My Internship Experience: Nepal Edition

Being a freshman in college I was filled with the desire to go and do big things, to gain experiences that I could bring back to school my sophomore year and apply to my learning. Unfortunately, there are not many internships, paid or not, that were seeking out freshmen who, in their eyes, lacked experience and expertise. As I continued to search I eventually found an internship company called Internship Nepal. This immediately caught my eye, as I am trying to be in the field of international journalism, so it seemed to fit perfectly. I read up on the organization, eventually applying just to see if I could get it. After a few weeks of checking my email I was greeted with a notification that I was accepted into the program and if I would like to accept, to send them my flight information in order to create my itinerary. I was in a partial state of shock; I never really believed I would have been chosen to go live in a foreign country for a month, doing the work I deemed meant for professionals. But, I was not going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers. 

The next thing I knew I was booking my flight and attempting to wrap my head around what I was truly getting myself into. As it got closer and closer I started to believe I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t capable. It took some serious support from friends and family all believing I could make it for me to step on that plane. I then proceeded to travel over 20 hours jumping from Houston to the UK to Singapore just waiting to get to my final location. Eventually, I took that final flight and landed in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

My first few days went by so quickly because the culture shock was a lot to handle. Within the first 48 hours, I was brought to my host family who lived above the office, was introduced to my advisor I would be working with, and asked to read up on current Nepalese events and have pitch ideas. I was getting used to the type of food, the structure of meals, the lack of easy access to the internet or high speed technology. I was adjusting to a completely different country from the one I came from while also attempting to not stand out as an obnoxious American, unaware of the differences in cultural expectations, such as the clothes to wear or the hand gestures that were acceptable. I needed to adjust in order to do the work I was there to do with respect and efficiency. There was truly no way I could prepare for what I would feel, what I would be thrown into immediately, but it was time to get to work. 

At first, I honestly wasn’t sure what I was doing or if I could do it. I didn’t know why I was there. I spent the first few days brainstorming, attempting to find a spark to drag my attention away from all the discomfort I was feeling. Then, on my third day in Nepal and after a lot of research, I came downstairs to discuss my ideas with my advisor. I pitched my idea to focus on the LGBTQ+ community and the legislation in Nepal due to it being pride month. He loved it, and from that moment it was nonstop. I began my photography lessons, saw the city, and started realizing why I was there. I was interviewing real organizations, photographing real events, and catching the attention of real publications. It was suddenly a huge step up from interviewing teachers and students I was generally comfortable with. Everything seemed to happen at once and before I knew it, the nerves and culture shock had faded and I realized why I was there. I was there to put myself out there, to get experience in exactly what I wanted to do when I got out of college, and that it didn’t matter that I was 18 because I was ready. For the first time in my life I was being taken seriously as a journalist and it felt surreal. 

Over the next few weeks, I had opportunities I would have never gotten in any other situation. The moment of weaving in between police officers and jumping on top of walls to photograph the pride parade or having a translator in order for me to conduct an interview with professional companies are ones I will never forget. At the end of the experience I was published twice, once in the MyRepublica a Nepalese branch of the New York Times, and couldn’t have felt more validated that I made the right choice for not only my degrees but my life plan. It was a breath of fresh air.

But, despite the amazing experiences, it was not always easy. I was living there alone so there was some down time, times when I wished I could be home, talk to a group of people who spoke my language, or eat a familiar meal. I felt lonely, I felt nervous, I questioned myself. It was not a perfect experience but that’s what made it real. It was hard and that’s what I appreciate about it. I wouldn’t change a thing. I came home with a new sense of passion and capability in myself I did not have before. It showed me that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and that sometimes it is necessary to be uncomfortable to grow. I will continue to be thankful for the fact I stepped on that plane for the rest of my life.