A few nights ago, I went out to dinner with the rest of the girls who went with me to Nepal. It was great to see them and talk about Nepal, and I realized that it’s been a couple months since I left (eep!), and I still haven’t written any final thoughts on my blog.
When I first got back, I didn’t write anything because I was so caught up in being with my family and winter break. Then school started, and I got sucked right into the Cornell whirlwind of classes, clubs, and weekends. I have had very little time to sit down and reflect on my experience in Nepal. Even now, I’m not sure what to say.
Everyone seems to expect me to feel uncomfortable in the U.S. now or to experience culture shock. I hate to disappoint, but I never felt culture shock. When I came to Nepal, I expected something new and different, and that’s exactly what I got. When I came home, I knew what to expect because I’ve lived here my entire life, and four months out of the country couldn’t make me forget what it feels like to be home.
Maybe culture shock is misnamed. I can definitely point to cultural differences that I see everyday that register in my mind as being a change from Nepal. Few of those differences truly shock me or make me feel uncomfortable. I think people can adapt to any situation if they feel motivated. In Nepal, I wanted to immerse myself in the country and connect with the people, so I tried to speak Nepali and embrace their traditions. It really wasn’t hard to feel comfortable there. Back at school, I want to have fun with my friends and do well in my classes, and it’s easy to make a life for myself here as well.
One thing I can say Nepal taught me (warning: this will sound cliché) is that people are people everywhere, no matter their race, ethnicity, language, or geographical location. People have the same hopes and dreams and ability to love one another any place you go, they just might express it through different cultural practices and traditions.
There were the mothers I talked with who carried their babies in sashes, gave their infants hot oil massages, and fed their children very different food from American baby food, but I could still see the same mother to child connection. There were the friends who addressed each other more formally than American friends and held hands more willingly, but could still make each other laugh till they cried like my friends and me at home. There were the children in the villages who wore rags, had dirt on their faces, and could roll roti better than I could, but all they needed to make them smile was a simple game of follow the leader just like I played when I was little. I never felt culture shock because I was among people who, at heart, were the same as me.