Student Expedition: Nepal Community Service

Year traveled: 2016

Q: How did you decide to travel with National Geographic, and why did you choose the Nepal trip? 

A: My grandfather and I share a passion for traveling. Two summers ago, he came across student expeditions and encouraged me to take a look! I wanted to do a community service trip so I could work with a community and learn about its culture and people. I honestly knew nothing about Nepal, so the idea of traveling somewhere entirely new was so exciting!

Q: Describe your most memorable experience from your trip. 

A: My most memorable experience happened while working at the children’s home. We were in Talamarang during the annual rice festival, where people gather to celebrate and plant rice. We followed a small marching band and came together with a huge group of dancers. Then we slipped our shoes off, rolled up our pants, and jumped into the paddies. Cows were sowing the soil, and we worked with local families to plant rows of rice plants. People with instruments came into the paddies and we danced together, ending the day with a huge mud fight!

Q: Describe something you did on your program that you thought you would never do.

A: I never thought that I would be able to make a connection with someone that lived across the world. Not only did I do that, but I was able to do so with 18 children and many other Nepali people! I didn’t know it at first, but these relationships would grow and make me feel that I had a second family in the hills of Nepal.

Q: How would you describe the community you traveled with—students, leaders, and the local community?

A: Incredible! Travelers and trip leaders came from all over the country, and even from other countries like India and China. We learned about each other’s lives and shared stories about our previous adventures and future plans.  My trip leaders Himraj and Lauren were so energetic and full of incredible stories—one of them even helped with one of my college applications! The Nepali people were truly kind, and so many of them genuinely smiled at you in passing. Hearing how communities responded to the effects of the 2015 earthquake showed me how resilient and strong the local people are.

Q: How would you describe the community service you did on the trip?  Did it impact your perspective on your life or life in your community?

A: The community service took place in the Talamarang children’s home. Our group worked together to make classes about geography, first aid, and English. We also did projects to improve the infrastructure of the village. I realized how lucky I am to have been born in a community where schools are well-funded and organized, to have a family that I am able to live with, and the confidence that I will be able to attend college. It is so easy to take things for granted and to forget to be thankful for things that seem like a given in our own lives, while they may be daily struggles for others.

Q: Describe the work you’ve been doing with the Talamarang community since the conclusion of your trip.

A: After returning home, our group worked together to set up a GoFundMe campaign. We were able to raise over $6,000 in less than a year, which is currently funding a mushroom farm, fish farm, and motorized tiller! This past summer, I returned to Nepal alone. I spent time with the children, and spoke to Neel, the owner of the home, about his future plans for improving the property.

Q: What have you been up to since your trip?  Please include details.  We’d love to learn more about your current passions, what your day-to-day life is like, and your current goals. 

A: I am currently a freshman in the Honors Program at Temple University in Philadelphia. I’m studying Human Development and Community Engagement, which focuses on child development, intercultural communication, research methods, urban education, and leadership. In short, my trip to Nepal opened my eyes to what I want to pursue as a career. I volunteer weekly at a program called DREAM, which involves mentoring children. I’m super busy between schoolwork, volunteering, exploring the city, and spending time with new friends, but I couldn’t be happier!

Q: What do you think makes National Geographic Student Expeditions special?

A: I could go on forever! Nat Geo Student Expeditions are life-changing. I’ve spoken to students who have gone on other trips, and they all have the same reactions—that their trips were among the best experiences of their lives. There are so many different options when it comes to focuses, destinations, and length of travel. Scholarship opportunities show that they truly want to give every student a chance to travel. The trips are planned with such care, and the activities are things that tourists are rarely given the option to do.


Read more about Danielle’s work on the Changing Lives Nepal blog: