Late last month, during NYU Abu Dhabi's spring break, the University's Introduction to Political Science students travelled with Jeff Jensen, NYUAD visiting assistant professor of Political Science, to Kathmandu, Nepal, a country with currently no functioning government. During their two-day study trip, students had the special opportunity to listen to presentations given by experts in the field of politics, including Nepali Times editor Kunda Dixit and professors Anil Chitrakar, Krishna Bhattachan, C.K. Lal, and Makunda Aryal. Chitrakar and Aryal led the members of the class on a tour of Kathmandu, during which they visited Buddhist and Hindu temples, small neighborhoods, and rural villages.
For many students, the highlight of the trip was interacting with Nepali families hosting American exchange students as part of the Pitzer Program, a study-abroad program hosted by California's Pitzer College. Following an hour-long Nepali lesson, students interviewed the host families about local politics while also gaining perspective on Nepali culture.
Despite its brevity, the trip brought the theories in the course textbook to life, illustrating how communities effectively organize themselves and collaborate amidst the lack of a working government. "The class is very theoretical and sometimes it's not obvious how those theories apply to the real world, so being able to see that in person was really interesting," said NYUAD freshman Angela Ortega Pastor.
Fellow freshman Karolina Durdova felt the same way. "I really enjoyed the trip because I actually saw everything we covered in class applied in practice," she said. "We talked about Nepal not having any government to provide public services and public goods, and you could see it when we went on a nighttime walk. There we no people — first of all because there was no electricity at night so people went to sleep very early. They would then wake up 4am or 5am just so that they could maximize the use of sunlight."
While putting the various political theories into perspective, the trip also allowed students to expand their understanding of Nepal's political situation in a way readings alone cannot accomplish. As freshman Cole Tanigawa-Lau, who plans to pursue a major in Political Science, said, "It's really about getting there and seeing it firsthand."