Owen Zecca, junior at Green Mountain College, Nepal 2016.
It is with great excitement that I write about Green Mountain College’s upcoming venture to Nepal. A group of 14 students, including myself, are traveling to Nepal for a 21-day academic course, where we will be studying cultural anthropology’s ethnographic field methods, while immersing ourselves in Nepalese society. The trip is co-lead by Professor Mark Daily, the director of the sociology/anthropology program, as well as the Asian studies program at Green Mountain College (GMC) and Joseph “Joe” Petrick (PhD), previously the GMC Vice-President of Student Life. This December will be the fourth time a group of GMC students have gone to Nepal. The trip has taken place every two years, and Mark believes it will be the last year the course is offered.
In 1985 Mark traveled through Asia, where his specific focus was on China. However he did spend time in Nepal, finding it rich with culture, diversity and beautiful landscapes. Joe has family and friends in Nepal, creating a connection between himself and the country. Thus, it was decided that together they would go back with a group of students to study, and to share this learning opportunity with the college. This coming trip will be Mark’s fifth time traveling to Nepal, and this prompted me to ask him as to why Nepal is a place he continues to travel back to.
“International anthropology is a really unique experience,” Mark explained, “Nepal specifically has such interesting cultural dimensions-- religion and religious practices, gender norms, economy, human ecology…. [human ecology] in the context of deforestation, mountain tourism, food supply, biological diversity, and how sustainable all of this is-- as well as the relationships between parks and humans. The trip to Nepal is challenging and valuable, as it helps students to recognize global inequality and our own place and privilege in being there, swooping in, learning, and swooping away, after seeing people facing economic and nutritional hardship. It is an opportunity to get out of the North East bubble.”
Mark went on to describe the kind and receptive people that he and the students of GMC have met during past trips. He spoke about the breathtaking landscapes of the Himalayas and the utter diversity of the country that make it so profoundly enriching. I asked Mark to share with me what he hoped students would gain from the course. He responded thoughtfully that he wanted students to gain a greater awareness and understanding of the diversity of Nepal in terms of society and environment, and through this, a greater awareness of ourselves. He wants students to begin to approach things like an anthropologist, including being curious, open and systematic in how we attempt to interpret and understand our experiences in Nepal. It’s his hope that we learn more about ourselves, and carry these experiences with us in ways that will continue to unfold and deepen over time.
On the trip, each student will keep a daily field journal that is required to be filled with observations, findings, and reflections. At the end of the trip, this journal will be the guide to a lengthy ethnographic research paper on a topic of our choosing.
This will enrich our academic journeys, as we gain fundamental awareness of anthropological methodologies (and the embedded issues within methodological study), while gaining a deeper understanding of a culture and society that is not our own.
I think that it is very important that students on the GMC campus are made aware of the international trips and opportunities that are extended to us. While this may be the final trip lead by Professor Mark Daily, this is not the only opportunity for students to travel abroad. Any ideas that students have in regards to international travel are welcomed and encouraged by professors. International travel is an incredibly powerful experience that enables so much growth and learning. While the expenses of such an offering can be daunting, there are ways to finance the trip if it pertains to academics. Students should stay tuned to upcoming international opportunities, and keep an open mind about potential trips and learning expeditions.