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Trek View on Nepal: Himalayan Studies Gap Year Semester with Where There Be Dragons

all we have to give in this life is ourselves, so we should do so fully


During our transference in Shivapuri, our group has talked about going home – what it means, what to expect, how to make sense of this semester in Nepal. Students are often asked what they take home from these programs. Many take home a greater confidence in themselves and their ability to deal with challenging situations. Many take home new skills-packing a backpack, treating a blister, making momos. Most take home new friendships and inspirations. But what’s less obvious and harder to qualify is their ability to sit with themselves or others without the multitude of distractions our modern lives throw at us. And how much students come to cherish these moments.

At the end of the course, we like to ask our students a few questions about their experience. Below you will find their anonymous answers. As you will see, they have been changed in ways both big and small, obvious and more subtle. We want to thank you to all families and friends for your support in making this semester a great success! These thoughtful, kind and curious young people inspire us every day and make us proud to do this sort of work.

Tshetan, Michael and Rebecca

1) What is something that surprised you about Nepal?

How comfortable I would be by the end of 3 weeks navigating myself around Kathmandu on crowded buses.

The slow, community centered lifestyle surprised me. I will forever miss dinners with 12+ Nepali family members, and breaking for chiyaa twice a day.

The entire system of public transportation in Kathmandu consistently terrified and amazed me, from the dusty streets to the bus hype boys to the time that stranger placed her toddler in my lap on a crowded bus.

The fact that there are basically no rules. If you want to cross the street in Nepal, all you have to do is start walking into moving traffic, hold out your hand so as to say “hey, your light may be green and you may be traveling at 35 miles per hour, but I’m going to cross the street now, so you better stop for me.” And cars will stop within inches of your face. I’m always shocked by how fast the brakes on massive buses seem to work here. Also, Anything you want to buy, from a shawl for your mom back home to a massage you received in Boudha, can be bargained for.

I was particularly surprised by how integral a role Nepal plays in Asian/Global politics because it’s nestled between 2 huge regional and political powers of conflicting interests, Nepal’s economic and domestic policy can reflect (and affect) India’s and China’s motives.

I was surprised by the lack of rules regarding driving and traffic.

The sense of community in Nepal. Each person takes it upon themselves to support one another. I felt safe and comfortable almost anywhere in Nepal knowing that if I needed help, I would be aided immediately by anyone around me I asked.

The kindness/helpfulness of strangers and the deeply interwoven nature of religion into almost every facet of life.

I was never hungry! I was worried that I could not survive on rice and beans alone, but I was wrong. Not only did I survive, but I thrived! Now I’ve got a healthy daal bod and I will come home full.

2) Who is someone who influenced your trip?

My host father, Keshab, he talked to me about business and always put a smile on my face, he was a jokester!

Claire Bennett revolutionized the way I think about service, caring for others, and taught me that making the world a better place was a lifestyle not just a single action.

It would probably have to be Charis. Though she was only with us for the first four weeks of this program, she still managed to have a lasting effect on me. With her kind words and always caring voice, Charis was always someone I felt I could lean on, and she always had incredible advice to give. Even when we all found out she would be going back to the States right before our midcourse in Bandipur, Charis was always willing to listen to us and support us in whatever way we felt about her leaving. Her selfless personality taught me many things about being strong when you really might feel afraid and anxious about the future. I will always look up to Charis and strive to be more like her.

My hajur amma in Kathmandu influenced my trip. Despite the epic language barrier and age gap, she always struck up conversations with me, let loose with her contagious laugh, and sang Nepali folk songs while I cleaned the dishes. She taught me that old age and youth can coexist.

Someone who influenced me a lot was Charis. She really made the transition to Nepal so great and I will always be grateful to her for being so willing to be there and listen no matter what.

Spenser Nuzzo taught me the importance of freedom in my life.

Someone that really influenced my trip was Tshetan. He was patient when everyone else in the group was annoyed/restless and he was always quick to pop a cheeky smile or crack a witty jest. He was the hero our group needed but didn’t deserve.

Though she left out trip early, the skills I learned and conversations I had with our beloved leader Charis continue to impact my time in Nepal. She consistently encouraged us all to practice self care, read us poems and passages from her favorite books, emphasized the value of emotionality, storytelling and listening, and most of all, taught us that “all we have to give in this life is ourselves, so we should do so fully.”

I was surprised by how many fast friends I made on this trip! Spenser Nuzzo was the first to become my bud, striking up a conversation in JFK. “Steamboat” Mike and I talked about books and Buddhism early in orientation. Xavi and I geeked out over Game of Thrones, and Jack O’Connor was a great singing buddy. My experience wouldn’t have been the same without those guys.

3) What do you want your family and friends to know as you head back home?

Sorry I haven’t sent emails in like…2 months… I’m alive, I’m well and I’m coming home!

Mom, dad, sister, brother, friends, I missed you a ton! Please don’t get offended if I want time alone to recuperate.

They lied—I didn’t see a single dragon.

That I had an amazing time but I wanna have some space when I go home to relax and unwind.

Since, this experience will be a challenge to explain, any research you do about Nepal to better understand my time here would be greatly appreciated!

I love you mucho and I’m so excited to tell you stories about my time here!!

Nepal was wild!

The ‘iceberg of oppression’. The overall nature is quite insidious; while to a privileged white American male, like myself social injustices may only seem to exist when contemporary incidents regarding race, gender, and sexual orientation manifest themselves in the headlines of newspapers and other forms of media, thereby causing Americans to become aware of such specific unjust situations (ie the “top of the iceberg.”) However, such injustices are rooted deeply into the fabric of our American society and people of color, various sexual orientations and gender identities face institutional discrimination and day to day aggression and judgments that never bubble to a widespread attentions ( ie the larger, under water, chunk of the iceberg).

I love and miss you all very much. I cannot wait to hear about what I’ve missed at home or at university these past three months. I cannot wait to laugh with you all and probably cry with you, too. I’m not sure what it will be like to share with you all what I’ve experienced over the past 83 days, and though I fear sometimes you may not understand what I’ve gone through and vice versa, I know that no matter what, I will have the support and love of all of those who I call my friends and family. See you soon!!