UC Davis’ first-ever study abroad trip to Nepal quickly filled

CHRISTIE NEO / AGGIE

2017-18 intersession program, “Nepal — Community, Technology, and Sustainability,” will promote international collaboration

Between Fall and Winter Quarter of the 2017-18 school year, 15 UC Davis students will visit the Himalayan regions of Nepal for the first time in the university’s history.

The program, “Nepal — Community, Technology, and Sustainability,” is comprised of a four-unit fall seminar and two units of directed group study in Nepal from December 18 to January 4. The program filled the 15 available spots on the first day of enrollment.

“Alongside visiting diverse cultural sites in the vibrant cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara and nearby villages, participants will […] gain an appreciation of the complex geographic, historical, cultural, religious, political, and environmental dimensions of Nepal,” states the course’s website.

Seminar abroad programs are intersessions, aided by a state department grant of $40,000. The Nepal journey will be the test run for the program, offered in between quarters and not requiring additional tuition. These factors are viewed as a way to bolster enrollment studying abroad among low-income students, transfer students and students with heavy course loads, maximizing the winter break for those who cannot afford to take a quarter abroad.

UC Davis faculty members Nancy Erbstein, Jonathan London and Debbie Niemeier developed the pilot program and will head the course as instructors. Erbstein is an assistant researcher in human ecology, London is an associate professor in human ecology and Niemeier is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

According to the website, UC Davis students will work in conjunction with students in Nepal on various research projects. Erbstein emphasized, via an email interview, the mutually beneficial nature of this collaborative research approach, fostering an environment with shared work and shared progress.

“We’re so pleased to add an opportunity to learn about Nepal with Nepali students to UCD Study Abroad offerings,” Erbstein said. “This program involves UCD students taking a fall seminar in parallel to a program being run with Nepali students in Kathmandu. We’ll all come together in Nepal over our winter break, where everyone will spend time working on applied research projects together.”

The projects, according to Erbstein, will utilize “emerging technologies” and be focused on “community development, health, agriculture and education.”

“We also have the pleasure of teaching and learning across cultures and disciplines,” Erbstein said. “From UCD, our team includes me, with a background in education and community youth development, a rural sociologist and a civil engineer. Our two Nepali instructors are trained in anthropology and sustainable development. We’ll also connect with a range of Nepali scholars, policy-makers and young civic leaders.”

One of the 15 UC Davis students who was able to sign up before the course filled is Briana Vargas, a second-year linguistics, Spanish and Chicana/Chicano studies triple major. Vargas became interested in the course due to the connections and collaborations with the Nepalese people.

“I was kinda browsing the [UCD Study Abroad] website, and then I saw there were seminars,” Vargas said. “Once I saw Nepal, and I read about it, I saw that it was a lot of community service. I’ve done work with my community back at home and here at Davis — I like working with people — but so far it’s just been people I already knew. I thought going abroad would be completely different, and it was really about trying [to] work with a different community.”

Erbstein said that she values the importance of a global education and wants to provide the same opportunity for UCD and Nepali students.

“I studied in Nepal as an undergraduate, and that experience was pivotal in my professional and personal life,” Erbstein said. “I’m looking forward to bringing UCD students to this fascinating country, and hope to bring Nepali students here as well in the future.”

 

Written by: Aaron Liss — campus@theaggie.org