J-Term Practica: Nepal Wrap Around, 2017
Summary of Experience
I have always considered myself a “world” traveler and I thought I knew a lot about other cultures. I have lived in other countries, I speak other languages, and I have traveled to more countries than I can count on two hands. However; when I arrived in Nepal, I experienced what I would be a true culture shock. Upon arrival, I was picked up by friends of a Nepali student that attends MIIS. I was greeted with extreme hospitality and big smiles. I was immediately given food and a face mask to wear, as Kathmandu is extremely polluted.
The instant we began driving through the city, I knew that I was in a world very different than my own. It was amazing to see so much life happening in such a small area: cows roaming, women cooking food on the side of the road, men riding carts pulled by horses, and so much dust! My initial reaction was to take in everything, but I quickly became overwhelmed and had to focus on one thing at a time.
Over the next several weeks, I became more accustomed to the “uncomfortableness” I felt initially. The people of Nepal are the most generous, kind-hearted people I have ever met on my travels. While surveying, I learned a lot about how life works in rural Nepal. I was able to reflect on my life as a woman in the United States vs that of a woman in Nepal and all the privileges I have been given in comparison. I think this trip helped me develop not only survey design and implementation skills but also intercultural communication skills. I was able to work with interpreters and see a side of Nepal that most people traveling through never get to see. I was able to sit with locals, drink tea that was generously offered to me, and talk about their lives and how our survey could potentially lead to positive changes within their community in regards to waste management.
I am happy to have had this experience because I do not know when I would have been able to travel to this part of the world normally. Much of my experience is in Central and Latin America. I was able to see similarities between developing countries in Central America and Nepal, but there were certain nuances that changed everything. The language, the culture, the traditions all made my experience quite unique and one I would recommend to anyone looking to expand their cultural knowledge and understanding.
This picture was taken while doing field research in rural Nepal. We were surveying a village and survey guidelines require the selection of houses to be random. We used the coin flip method to make our selections random. I am about to flip a coin to see if we should continue straight or take a left to survey the houses down a different path!