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Rya Woodhams - One Health Nepal

Published: Wednesday, 29 Nov 2017
Author: Cheryl Ann Benner
Department: Office for Education Abroad

Name: Rya Woodhams

Status: Senior

Major: Animal Science

Hometown: Lansing, MI

Program: One Health Nepal, Summer 2017

I never thought that a large university like Michigan State would be something that I could afford, let alone the luxury to study abroad. This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to Study abroad in Nepal. The experience could not have been more amazing. It was a trip of many firsts; My first time outside the United States, my first time booking a flight, my first time traveling alone, and the first time I had spent more than a week away from the greater Lansing area. Upon arriving in the Kathmandu Airport, I could observe how different Nepal was from home. First off, it was much warmer in Nepal than I am used to even in the hottest summer months here in Michigan. I hopped into my first taxi and that is when I noticed that there were no traffic symbols or lanes on the roads. The drivers in Nepal drive on the left side of the road like most other countries, however, motorcycles, cars, mopeds, and people were weaving in and out of traffic. I was certain that we would be in a car accident yet, before I knew it, we were pulling into the driveway of my hotel, Kathmandu Guest House. When I arrived, there was beautiful live music being performed in the courtyard to welcome me. I couldn't believe how in the middle of this very busy city there was a hotel that reminded me of a palace that housed a beautiful garden and statues of Buddha.

From the moment I arrived, I could tell that there was something unique about the Nepali people. They were incredibly kind and welcoming. One day, we went to a women's coop through Heifer International and were welcomed by the women standing in two rows side by side which we were to walk through. They adorned us each with a necklace made of flowers and anointed our foreheads with a vermilion tilaka, a red powder made of cinnabar. They performed a welcome song and dance and allowed us to light candles as part of their friendship ritual. This experience made me realize that if the people of Nepal, who have so little to give, can always open their homes and hearts to strangers that we should strive to be like that in the United States as well.

When I came back home, I made it a goal to meditate and to be more kind to the people I saw no matter where I went. Studying abroad helped me to learn that there are far too many people in the world and too many things to see to be worried about all the tiny stresses in life. Things that we think are rude here don't even bother people in places like Nepal. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to partake in this breathtaking experience, to open my eyes and mind to this beautiful country and I would be very lucky if I could return some day.