Rachel Devine, a senior international studies major, spent a semester attending class sitting on the ground and not wearing shoes. Rachel studied abroad in Kathmandu, Nepal during the spring semester of her junior year. She knew before coming to PLNU she wanted to do a semester studying abroad, and the stars aligned when she realized that was required for her major.
Her program was focused on national development and social change, and she took classes in these areas of study. Her program was small. There were 17 students whom all took the same classes together. One was an intensive language class lasting two and a half hours each day.
She lived with a host family whom she says was very welcoming. The Nepalis were excited when Rachel spoke their language with them, and it meant a lot to have someone studying their culture since many only come to the country for trekking and climbing mountains. “As an American citizen, your outside presence is very welcome,” she says. Rachel walked an hour to school each day, and says it went by really quickly; streets were always lively and busy.
The Nepali were also very excited to see foreigners in the country because, when Rachel arrived, it had only been a few months since the 7.8 earthquake that left the country with significant damage. “I saw it as a season of rebuilding. People were rebuilding their homes, and there was a lot of resilience and optimism. The community came together to rebuild, and it was very humbling.”
Rachel’s major is heavily focused on political science and got the foundational knowledge of international relations and political science at PLNU to better understand what was happening in Nepal. She says it was awesome to experience the things she was learning at PLNU in the context of Nepal.
The country had just adopted a new constitution, and it was a popular topic of discussion. Along the country’s border with India, there was a fuel blockade and Rachel’s community experienced regular power outages.
Rachel says that everything she learned in Nepal has been applicable. Her program included conducting an independent research project, which included conducting field research. Her research focused on nonprofits that work in the care of the survivors of the sex trade. She went out to meet and interview the nonprofits, and ultimately, her research was published. Rachel is interested in furthering her work in the anti-sex trafficking movement and hopes that work can be continued in Nepal or South East Asia.
“I think having that paper and the opportunity to meet and interview the Nepali nonprofits and learn about what they are doing to serve survivors will take me a long ways in using that information with other nonprofits. It’s already opened a lot of doors.”
Rachel says every student should spend some time outside the United States, speak the language and get out of his or her comfort zone.