October 22nd – November 8th
In the past two months, I have had the incredible opportunity and privilege of living in Kathmandu and partaking in excursions to Dharamsala, India and Tsum Valley/Gorkha District, Nepal. My experiences have challenged me in ways I could have never imagined—from the three-hour intensive Tibetan language classes every day to the four-hour hikes moving from village to village in the Upper Tsum Valley and solo adventures to different monasteries and temples. In such a short period of time, I have obtained a newfound sense of confidence and maturity in myself. My journey thus far has been immensely transformative, perhaps in part because there were moments of hardship and obstacles that I needed to confront.
To begin with, one of the biggest challenges of being a study abroad student in my program (Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples) is that we are constantly immersing ourselves in different cultures, as there is a lot of traveling. To elaborate, our program itinerary was set up for us to spend two weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal, two weeks in Dharamsala, India followed by another week in Kathmandu, Nepal, then two weeks in the Tsum Valley, Nepal (Himalayas) and lastly a final week in Kathmandu, Nepal.
In a mere two months, we learned and immersed ourselves in four different cultures—Tibetan, Himalayan, Nepali and Indian. As a result of not being fluent in any of the languages and due to the excessive amount of traveling, I quickly felt overwhelmed. To be honest, I never imagined I would ever get overwhelmed by traveling too much, as I have always dreamed of traveling. However, this experience did teach me an important lesson: speaking isn’t the only form of communication. I have been reminded that a gesture of kindness can be as simple as a smile or making someone else tea and food. A generous amount of smiles and food these past two months have helped affirm my sense of belonging in the different places I was in. On the other hand, simple acts like honking excessively reminded me to be more cautious and swift when crossing the road!
To my surprise, another obstacle I had to confront was my emotions. In the past two months, I have met so many resilient individuals. I have been so blessed to have heard stories about journeys of hardship, perseverance, heartache, victory, and recovery from my peers, neighbors, mentors and even strangers. As a listener, these stories left me feeling speechless; I was blown away by the amount of courage and compassion those around me embodied. For example, a family in the Himalayas shared with me their concern over the new road that was being built in their valley. The government of Nepal did not take into consideration their voices making them feel both frustrated and disappointed.
Additionally, they saw people come and destroy the mountainsides using explosives. These stories also revealed an unpleasant side of humanity—testimonies that social injustice and inequality are alive and kicking. That said, I would lie in bed at night feeling emotions of vulnerability I have never felt before. Eventually, I reminded myself that it is precisely these emotions of discomfort and vulnerability that have revealed the crucial nature of my participation in social justice advocacy and the need to travel in order to further understand the complexities of our world. This particular experience has inspired me to be more motivated and courageous in the decisions I make.
Now that classes are over, all the students in my program are required to do one month’s worth of research or to pursue an internship in Nepal or India. I made the decision to travel to New Delhi, India where I will be conducting fieldwork about citizenship and statelessness. Additionally, I will also be mentored by legal professions in the field. Making the decision to depart from my cohort and to leave Kathmandu for a month was not an easy one. However, on the brighter side, I believe this was the best decision I could have made for myself! I am so excited to see what the future holds in store for me.
Thank you for reading!