“Where you sit depends on where you stand.” As our team huddled together in the dimly lit dining hall of Machhapuchchhre Village Inn in Nepal, we attentively listened to our mentor, Samrat Katwal, emphasize our roles as outsiders of the rural community we were aiming to help. Even today, this phrase continues to resonate in my mind, reminding me of my background, my privileges, and the extent to which I am capable of impacting the lives of people with values, cultures, and mindsets different from my own.
This meeting took place a few days before Christmas, and our team had arrived at the village a few days prior to begin executing projects we had been planning since October. For 3 weeks, as part of a University of California, Davis Study Abroad program, my project team and I worked with the Women’s Development Committee in Machhapuchchhre Village to propose an income-generating enterprise the village women could take on.
When I first returned from the trip at the beginning of January and peers inquired about my travels, I found it a bit difficult to summarize my experiences. It feels as if so much has occurred in only 3 weeks! From bouts of stomach flu (this is a whole other story) and 8-hour bus rides from the bustling city of Kathmandu to the rural village of Machhapuchchhre to active observation sessions in villagers’ homes and intense bargaining discourses at the city market, I had involved myself in a vast array of new experiences. However, I’ve recently been able to sit down and reflect on 5 key learnings from my journey:
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