It’s always good to look at the world from another viewpoint so how about taking in that view from the top of the world. Studying abroad in Nepal allows students to experience one of the most diverse and captivating countries in the world. It is one of the few places where you can see the Bengal Tiger in its native habitat and it is home to Mount Everest. A rich fusion of the past and present is created as the country finds itself torn between a deep passion for tradition and the desire to progress. This fusion is sure to hold visitors captivated from the second they arrive till the day they have to tear themselves away.
Geography & Demographics
Nepal is located in Northeast Asia and is bordered by China to the north and India on the west, south and east. The country is broken into three main regions: the Himalayan, mid hill region, and Terai region.
The Himalayan mountains, meaning “abode of snow”, are home to several of the world’s tallest peaks including the tallest of them all Mount Everest. One look and it is easy to see why thousands of visitors and climbers flock to them each year. They are stunning and provide a backdrop for the whole country stretching along the northern border.
Climate varies greatly depending on location since the nation’s geographical features range from snow covered peaks that reach for the sky to sea level tropical valleys. The range in elevation is huge. In the northern peaks, temperatures are extreme with hot summers and freezing winters but the south has a subtropical climate offering warmth, heavy rains and lots of sunshine.
Food & Culture
It’s easy to work up an appetite with all there is to see and do and Nepalese food offers visitors a delicious variety on which to fill up. The food varies as much as the geography but is usually quick to prepare, spicy and healthy. Many do not eat beef and use only their right hand to eat. The concept of pure versus impure is maintained throughout the culture and is applied to food and other materials. Anything that has directly touched another person’s mouth or hand is considered impure.
Religion plays an integral part in the lives of Nepali people. Hinduism and Buddhism are the most widely practiced. It is a mostly agrarian society characterized by incredibly warm and inviting people who love to share their homes. Arranged marriages and traditional naming ceremonies are still commonplace.
Things to Do
The mountain range has more to offer than just their height and plethora of trails. The mountains also include dense forests and scenic alpine pastures. Whether a life defying Everest climb is your style or a leisurely walk is more up your alley, the Himalayas have it all. The famous Great Himalaya Trail, or GHT, stretches the entire length of the Nepalese Himalayas. It offers both an upper and lower trail that are around 1,000 miles long. The Upper Trail is slightly longer and considerably more remote giving trekkers the chance to meet villagers who have lead the same lifestyle for hundreds of years. The Lower Trail is shorter and offers more comfort. Trekkers will walk through green pastures and easily find home stays, guest houses, and places to eat.
Everest, or “goddess of the sky”, is actually located in Sagarmatha National Park in the northeast. Treks in the area provide insight into the significance of the giant peak to the native people and the daily life of the famous Sherpas. In ancient Nepal, the mountain was regarded as highly religious and home to the gods. It was actually off limits to humans but now is one of the world’s most popular trekking grounds.
The country slopes southward, across the mid hill region and ending in the lowest area, the Terai region. The flat area is where the warm and beautiful valleys of Kathmandu and Pokhara are located. They are famous for their waterfalls and contain several UNESCO world heritage sites such as Durbar Square. It is a must see as an excellent example of ancient Hindu and Buddhist culture. The square is made up of palaces, temples, shrines, and monuments in their original state.
Chitwan is Asia’s best preserved conservation area and known as the “heart of the jungle”. Located in south central Terai, it provides visitors jungle safaris of all kinds. You can see the pristine environment from the back of an elephant or the seat of a canoe.
Studying in Nepal
Nepal offers a wide variety of study abroad options. The capital of Kathmandu and the second largest city Pokhara are the most popular cities for study abroad. Most offer opportunities for both study and hands on experience in more rural areas.
Development and social change are popular areas of study since the country itself is a living breathing example. Poverty is unfortunately very prevalent. Most areas suffer from poor infrastructure so there is an abundance of opportunities for service learning each of which are waiting to change the course of your life.
Environmental projects are also very popular because of Nepal’s intense variety. Some of the rarest animals on the planet are still living in their native habitats. GoAbroad allows you pick from two dozen programs that range in length of time and area of study so you can find the one that fits your interests.
Where There Be Dragons is an organization that focuses on rugged and very authentic experiences combined with service learning. Their Himalayan Studies Semester is accredited through Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Students can opt to earn up to 16 credits during their semester of international education. This study abroad program offers apprenticeship opportunities in a wide variety of hands on work such as jewelry making, music, and stone carving. Students interested in traditional medicine can shadow a Tibetan doctor. Participants can also volunteer abroad in Nepal. They can teach English, work in an orphanage or help spread environmental awareness, just to name a few options.