My First Country in Asia

Elizabeth Fisher, MPA ‘18 says, “I have traveled, studied, and worked extensively in Europe, but Nepal was my first country in Asia.” She participated in the Nepal J-Term Practica with 7 other MIIS students. The main purpose of her visit was to collect data on environmental awareness, perspectives on waste management and recycling, and the nation-wide plastic bag ban by using the data collection tools that she and her team had designed in her Field Methods class taught by Prof. Phil Murphy.

In partnership with Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI), her team interviewed the residents of Dang and Surkhet Districts in Western Nepal. Her fieldwork gave her an opportunity to immerse herself in the villages where she experienced authentic rural life in Nepal. She was fascinated by the range of colors that she saw there.

“The best part of this fieldwork was that I got to work with a great team,” highlighted Elizabeth. She also stressed that the research was focused in one geographical region, which made it easy to maximize the team’s time in Nepal. It was a challenge for her to reach out to unknown individuals in the community for interviews, but she expressed that people were open to questions and chats.

After an exhausting week of fieldwork, the Nepal team took the opportunity to visit Bardia National Park for a retreat. Elizabeth emphasized that the retreat brought the group together as they bonded more.

In the third week of the Practica, the group returned to Kathmandu and she presented the preliminary findings to HCI. “It was very satisfying and fulfilling to share the findings to the client because the client was very receptive to our findings,” says Elizabeth. Apart from presentation, she got to see the famous monkey temple in Kathmandu. She said that Kathmandu was very congested and chaotic, but she enjoyed the beautiful landscape when she traveled out of Kathmandu.

Within three weeks, she learned a lot about Nepal and its cultures and religions. Her Nepal experience taught her that one does not need all western amenities to be happy. The experience cemented some ideas and helped rejected some ideas: Nepal was a test for her to see if she wanted to work in the international development sector. She expressed her interest in international development work without forcing her ideas on others.

Elizabeth, now a second semester MPA student, is still working on the data she and her team collected in Nepal. In her Advanced Policy Analysis class, one of three “wrap-around” courses, she is examining the findings in details that will be communicated back HCI.