When I was preparing to travel to Nepal for my Fulbright Specialist assignment, I was determined not to waste a single moment of this incredible opportunity. Although, there are truly too many memorable moments to share specifically. I immersed myself in the culture by saying “yes” and “why not?” to every opportunity, experience, and invitation to connect with the community. My primary assignment was to assist in the development of a Masters degree in the field of Psychology, mentor faculty, and provide professional workshops. I enjoyed a calendar of events that included all of these assignments plus a multitude of keynote speaking engagements, research, volunteer opportunities, family dinners, weddings, and volunteering in rural areas. I worked with higher education, mental health awareness, human rights, gender equity, water projects, and food distribution efforts.
There, every single day was filled with meaningful work and almost every evening was spent building relationships and sharing life with local families. I had the unique experience of sharing time with new friends and colleagues in environments ranging from embassies to huts; and each encounter was equally intriguing, warm and welcoming. The highlight of all this work has, and remains to be, the relationships that were forged by standing/kneeling side-by-side with the beautiful people of Nepal. The largest take away for me, personally, was learning through the kindness, compassion, and patience of all those that supported me as I attempted to navigate a completely new environment, language, and culture. I found that while reasonably intelligent and competent in my professional role, I was often completely clueless and at times rather useless functioning in this unknown environment. This vulnerability was a very important lesson in humility, respect, and it changed my global perspective.
I fell in love with the people and the culture. The experience has led to ongoing relationships and projects with organizations and individuals. I continue, 3 years later, to interact virtually with many of the friends and “family” from Nepal on a daily basis. I have returned to Nepal each year and even traveled with a group of my graduate students to conduct a project with my Fulbright institution as well as the American Embassy and various NGOs. Also, Ekta Publishing in Kathmandu offered the chance to complete a book to mentor those seeking basic training in the helping professions and, of course, I said, “yes!” In 2019, “Helping Others” was published.
I often say that Fulbright has a way of seeping into your soul. The experience changes you and becomes a part of who you are. It seems impossible to share the lives of others who live so differently on a daily basis and walk away without a fundamental elevation of your moral compass. In addition to the relationships formed during my Fulbright stay, I have found concentric circles of community through the Fulbright Association in wonderfully unexpected ways. Since returning, I have traveled with a Fulbright Service Project to Thailand, became a member of the Fulbright Association, participated in Fulbright programming, and recently agreed to act as the President of the Louisiana Chapter of Fulbright. Being a Fulbright Alumni has given me the gift of serving with an amazing group of human beings that I am honored to be a small part of. I find it very fulfilling to participate in something that is larger than my daily life and my primary work. Being identified as an active agent for positive change, peace, and compassion in the world as an international ambassador is a privilege that comes with great responsibility. This responsibility hopefully motivates us all to seek ways to honor Fulbright by continuing to serve both locally and globally.
Thank you for the experience of a lifetime!
Patrice Moulton – Fulbright to Nepal 2018