This semester will be an amazing opportunity to enhance your skills in being present with your homestay families, community-members, peers, I-team, and Nepal! As a result, we ask you to please not bring phones, tablets, or laptops of any kind (not for photos, not for music). If so, instructors will hold onto them for the duration of the semester and are not responsible for damage, loss, or theft.
Things to consider: The more tech you have, the more of a target you are for theft. Your personal choices affect the safety of the group, and affect the communities who host us. We will be staying with families who might not have access to such items, and they create more distinct disparity in your relationship. A huge part of being on the program is learning how to be present and engaged with the people and place around you.
We will hand out basic phones during the urban homestay portion for safety reasons, so you can easily call the I-team.
E-readers are allowed as long as they have NO DATA and NO WIFI access, i.e. if they only have the capacity for reading books, such as the basic kindle models.
I-pods and MP3 players are fine as long as they have NO DATA and NO WIFI access, but we highly encourage you to bring the smallest most inconspicuous version possible. The iPod shuffle is an excellent example of what we mean.
What we do not want is for you to enter a home-stay, pop in your ear buds, and tune out of the experience around you. We’ve seen electronic devices completely tear students away from their present surroundings, increase homesickness, and keep one foot in Nepal and one foot longing for their Snapchat or Instagram feed happening back home. Even our longest and most arduous travel days, precisely when it’s most tempting to put our headphones on, can hold some of the most amazing and unexpected cultural interactions; however, we need to keep our eyes and ears open (i.e., not looking at a screen or listening to music) to engage those unplanned moments.
On Cameras: Some instructors and students choose to go camera-free to better live in the moment and prioritize relationship-building and experiencing moments over ‘capturing’ them. Others love to be the group photographer and feel the camera is a part of their artistic expression. An awesome choice is to bring a Polaroid to be able to give away photos to those you create relations with. Again, if you decide to bring a camera, we encourage you to err on the side of small and inconspicuous – something you wouldn’t mind if it got banged up, lost, or stolen. Students often set up a photo-share post-trip so that everyone has mementos, regardless of their tech choices on program. You choose what feels best for you. We will cover how to respectfully and safely carry and use cameras once in-country.
Communicating with home: Families, please prepare yourself emotionally for being out of touch longer than might feel comfortable to you. This is because your students are being exposed to amazing places that have different infrastructure. We will be trekking in mountains out of range. We will be living in rural areas without wifi. We will be staying in urban areas with regular power outages. These experiences are once-in-a-lifetime, so we hope you will have patience with your loved ones and remember the saying, “No news is good news”. It means we are super busy having a blast.
Students will have access to a collective Chromebook in order to post yaks. The yak board will be the main mode of communication throughout the course (but again, try not to refresh the page too often, as we really will have limited access to wifi, and an intense schedule of awesome!) Additionally, students may find Internet cafes to Skype or email, or call home every so often. It is up to the students to make it happen.
A note on Orientation: We have also found it critical to group formation that students refrain from calling home for the first week or two. This decreases homesickness, and allows each person to begin forming relationships and support with the amazing people around them.
We hope you understand and are on board with everything we’ve laid out. Don’t hesitate to ask questions via the yak board…
Shanti, Michael, and Sarah (your I-team)