The main activities that my STEP Signature Project entailed were research,marketing, and client relation. Our project began during the Spring 2019 semester, where we connected with the in country project manager to see what her goals for us were. Once in country, my team and I assisted with writing, branding and visibility, and building business connections.
My understanding of myself, assumptions, and my view of the world transformed while completing my STEP Signature Project in Nepal. Initially, I was nervous to be not only learning while abroad, but making an impact. It was important for me to realize that although the two weeks went by fast, we were still able to have a vast experience while developing cultural skills and sharpening business skills. My STEP Signature Project presented me with cultural learning experiences in country, expanding upon my understanding that across the globe we have similar human characteristics, although we might have different life experiences and may speak different languages.
My view of the world transformed, because when one thinks of a developing country, they tend to think that it is not as great as America or a country in Europe. That belief was challenged, as in Nepal their sense of community and hospitality is strong. Even the care of dogs and monkeys roaming the street shows that Nepali individuals cherish the lives of one another and their animals. I can also say that being in a country where Nepali people (on the continent of Asia) were the majority, I experienced a new sense of being a Black American. Being asked questions about my heritage and hair were positive experiences, allowing me to be both self reflective and culturally aware of the way in which I was perceived.
There were many aspects that contributed to my change experiences during my STEP Signature Project in Kathmandu, Nepal. One event involved a hike, crocheting with Didis at Aatmiya, and working on the business focus of the project at Aatmiya. These key experiences affected me in a positive manner and lead to a greater self and cultural awareness.
While on the exposition on many occasions my group and I were asked where we were from. Individuals were amazed to learn that we were all from America, as we have different appearances due to our ancestry. I was personally asked to get really specific about my ancestry, because in country most assumed that I were African. I was asked about my hair, and on multiple occasions I was told in both English and Nepali by people that they loved my hair, which was extremely affirming. This occurred a lot during the hike, where my character was strengthened as not only did I see a different part of life in Nepal, but I built strength and endurance with the help our our guide and my peers.
Crocheting with Didis was an amazing experience, as it occurred near the end of our project at Aatmiya, a NPO in Nepal. For the majority of our time there, we assisted with marketing and research, leaving time for smaller interactions with Didis, Nepali Women workers. Sitting and crocheting with Didis, sharing laughs and smiles, was a transformative space to be in. I know simple phrases in Nepali, and only one Didi knew English very well. Thus, one Didi and I joked together about the fact that we couldn’t quite communicate with spoken language but had a mutual understanding of that and both understood facial expressions and body language. Most of the time I was quiet, taking everything in, and learning how to crochet from the Didi’s while also acquiring a deep appreciation for their community and work ethic. They also treated me to lunch and supported me through my learning curve. The business side of Aatmiya showed me that Americans are more direct while Nepali individuals utilize softer communication skills.
This transformation is extremely valuable to my life. I was able to experience so much while being in a country over 7,000 miles from home. Relationships helped me to expand upon both my cultural and self awareness. It also made me appreciate my life experiences thus far, being American, being a Black American. As a parallel, I gained a greater appreciation for Nepal, for Nepali individuals, for their culture, shattering the stereotypes of what being a developing country means. My STEP Signature Project in Nepal taught me how to be more patient, more open to new experiences, as you learn whether or not the experience was up your alley or just right for you. I learned to continue to experience new things, challenge my assumptions and beliefs, and to enjoy people and life. My experiences relate to my academic, personal, and professional goals and my future plans. I truly enjoy being immersed in other cultures, having memorable interactions, and building relationships. The project connected perfectly to my academic and professional goals as it related to business and women. I am truly grateful for much support, and for the Fisher College of Business’ Global Office, STEP, and Aatmiya.