Terraced Fields, Annapurna Region, Nepal.
There was a moment right before I stepped off the mountain that all I could think was, “What in the hell am I doing? I didn’t even want to go paragliding in the first place!”
But it was too late to turn back, so I swallowed my fear and I took that crucial step off the ground. The next thing I knew, a wind current picked up my parachute and I was flying.
After Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest, he reportedly said he did it, “because the mountain was there.” I decided to study abroad in Nepal for the same reason; the country was there for me to explore. Why not experience a culture radically different than my own?
My time abroad has been anything but what most would consider a normal experience.
I’m not enrolled at a university and taking classes, instead I have an internship and am working on research for my senior thesis.
I’ve gone trekking and saw the Annapurna Himalaya range at sunrise. About once a week, I have dinner with a former Tibetan monk who was imprisoned by the Chinese government at age 14.
I have watched cremations at Pashupati, the holiest temple in Hinduism and when I got the flu, I went to an acupuncturist to get better.
I’m writing this to say that spending a semester or a year in Europe studying can’t be amazing.
Some of my best friends had the time of their lives in Ireland, Spain, France and Italy. But for me, going to Europe wasn’t enough.
Like Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, I wanted “adventure in the great wide somewhere.” I wanted to push myself completely out of my comfort zone and being in Nepal has done just that.
Nothing about living in Kathmandu is easy or familiar. To get to work I ride a school bus packed with about one hundred people. I take cold showers, live without air conditioning and use a squat toilet. Yep, that’s right — a porcelain hole in the ground.
There are moments when I wish I was at home, being a nanny. Or in Europe somewhere, drinking strong, delicious coffee.
Instead, I go without power for about 10 hours a day and spent a memorable evening in Pokhara killing roaches with a bug spray can.
Going to Nepal has made me realize how important travel and new experiences can be.
I’ve learned to trust my instincts and that I am much stronger than I ever imagined. I’ve learned that bravery doesn’t always roar; sometimes it is as simple as taking a bite of a new food.
I’ve also relinquished some of my type-A control freak tendencies.
So, I urge you to go and experience something new. Get dirty. Live in a culture with no semblance of your own.
Play rice paddy soccer in Nepal. Learn Zulu in South Africa. Spend time with indigenous people in the Andes Mountains. Just do something different.
Think outside the European semester abroad. Europe is fantastic and somewhere I want to desperately return to one day. But there are other places around the world calling your name. Go, be brave and experience them.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I know I did.
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