Julie Jones caught the travel bug early. Her college decision was based in large part on finding a school that offered total immersion and guided programs were a must. The SIT programs at Vanderbilt were the ideal fit. And in particular, the opportunity to live in Nepal in the Development and Social Change program was a once in a lifetime chance. In her Junior year, Julie embarked on the journey that would forever impact her world.
Home base for SIT students in Nepal is Kathmandu. Students have the option of traveling to other parts of the country, but Julie chose to stay the majority of her 15 weeks abroad with her host family. This, she says, was the most immersive part. She was immediately welcomed in as a member of the family. On her second day, Julie attended a family wedding. She celebrated important holidays and attended parties with her host family. A year later, her host mother still calls to say hello and ask how school is going. The strong relational bonds that were built will last a lifetime.
The independent research project that Julie selected examines Western influence on Nepali theater. For four weeks, Julie researched local theatre, discovering the way that funding sources informed decisions on which productions to hold. Most of her research was conducted through interviews. Although most people can speak English, Julie was grateful for the intensive course in Nepali which allowed her to correspond with non-English speaking subjects. She found most of her research connections through the tight-knit theatre community, which was eager to have the story of the emerging Nepali theatre shared with the Western world.
SIT students go on two excursions during the program. Julie explored environmental issues in Southern Nepal and lived for two weeks in a village known as the Gateway to the Himalayas. These were rare opportunities to observe a variety of Nepalese culture and geography and have affected every facet of Julie’s subsequent college career. The research and experiences have informed her course selections, work in the Vanderbilt Theatre, and interactions with cross-disciplinary fields.
Julie’s advice to future VU students thinking about study abroad experiences for Immersion is simple: do not fear it. You will do an immersive experience when you are here; let it be something that comes naturally and make it the best possible experience. Choose something you would not do otherwise. Without Vanderbilt, Julie notes, her path would be so different.