Majors: Early Childhood Professional & Spanish
Education, Service, and International Development in Nepal,
Summer I, 2018
My name is Carly Baldwin and in the Fall of 2018 I will be a fifth year senior. I am studying Early Childhood Education and Spanish. I recently went on a sixteen-day study abroad program to Nepal during Summer I. The course was called: ED 3980 – Special Studies in Education; however, it also can be found under the title of Education, Service, and International Development in Nepal (Faculty-led). During the course we studied culture, education, developmental processes, and ourselves.
As we began our course in Nepal, we started with a total immersion of an environment that was different than what we have been accustomed to in the US. Some of the more superficial differences were that cars drive on the left side, cows walk around everywhere (including the middle of streets), there are no traffic lights or street signs, and their equivalence of squirrels are monkeys. While continuing on with the course, we delved further into Nepal and our understandings of it. When we first arrived, we stayed in a hotel, called the Holy Himalaya, in Kathmandu that was surrounded by street shops and a couple streets that always seemed to have traffic. Walking through the street shops, it was clear that the citizens of Nepal trusted those of us passing by. Rarely were people standing in front of their shops guarding their merchandise. Looking back, this and how people drive are examples of how ingrained religion is into the culture and environment of Nepal. Everyone trusts that people will follow their moral compass because that’s the goal of Hinduism and Buddhism. Goodness and peace is entwined with religion and everyday life in Nepal.
The hospitality shown to us while staying in tea houses and home stays during our six-day trek was also a portrayal of religion and culture. We were always welcomed with open arms even though we were in a place where we looked different from everyone else, spoke a different language, and probably had different religious beliefs. Comparing that to the United States of America is quite interesting. I personally do not know many people in America who would be willing to allow strangers to come stay with them, continuously waiting for the next group of people, while also cooking for everyone. Staying on the topic of travel, but taking that to a broader level, there are often stories of people switching planes due to not wanting to be on the same plane as someone who looks different. While these are just a couple examples from the U.S. and Nepal, the conditions of living in the States don’t usually happen to be in a secluded location on a mountain. Nonetheless, I could not have felt more welcomed as an outsider to Nepal and I doubt even some people who live in the U.S. can say that about the States.
While I’ve only provided a couple quick looks at the kinds of questions and conversations we had throughout our course, there were many more learning opportunities that directly correlated to my personal academic pursuits of early childhood education. After our trek, we visited a few schools. We were able to see public and private schools, but we spent the most time at a private school called Tiny Seeds. While we were there, I had some of my questions answered like, “What language are the students taught in?” and “What does a typical day at school look like?” and “How do students usually get to school?” However, I also left the school with a few questions: Are they using STEM as a curriculum? How are the students assessed? Why does their circle time solely consist of handing out materials? And so on. The school is also supposed to be accessible for working families, so it would be interesting to see what families’ perspectives are on the school and how involved the parents are.
Having academic experiences that directly contribute to my future goals was amazing. The experiences I had outside of my direct future goals helped shape the knowledge I gained about education in Nepal. Although trekking doesn’t necessarily relate to my major, I found myself asking education based questions and having education based conversations while walking along the mountain’s path. This study abroad experience really put into perspective how everything is connected and it’s extremely beneficial to know your students’ lives outside of the classroom.