I am pleased to be serving as one of the three course instructors for your Himalayan Studies in Nepal this autumn; a very special time, with crisp cool weather, great mountain views, and many unique festivals including Dasain and Tihar, considered by some to be the most important celebrations for Nepal’s communities. I am excited for our time together, and so should you be!
From a small city in Central Louisiana, I enjoyed my youth in ways common to Southern kids: scouts, sports, band, church, playing in the woods. Feeling for a radically different setting, I traveled to Nepal in 2003 for junior year college study abroad – much like you are embarking on – an experience that changed my life in many ways. Since then I have spent half my time in South Asia to deepen an understanding of spirituality, the mountain environment, and the peoples that call it home.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 also changed my life. My father’s family hails from New Orleans, so I dedicate a portion of my energy each year to the recovery work and endless house renovations! I have passion for the Himalayas, but my perspective remains deeply rooted in Louisiana, the place that has been home to my family for generations.
I am honored to have the opportunity to continue exploring, together with you. Though my role is that of “instructor”, I am really another student participating alongside you, just a bit older. I expect us all to be open to new insights and awareness, willing to put aside our prejudices and beliefs – or disbeliefs – to make space for new truths. Following your sense of adventure is the golden key on this type of experience. As instructors, we have the ability to facilitate learning conditions for and with our students, but we are not the cause of learning. The cause naturally rests in your hands, a seed within you. Your attitude, diligence, and perseverance.
I am sure that you are excited and may be apprehensive as you prepare for your journey, but don’t stress out! You are on the way to meet an exceptionally great team of experienced people that truly care about their work with you, and most anything you forget to pack you can get in Kathmandu!
Best of luck! Looking forward to meeting in September. Yours,
Michael D Smith, MSW MPH