This is Kagbeni. This is the village of approximately 300 people where I have decided to live for a month this summer, doing research for my senior thesis and teaching English to 63 monks between the ages of 5 and 18. Kagbeni is situated at a narrow part of the Kali Gandaki Gorge – the deepest gorge in the world – and thus has historically been a stopping point for trade moving back and forth between India and China. At the convergence of two rivers, the town gets its name. Kag, literally meaning “stopping point” and beni, being where two rivers come together.
Ah, the joys of packing for a much-anticipated month-long trip. Piles have been siting on my bedroom floor for weeks, slowly accumulating more items as I decide what to bring with me to Nepal. Clothes and supplies have been shifted around into different stacks over and over. What to take with me, and what to buy once I get there? Do I really need three sweaters? (The answer is no). Which one two should be left behind? Will two books be enough to last me the month? Will I even have time to read?
Going through this process of arbitrarily making and remaking piles over the past three weeks has helped me clarify both what my own essential travel tools are, as well as what my essential goals are while I’m abroad. Not only have I needed to think about what will get me through the month, I’ve had to figure out what will best fit the needs of my project. After weeks of rearranging, I’ve finally separated my things out into four categories: clothes, technology, gifts, and the mysterious other.
I recently returned from a semester-long program in Costa Rica, where I lived on a chocolate farm with 19 other students and learned about sustainable development in rural communities. Next week, I take off for Nepal, in order to return to a town that I visited on a summer program after my freshman year, and to do research for my senior thesis.
As I’m looking forward to returning to this place that completely threw my life for a loop almost exactly two years ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that I’ve learned from studying abroad, twice. Here’s seven quick reflections about things that I’ve learned about myself, and that I want to remember in the future.
Over the 2018-2019 school year, I will be researching and writing a thesis in Anthropology and Religion at the University of Vermont. My work is focused on the relationships between identity and place, and I will be using sound as a lens through which we can experience these relationships.
Here, I plan on talking about my thoughts and feelings regarding the process of writing a thesis. This is basically a way for me to decompress about things, and maybe help someone else in a similar position in the future.