February 05, 2015
Emily Rowlands '15 knew she wanted to take full advantage of Susquehanna's Global Opportunities (GO) program-the only question was where.
"I wanted to go somewhere very different," Rowlands, a biochemistry major, said. "I knew that when I was older I could always travel to a Western country, but I really wanted to get a cultural experience. Additionally, I love being outdoors, so the chance to trek through the Himalayas was one of the best opportunities I could have imagined."
So Rowlands chose Susquehanna's Sherpa Life and Culture GO Short program, which focuses on the cultural, geographical and physiological aspects of the life of the Sherpa people in Nepal. All Susquehanna University students complete a study-away experience in a culture different from their own for a minimum of two weeks or as long as a semester.
Preparing to Climb 18,540 Feet
The highlight of her Nepal experience was undoubtedly her ascent to the base of Mount Everest, a peak known as Kala Patthar.
Rowlands had unknowingly been preparing for her ascension of Kala Patthar when she jumped onboard the CrossFit craze more than a year before ever setting foot in Nepal. CrossFit combines elements from weightlifting, gymnastics and other exercises. It challenges athletes to push their own personal and physical limits, something Rowlands put to use when making her 18,540-foot climb.
"Due to the altitude, when we started walking to base camp, my breathing became very sporadic and it was a little scary," Rowlands remembered. "But, I was able to stop, re-focus, re-set my breathing cadence and keep going." Rowlands was the only student to make it to the top of Kala Patthar.
Getting to Know the Nepalese: Priceless
Rowlands' climbing experience, while exhilarating, was not the primary focus of her time in Nepal. She also spent priceless time with the people of the Kathmandu and then a few weeks in the Khumbu region, home to Mount Everest.
"Kathmandu was very different from back in the U.S. and the conditions reminded me why Nepal was considered a third-world country. However, I loved everything about it: the food, the people, walking through markets, and talking to people were great ways to learn about the culture of Nepal," Rowlands said. "Meanwhile, the Khumbu region felt a lot more relaxing to me. It was filled with small farm towns and trekking villages."
While in Nepal, Rowlands drank in the Nepalese culture, visiting different communities in which she learned about Nepalese culture, education, cuisine, health care and religion-even experiencing a funeral service for one of the highest monks while in the Khumbu region and a day cooking for and playing with children at a local orphanage.
With Nepal behind her, Rowlands is considering her next adventure.
"I would love to return to Nepal to climb Island Peak, a peak known for trekking and ice climbing. But I am also looking at trying a few of the fourteeners in Colorado," she said. "I'm open to any adventure."