After returning home to Chicago after seven months abroad, I fielded many questions about my summer.
“How was it?” or “What was your favorite part?” were some of the most common inquires. Of course, thinking back on my summer, I realized that some of the most meaningful experiences of my trip abroad were directly possible because of my internship with the Mountain Trust.
For the five weeks I spent assisting with research on the Radio Guru program, I was introduced to the Nepalese work culture and the workings of a nonprofit. I spent days making trips to schools near and far, and nights making friends and enjoying the company of my new Pokhara community.
While recounting my Nepal experiences to my friends and family back home, my favorite memories were not riding on an elephant in Chitwan or rafting down the Seti river (although I had a blast doing both). Instead, my face lit up as I talked about the amazing people I met. The former Radio Guru listener who then became a teacher in her village. The student who organized a group of students to study for their School Leaving Certificate exam outside of school hours. The girl who chatted with me on my walk home from Devi’s falls because I was walking alone. The young girl who asked me for help on her homework each morning during breakfast and told me about Nepal’s history. The numerous school principals that cheerfully helped Kisan and I on our mission. So many people impacted my life during those weeks.
Of course, the two superstars that made the strongest impression were Kisan and Bandana. Both were incredibly dedicated to the mission of the Mountain Trust – I could not have been able to accomplish anything in Nepal without the help of their social networks and dedication. I learned a great deal about Nepali culture and customs from asking questions and travelling to different schools. I really enjoyed being part of the small but mighty MT team, even for a short few weeks.
Although I loved my stay in Nepal, not everything always went as planned. Storms caused day-long power outages and unnavigable roads. Translation and language barriers prevented me from having the truly firsthand conversations that I expected. I came to question certain behaviors from my own culture that I took for granted (the first example that comes to mind is saying ‘no’) after some frustrating encounters. However, these incidents are what make living, studying, working, or volunteering in another country such a valuable experience. From each moment that I found challenging, I gained precious insight into my own culture and values, as well as those of Nepal.
Now that I am finishing my final year studying International Development at American University in Washington, DC, I find that my work with the Mountain Trust this summer has provided me with inspiration for further research. I hope to someday return to Nepal, but for now I’ll have to content myself with looking at pictures and checking Pokhara’s weather forecast!