professionals.

Because flamenco is such an important part of the local culture, students are encouraged to visit local flamenco dance and music shows.

The seven-day course costs £259 (US$408) per person and includes five two-hour sessions.

For more information visit www.tallerflamenco.com

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4. Jungle survival, Guyana

Jungle survival courses"Now, if I squint really hard that titan beetle will look just like a Big Mac."
Isolate yourself in an Amazonian rainforest to test your mental and physical stamina and -- most importantly –- your gag reflex with a Bushmasters Full Survival course.

An initial “training phase” takes place at your shelter where you'll be sleeping in a hammock for the next week. Here, you learn basic survival skills: finding water, making shelter, lighting a fire and finding a meal (including tasty bugs and fishing for Piranha).

Then comes the “isolation phase” where you’ll be separated into singles or pairs, and learn to survive in the jungle -- with nothing but the clothes off your back, a machete, bow and arrow and belt kit.

Bushmasters Full Survival two week course, £1600 (US$2,521), www.bushmasters.co.uk; For 2012 dates and other courses visit www.bushmasters.co.uk/dates

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5. Ceramics workshop, Plan du Four, France

Ceramics workshop"Er, for your first try ... better just settle for a basic vase shape."


Why buy French pottery when you can make it yourself in the South of France?

A typical five-day “hand-building” course at Dragon Ceramic teaches classic ceramics techniques, glazing, Raku firing, and includes visits to ceramics studios and inspiring afternoon walks in the stunning Pont du Gard.

Hand building is a wheel-less pottery method that creates one-of-a-kind shapes.

A typical, five-day program costs €475 (US$639) and includes transportation from the airport.

Dragon Ceramic, Plan du Four, Vallabrix, France; +33 (0)4 66 75 03 85; www.dragonceramic.com

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6. Photography, Kathmandu, Nepal

Photography courseGetting tangled in prayer flags is totally worth the perfect shot.


There's something about high altitude and clean mountain air that seems to make photos of Khatmandu look … crisp.

Capture the atmosphere of Nepal without having to worry about language or transportation barriers by taking an Authentic Adventures packaged course that covers the most photogenic hideouts of the Himalayas.

Students receive seven days of photography tutoring while being guided through the most sublime parts of Kathmandu, Bandipur, Pokahara, and visiting villages. 

Snap historic temples, restored mansions, breathtaking vistas of the Himalayas, lakes and ancient cities while getting a glimpse of fascinating rural life in the Kathmandu Valley.

Based on a March 2, 2012, start date, 12 nights (not including flights) cost £2,609 (US$4,114), hotel rooms included. For more information visit Authentic Adventures

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7. Singing, Barbados

Singing workshopsEnjoy your stay, but feel free to skip the cornrows.


You may not leave sounding like Barbados native Rihanna, but the seven-day Barbados Singing Holidays program might be the most enjoyable summer school you’ll ever attend.

Vocal training includes relaxation and breathing exercises, warm-up techniques, group harmony classes, jazz and gospel methods, individual performance training and rehearsals for a solo live performance at the end of the course.

Instructors help singers get ready for their big performance during workshop sessions held in the friendly tropical setting of a luxury Barbadian villa.

Run by British vocal coach Mike King, classes run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. After that, students are free to roam the island.

Based on June 2012 classes, costs range from £1,099-1,199 (US$1,733-1,890). Included are airport transfers, tuition, workshop fees and hotel rooms; +44 20 7639 2239; www.barbadossingingholidays.com

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8. Meditation, Himachal Pradesh, India

Meditation courseThinking about not thinking is harder than it looks.


In Himachal Pradesh amid the foothills of the Himalayas, Tushita Meditation Centre offers a variety of courses for those curious about Buddhist philosophy.

Courses include Introduction to Buddhism, as well as intermediate-level meditation, group retreats and drop-in sessions.

A typical 10-day Introduction to Buddhism course includes many guided meditation sessions, stretching and walking.

Buddhist philosophy classes held within a “silent retreat environment.” This means no chit-chat between classmates.

Because meditation requires total discipline, mobile phones, MP3 players, computers, instruments and all other noise-making devices are confiscated upon arrival, and not returned to guests until check-out.

The biggest test of mental discipline? No sexual activity at the retreat.

Donations expected for the 10-day course run Rs 4,950-6,750 (US$97-132), depending on how many beds in your dormitory. The donation covers the cost of meals and accommodation; www.tushita.info

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9. Kung fu, Fujian, China

kung fu class, chinaIf you haven't advanced beyond "Kung Fu Panda 2," you're not ready.


Develop kung fu skills deep in the mountainous region of China's Fujian Province with a four-week course offered by British travel company Real Gap Experiences.

The intensive course introduces beginners to the ways of Shaolin, Wushi, Xingyi, as well as the local Fujian White Crane-style kung fu. 

The all-around program also includes Mandarin language lessons, and instruction in the historic and mental components of martial arts.

Days typically begin with early morning circuit training, running and Qi Gong meditation, before breakfast at 7:30 a.m., followed by three-hour morning and three-hour afternoon training sessions.

Programs range from four to 12 weeks; four-week course costs £899 (USD$1,432); for more, contact Real Gap Experiences at +44 1892 516 164 or visit www.realgap.co.uk

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10. Genghis Khan warrior training, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Genghis Khan warrior training"Wait, is this a donkey? I was promised a 'noble steed.'"


Ever fantasized about fighting for the great Genghis Khan? Neither have we. It sounds terrifying.

But for those nostalgic for large-scale slaughter and violent reigns of power, there is a nine-day course.

Educational tourism agent Responsible Travel offers warrior training in Mongolia. For three days, warriors-in-training don traditional Mongolian battle robes while learning 13th-century battle skills.

Students learn how to make a bow and arrow, cook in fields, shoot from a horse, tie knots, herd and lasso horses, light campfires and plan a successful war campaign.

True to the Mongols' nomadic existence, battle novitiates live and sleep in portable tents.

The nine-day course costs £2,150 (US$3,387) and includes all accommodation, meals, activities, guides, transportation and, most importantly, a tailor-made Mongolian robe; www.responsibletravel.com

Jane Leung is a Hong Kong-born Canadian who has dabbled in the mixed media bag of film and television production, the professional sports industry and magazine publishing. 

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