When I told my Chilean host mom from this fall that I was going to study abroad in Kathmandu, Nepal in the spring, I was met with curiosity and excitement
“Where is that? Near China?” she asked. “What do they eat there? What do they speak there? Are they Catholic? You have to send pictures.” Her friend nodded in agreement. These questions were not unique to Chileans–my American friends and family were similarly inquisitive.
I tried my best to answer their questions, but the main answer was, “I’ll see when I get there!”
This aire of the unknown surrounding Nepal is one of the main reasons I picked my program for the spring semester: SIT Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples. Familiarizing oneself with the formerly unknown is one of life’s greatest thrills. And ‘thrilled’ is probably the word that best fits my current emotional state.
I am doing a split year, which means that I studied abroad this fall in Chile and I will be doing a different program in Nepal this spring. Most Georgetown students pick one semester to go abroad, but I was experiencing some academic burnout sophomore year and thought that exploring two vastly different places would inspire me to continue pursuing my academic goals. (Spoiler alert: I already know that I was right). As an SFS Culture and Politics major, I have a little more leniency with my major requirements, so my schedule allowed for a full year of travelling.
As this is my second chance to be abroad, I’ve been thinking less about the actual logistics of being in Nepal (although that is important!) and more about the general ideas behind a successful study abroad.
Georgetown students approach study abroad in different ways. As I was in the process of selecting a country to study in, my dean asked “Would you rather be a tourist for a semester or a local for a semester?” For me, the answer was local, and that has been the guiding principle behind my choice in countries and how I go about my semester. Some students would rather be a tourist, and that is also a great and valid way to be abroad–just different. Asking yourself this question–and being honest in your response–is important to have a fulfilling experience abroad.
I’ve also been thinking about how to see a place for what it is and not just for a postcard or Instagram. I am still struggling with how to incorporate this idea into my personal travel, but will continue thinking about it as I trek around the gorgeous and highly-Instagrammable Himalayas (If you want to learn more about ethical travel from someone who is an expert, read this blog: https://hownottotravellikeabasicbitch.com).
But enough waxing about philosophy! My (very long) flight is about a week away, so I am busy doing my last minute preparations. The countdown is here and I am excited to get on the ground and get to work.
It’s not every semester that one gets to travel and make a completely new home for themselves in a foreign country, and I feel incredibly privileged to do so in Nepal. Nepal is a little off-the-beaten-abroad-path, but it fits my needs: rich culture, beautiful scenery, and lots to learn. And I’ve never been a fan of the beaten path anyways.
See you on the flip side.