by Selena Sliger
I have always wanted to participate in a travel-oriented group study program. I love to travel and Nepal has always been on my wish list of places to visit. However, being a full-time employee and a mother of two, I could never leave them or my partner for six weeks or quit a job and have no income while I was away. One of the good things about Covid was that a lot of stuff was coming online, giving access to new opportunities for many, myself included. I had concerns about taking a “travel” study program without any travel, but the schedule worked with my other classes and the cost was something I could afford with the help of the International study travel grant, so I applied. I cannot say enough positive things about what a fantastic experience the Nepal Group Study Program 2022 has been for me. No passport or travel bag required!
The instructors were not only extremely knowledgeable and able to effectively share their knowledge, but they also had an itinerary that would rival any private tour. We had many interesting and interactive presentations from a variety of government officials, academics, activists and community members. Our small group was able to ask questions and have spontaneous and engaging discussions. We were always short of time. The Ótáp ímisskaan Youth Leadership Certificate Program, run by staff from the University of Calgary, was also included, giving us insight into Indigenous ways of being. A whirlwind of language lessons, dance lessons and cooking lessons ensued. It was so much fun! Our group was even blessed with meditation and spiritual learning from Damchhoi Lama.
We were randomly grouped with university students in Nepal to do two projects together and learn from each other. Navigating jet lag to meet was difficult at times. Nepal is 11 hours and 45 minutes ahead of those living on Mountain Standard Time. Right away, we all shared with each other where we lived showing off the different landscapes of our personal “classrooms,” usually with a family member or two waving along with pets walking by. were walking.
Excitedly, those of us who used laptops waved them awkwardly to show off our surroundings. We had the opportunity to talk about where we are in our educational journey as well as the social issues facing Canada and Nepal. I am still in touch with the two Nepali students from my group presentations via Facebook and SMS. In July, I shared with them a photo of my garden, a blooming canola field, see photo. We plan to meet once they finish school in a few years.
Group projects consisted of presentations on issues identified in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. A presentation included working with a community member in Nepal and we had the honor and privilege of connecting with a survivor of human trafficking who now dedicates her life to supporting other victims. Working for the Shakti Samuha organization (http://shaktisamuha.org.np/) she shared with us her experiences and the work the organization is doing to fight human trafficking and support survivors.
There were so many relevant and insightful experiences. The whole trip was incredibly humbling and enjoyable. I learned more than expected and made new international friendships. It was very energizing to meet and interact with others who are interested in social work issues, regardless of their degree. Seeing such kind and committed individuals who want to make positive changes gives me great hope for the future. What more can I tell you? Go on a trip! Do it, you won’t regret it!
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