Lost and Found: My Journey in NepalTweet
Hi! My name is Laurie, and here is the story of my incredible journey in Nepal.
I always wanted to go volunteer abroad... but I just never knew when, where and how. After graduating from Concordia University in Psychology, I was completely lost. I didn’t know whether I should pursue my studies in Psychology or try another field. Undecided and completely lost, I decided that taking a sabbatical year would be the best option—and it was. I was always interested in fashion design ever since I could hold a pen and draw what I thought was a dress. So, I was thinking that I could give fashion design a shot. I got an administrative job at a fashion distributing company at the end of the summer. Oh boy was I wrong! After many (stressful) months, I finally decided to quit my job.
My journey started the moment I quit one of the worst jobs I have ever had. I decided to give Psychology another shot. I told myself: “Laurie, you still have a few months to do whatever you want... You might as well try volunteering abroad like you always wanted. Do it now because you won’t that much free time in your adult life again!” I started searching on the internet for volunteering programs in psychology. Let me tell you that there are few psychology programs out there. Finally, I ended up on FDIP website. It read “Volunteer for Psychological Counseling & Hypnosis”. I was warned by my supervisor that I lot of volunteering organizations cared more about the money than the volunteer’s experience. I was pleasantly surprised to see that FDIP provided us with a PDF file answering almost all the questions I had: the organization’s goals, the programs, the weekly schedules, the fees, what the fees covered and what they did not, the possible activities we can do in our free time, and the FAQs.
After going through many organizations’ websites, I realized that FDIP was a perfect match. I mustered up my courage and sent in my application. Shortly after, I received an e-mail asking me when I plan to volunteer. I remember that moment clearly: I was sitting at the dinner table with my laptop. I opened the e-mail and I screamed and jumped into my boyfriend’s arms. Happiness is an understatement to describe what I was feeling. You have to remember that I just went through months of stress and anxiety, and this e-mail was the light at the end of this tunnel.
Over the next weeks, I corresponded with the coordinator in Nepal, Narayan. First, I must take a moment to fully appreciate Narayan’s patience and kindness for answering the million questions I had. I realized that I was in good hands when FDIP didn’t talk about money from the start. They wanted to make sure that I felt completely safe with them and that I understood what the program was about. Next thing you know, I was booking my plane tickets!
Fast forward to March 14th , 2019: I am with my family at Pierre-Elliott Trudeau Airport. I am the only one not realizing that I am really going. After almost 30h, I arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Narayan patiently waited for me at the airport. During my time in Nepal, I stayed at Narayan’s family home. No word can express how kind and loving the family is. As predicted by Narayan, we became like family. After a few hours a sleep, Narayan brought me to Pashupatinath Temple for the evening prayer. Not only the temple area is amazing, but I also had my first experience of seeing a cremation along with dozens of people praying at the same time. This should be on everyone’s to-do list!
The next day, I had my orientation with Narayan and Aman from FDIP. Basically, Aman’s part of the orientation was to introduce me to the Nepali culture and Hinduism, which is practiced by most of the population. What was supposed to take about 1h took 3 hours! Not only did I have so many questions, but Aman’s extensive knowledge about Hinduism only fed the fire. At some point, Narayan had to cut us off to present the program’s details, the dos and don'ts, the nepali language, and customs. Afterwards, I got a SIM card for Nepal and browsed through Thamel.
My first day at the Nepal Hypnosis Clinic finally arrived. Honestly, I had ABSOLUTELY no idea what I would be doing at the clinic. I even imagined myself cleaning the clinic for a whole month! Finally, Archana told me that I would be helping with her research. She explained that she had read my resume and was happy to see that I am experienced in research. On my first day, Archana gave me my first case study! My task was to analyze the case study, find research articles to support the links between the themes, and write a scientific report on it. Full disclosure, I was FREAKING OUT! I never analyzed nor reported on any case study. All my two years of CEGEP and four years of Bachelor's degree in psychology never taught me how to handle this. Nevertheless, I was determined to own this and deliver it on a golden plate.
So, on my first day I started doing some research for my first case study. I never thought that I would be doing research ever again! Truth be told, I was never a fan of research... I give major props for everyone who have a Ph.Dand higher. At this point, you might ask: “Why is she volunteering in a counseling clinic when she doesn’t even like research?” Fair point. I might not be the research geek, but I damn good at it. Also, the main reason why I wanted to volunteer in counseling is because research was emphasized over clinical experience during my Bachelor’s degree. Thus, I needed more clinical experience in order to apply for a Master'sdegree in counselling. With that in mind, I explained to Archana that I wanted to know more about how to be a counselor and the counseling process.
Over the month, I learned so much! At the Nepal Hypnosis clinic, my colleagues taught me about hypnotherapy, and even tried to practice on me. Observing live sessions of hypnotherapy gives you a better understanding of what the purpose of this therapy is. In summary, in hypnotherapy we use relaxation techniques which bring the clients into a relaxed state. Once we reach that level of utter relaxation, the client’s unconsciousness comes into consciousness. Thus, with a relaxed state the clients we help clients deal with emotions such as stress and anxiety. I also learned some healing touch techniques and the basics of Reiki healing. Please consult my best friend, Google, to learn more about these techniques. Not only did I receive some basic training in hypnotherapy, healing touch and counseling, but I was also able to write my first case study report. With this experience, I became a better researcher.
During my free time, I made sure to enjoy everything Nepal had to offer. I was very lucky to arrive right in time for Holi. Holi is a big festival that celebrates spring, colors, and the victory of good over evil. You might have already seen pictures of people throwing colored powder or colored water at each other. I would recommend you stay with your friends and away from the big crowds because it can be very intense. By far, this was one of my favorite moment here in Nepal because I was surrounded by friends and we had a great time.
I also went to the touristic spots in Kathmandu: Boudhanath, Swayambhunath (A.K.A. the Monkey Temple), Thamel, Asan Bazaar, and Basantapur. Boudhanath was magical; seeing everyone walking clockwise around the stupa in harmony, the sun setting on the horizon, and the complete peace you feel when you close your eyes while sitting at the bottom of the stupa. The Monkey Temple was breathtaking, literally because you must climb all the steps before reaching the stupa! Trust when I say that it is all worth it. If you are a shopaholic like me, then you will enjoy Thamel, Asan Bazaar and Basantapur. These are the main areas to go shopping. However, there you must use your bargaining skills! Along with your shopping, at the Durbar Square you can catch a glimpse of the Kumari (the living goddess).
Narayan helped me prepare my weekend trips to Chitwan, Lumbini and Pokhara. If you are a nature-lover, you will truly enjoy going on a Safari in Chitwan. One of the highlights of my trip was to get splashed by an elephant about 20 times while bathing with her.On a more spiritual note, Lumbini is the paradise for anyone who is interested in or practices Buddhism. Lumbini is the birthplace of Shakyamuni Buddha. And Pokahra is a paradise for all trekkers and hikers. From Sarangkot you can see the Annapurna mountains during the sunrise/sunset.
By far my favorite moment from this whole experience was to be part of my Didi's (big sister) wedding. I had the pleasure to meet Narayan’s relatives before the festivities. I observed how the women prepared the special dishes before the wedding. I bought a saree and even had a mehndi. At the end of the wedding ceremony, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I, along with the other women, cried when Didi had to go to her husband’s family. Seeing her separate from Aama (mom) broke my heart. The second day: PARTY! This experience got me closer to my host family and made me experience the culture unlike anything else. I will cherish this memory forever.
Needless to say that my journey in Nepal was incredible. First, FDIP and Narayan took care of me every step of the way, which made me feel safe. Second, I made amazing friends along the way. Most importantly, I now have a family in Nepal. Third, I gained so much research and clinical experience while volunteering at the Nepal Hypnosis Mental Health Clinic. Fourth, everything I have seen and experienced from my journey across Nepal— from the Terai to the Annapurna mountains— could never be bought nor replaced.
I started this journey as a lost girl. I had no idea whether I would pursue my career in Psychology or not. Not only do I know more about myself now, but I also know that I want to apply for my master's in counseling.
The beauty of volunteering abroad, especially with FDIP, is that every person’s story is different. I hope that me sharing my amazing experience will inspire others to volunteer and share their experience as well. I know this is so cliché but trust me when I say you will end up benefitting more from your volunteering experience than you would ever imagine. It teaches you about another culture, teaches you more about yourself, and teaches you to be more patient and compassionate. Now is your time to write.
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