Crossroads in Kathmandu
Illustration of a stupa

Studying abroad in Nepal through the Jennings Scholarship

It was mid-January when my journey to Nepal began.

The spring semester had just begun, but I was already thinking about my plans for the summer. The previous summer, my main interest had been working to save money. But halfway through my sophomore year at Loyola, I started to value experiences that would allow me to develop skills I could translate to my intended career in journalism.

It was as if Loyola knew my plans when I opened my email one evening to find a message from the National Fellowship Office promoting upcoming info sessions for the Jennings Family International Summer Research Scholarship.

A small, white, stupa with colorful prayer flags hanging above A man sells vegetables from his bicycle
This was an opportunity to learn something that will contribute to my career aspiration and pursuits.

After scrolling through the scholarship’s website, I decided to attend an info session. I was one of just a handful of students at the session—and the only Global Studies major. The others, who were studying education and engineering, were equally impressed as I by what the opportunity had to offer…

This was an opportunity to learn something that will contribute to my career aspiration and pursuits.

I am a Global Studies major with two minors: writing and French. My academic program has afforded me a medley of classes and opportunities for me to learn about the world I hope to make a career of writing about. My classes have sharpened my skills, cultivated knowledge, and piqued my curiosity. But the truth is, a student can only develop a craft through experience.

When I returned to my apartment after the session that evening, I sat down to review the application. I had to submit an Intent to Apply form and then my application a week later.

The award had three major criteria: a 3.0 GPA, participation in a program in a developing country, and presenting research based on the program at Loyola’s Undergraduate Research Colloquium the following spring—meaning I would share my experience and my work from the summer with a panel of faculty, administrators, and my peers.

The Global Crossroads photojournalism program in Nepal quickly caught my attention when I was researching academic programs. As I read through its description, I realized that it would allow me to go beyond fulfilling my vision for the summer by allowing me to write articles and learn how to take photos.

The chance to study abroad here through the Jennings Scholarship would allow me to engage in a program with students from all over the world, who offer diverse perspectives and experiences, while I was learning about life in a developing country.

A man walking his bike, which carries multiple bags

My decision to go to Kathmandu, Nepal, was based on the goal I set for myself in January.

The program appealed to me not only because it was a chance to see a part of the world that was completely foreign to me, but because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn in a different culture, to stretch my photojournalism and writing skills—and develop new ones, and to return to Loyola to share my research, excellent practice and a valuable experience in and of itself.

Three teenage boys sit on a short stone wall

One week after I submitted my application, I heard back from the National Fellowship Office. I had been awarded the fellowship!

The scholarship covered nearly all my expenses: airfare, the Global Crossroads program, living accommodations, and travel insurance. I even received some money to buy a camera. The only things I had to worry about were getting the appropriate vaccinations for Nepal and my own pocket money.

The Jennings Scholarship allowed me to participate in the program for three weeks. I stayed with a host family and students from around the world.

On June 3, my 20th birthday, I boarded the plane from JFK to Abu Dhabi. The evening of June 4, I arrived at Kathmandu International Airport. Tired but eager, I settled into my new reality in a country on the other side of the globe that, six months prior, I knew nothing about.

Traffic on a busy street Looking out a window, with houses in the background
…it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn in a different culture, to stretch my photojournalism and writing skills—and develop new ones…

On my first day, I received a tour of the surrounding area. The president’s home and the public hospital that trained medical professionals were just three blocks away. These landmarks, along with the names and locations of nearest bus stops, were the most important part of the orientation. The knowledge allowed me to explore the city and know that I could make it back home on my own.

The first few days I spent getting acclimated, but then I quickly settled into a routine. Every day after breakfast, I would gather my notebooks and laptop and head to the large office with the other interns and Ram, our internship coordinator.

My program is best described as a mix between an informal class that provided instruction and workshopping, and freelance journalism. Most mornings I would write and revise my articles, receive feedback on my photography, and schedule and conduct interviews; then I’d head out with my camera in the evenings to photograph the city. Even when I was sightseeing or felt more like a tourist than a student, I was working towards my summer goal by completing my articles and getting better at photography.

A monkey lays on a rock A monkey sits on a horizontal pole eating fruit

My three weeks were packed and I spent most of my time in the city of Kathmandu writing, taking pictures, engaging with the locals, and immersing myself in a fully enriching experience. Each time I stepped out of the house, my camera clung to my side, ready to capture the day’s adventure. And I was even able to leave the city a few times to explore the nearby Kathmandu Valley, where I visited four UNESCO world heritage sites without ever spending a night away from the valley…

On one excursion I headed out with a small group to Swayambhunath, a place of worship for both Hindus and Buddhists. When we arrived, it immediately became clear why it was nicknamed the Monkey Temple. Even before we entered the walls of the world heritage site, we trained our cameras on monkeys scavenging for food along the steep path.

A monkey drinking from a torn-apart juice box

For two-thirds of Loyola students, a study abroad experience will have a transformative impact. Loyola’s commitment to educate the whole person and develop well-rounded individuals—and the university’s recognition of the importance of exposure and international experience—has cultivated an environment where the Jennings Scholarship can exist, where students like me can achieve our goals in unexpected ways.

When I think back on my trip or look at my thousands of photos from my time in Nepal, I am still in awe of the opportunity I had, and I will be forever grateful.

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