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Nepal Semester Student's Catherine Von Holt's photograph of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.

Introduction

Greetings from Raleigh, North Carolina! While originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I have lived in Boston, Washington DC, Austin, New Brunswick, and Columbus. For the last four years I have taught in the Social Studies department at Ravenscroft School. Although my educational background is in International Relations and a mix of American/Latin American/Global History (it’s a long, somewhat interesting graduate school story) I currently teach a mix of economics, religion & ethics, and philosophy. While at Ravenscroft I have also had the opportunity to lead several study abroad trips to China and Belize and would love to take on more of a leadership role in regards to developing and planning new student trips moving forward.

There were really three things that attracted me to the Nepal Educators Program. The first was the chance to visit Nepal and take part in homestays and to get off the regular tourist path so to speak. Since I was a kid I have loved traveling, backpacking, and exploring mountains so visiting Nepal has always been on the bucket list. Second was the focus of the course on learning to design and lead study abroad trips that emphasize service and genuinely connecting with and learning from individuals from different cultures and worldviews. I have had mixed experiences in this regard with the trips I have been a part of at Ravenscroft and I now realizes that this is much easier said than actually done! Finally, I spend a good chunk of the semester in my Religion & Ethics course on Hinduism and Buddhism so the opportunity to learn more about these religions first hand and in a society that has fused the uniquely two together was one I couldn’t turn down. As someone who remains unaffiliated when it comes to religion, I find the philosophical underpinnings of both faith traditions very appealing.

 

Finally, not to copy Ingrid’s homework, but the reference to Camus also resonated with me the most. In my defense he remains one of my favorite philosophers. “What gives value to travel is fear – disruption… (or emancipation) from circumstances, and all the habits which we hide. And that is why many of us travel not in search of answers, but of better questions.” As someone who has always embraced traveling – both at home and abroad as well as physically and intellectually – this really drove home why I value travel and lifelong learning. I abandoned the idea a long time ago in graduate school that if I could just read enough history/foreign policy/political studies etc. that I could wrap my head around a problem and truly understand it and that this understanding would deliver some kind of perfect solution. I can honestly say now (and this is the philosophy teacher talking) that I’m not sure if there are really any ‘true’ answers out there in the world but I know there are better ways of asking questions and that the better the question, the better the answer. When we become comfortable in our knowledge we get complacent and complacency breeds a distrust of change and the tendency to rest on our assumptions, to stop asking questions and instead simply wait for our turn to provide our answer. Travel teaches me to see the world in different way, to stop answering and instead listen, and to learn from others the way to ask different and better questions about myself and the world around me.