Comparison of my old and new self

Blog by: Students on the Buddhism and the Great Ganges River Experience: Philosophical Exploration and Social Action in the Sacred lands of India program

Student Name: Dibbya Biswa

This trip has open my eyes and made me re-experienced my days in Nepal. Two days flight without sleep was not part of my “to experience” list for India trip. I was exhausted when we reach the Varanasi airport. My thoughts were why did I even come and I was better at home, sleeping in my big bed. As I stepped out of the airport to the indie atmosphere, I couldn’t breathe.  Although it was raining the air was super hot and the climate was burning hot.  I didn’t think of anything besides I want to go back to Washington. We got in the van that was reserved for us. On our way to Central University of Tibetan Studies, I was looking outside from window. What I saw was not so different from what I have memories of Nepal. The house was similar, land area was similar, small and big shops were similar and even the way they display products on the shops was similar. When we got to the city area the traffic and the way vehicles were running the wait vehicles in Nepal. When I saw those it reminded me of my childhood. I felt like me I am in Nepal walking on the street and seeing this all. It made me feel like I am on my younger age feet. As I saw those kids walking and running near road fearlessly. I was terrified to see kids near vehicles. My hearts were racing see all that. Then I realized that I was like them in Nepali. But I had one question that I just can’t answer: In Nepal, was I fearless like those kids or fearful like I am right now? It’s been 8 days and I still fear walking on the street. In fact, can’t walk with just one friend, I have to have more than one friend walking with me. Rowaida my colleagues ask me if I wanted to go for walk. I told her to bring one more friend to go for walk.She has been to Egypt by herself, so she somehow convinces me to walk with her but eventually, I end up adding Emma. I have been here for a week and I still fear when vehicles go near me, I still get scared when people horn and I still can’t walk on my own on the street. I left half of my life in Nepal and half of my life in the US. Here I am still figuring out who am I?

Photo by: Dibbya Biswa

Finding a Global Friend

Blog by: Students on the Buddhism and the Great Ganges River Experience: Philosophical Exploration and Social Action in the Sacred lands of India program

Student Name: Rebecca Diamond

Photo taken at the Central University of Tibetan Studies. (Right) Sun Tse (left) Rebecca Diamond

Photo credit: Kara Adams
After the mess of my first day in Kolkata combined with the sadness of being away during Owen’s first day of school. Compounded by the pressure and guilt of being away at all as a mother has weighed heavily on me. I cried every interaction we had over the phone. I didn’t know how I would continue in the state of depression I was living in. I didn’t know how I would be at all productive during the program and I just wanted to go home. I felt like I made a mistake coming back to India a second time. We made it to the Central University for Tibetan Studies and I was feeling miserable. The only thing getting me through was video chats and my friend who stayed with me two more days in Kolkata before flying to Varanasi to meet our group. We met our host, Sun Tse, I was very intrigued by him and I wanted to know more about his life and history. I got many chances to play soccer, basketball, and just enjoy getting to know more about him over snacks and classes. One day a few of us stayed after class to talk more. Sun Tse told me about his journey to India. He told me his parents who live in Tibet paid an intermediary to bring one of their children to India to escape the Chinese occupation. He said they initially asked his oldest brother if he wanted to go. His oldest brother said no. They then showed Sun Tse beautiful pictures of India and being of the age of ten he agreed without the understanding that when he went he couldn’t come back. He said the day he left they all cried his family brought him to a house and left him there to be picked up. He ended up finding he wouldn’t leave for two more days so he went home and he said ironically no one cried two days later when he actually left. They had seemed to already have moved on and accepted this fate. He arrived in India and stayed with other intermediaries who took in Tibetan refuges. He attended school eventually making his way to The Central University of Tibetan Studies.. He spoke about the memory with reverence some sadness but I could also sense the Buddhist influence in his conceptualization and internalization of his experience. He has been away from his family for 17 years now! He said now that he is older he thinks his parents in some ways tricked him into going but he also thinks it was the right decision.
We are so close in age that I felt that he could have been me and I could have been him. We were living very different realities on different sides of the world but connected quickly, to me like kindred spirits. We spent more time together talking in person and connecting online via Facebook and Instagram. His story inspired me as well as his acceptance for his situation. This acceptance I believe comes from his belief system, Buddhism. The concepts of impermanence, suffering, and karma contribute to his ability to manage the suffering of loss. The day we left The Central University for Tibetan Studies we all piled into the van. We were waving goodbye and Sun Tse came to the window to offer me his mantra beads that he had had a conversation with me about a previous day. I was so moved and immediately put them on. His story has helped me to not only cope with being away but be able to embrace the opportunity of being here and when I put on the beads or notice them during the day it reminds of the universal experience of suffering as well as our ability to transcend its negative pull into depression.


Renewable Energy in Japan – Pre-Departure

September 1, 2017 Blog by: Derek Flett, Mechanical Engineering, Renewable Energy in Japan and US

Greetings! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Derek. I am senior in the Mechanical Engineering undergraduate program at the University of Washington, Bothell campus. Although I was born just a few miles away in Everett, when I was two, my family and I moved to the small country of El Salvador, were I grew up and lived for sixteen years. Once I finished High School I moved back to Washington and started taking classes at Cascadia with the intention of getting the prerequisites necessary to apply to the ME program at UWB. Currently, I’m planning on going into power generation industry (preferably renewable power) upon my graduation. This hope and aspiration brought me to this program, officially called Renewable Energy in Japan and United States. Although we don’t arrive in Japan until September 4th, a group of eleven students and I (picture of the group below, I’m wearing the black Columbia jacket) have been taking classes for the last two weeks which have dived into not only technical aspects of various forms of renewable power generation but also the beautifully intricate and complex Japanese culture, history and language. It has been a long two weeks, but I’ve learned more than I could have imagined and am even more exited to go to Japan continue to learn.

Not only is this program’s theme extremely relevant to me as my plan is work in the power generation industry upon graduation, but also because there is no better example to learn from than Japan when it comes to renewable energy. In 2011, after the disaster in Fukushima, Japan’s government make the decision to shut down all their nuclear reactors to avoid any further catastrophe. Unfortunally, that meant stopping over 40% of Japans power generation over the span of a few days. To make up for this massive scarcity in power, Japan was forced to begin importing oil and coal as fuel for their combustion power plants to make up for the recent shortage of power. As their national deficit grows, Japan’s economy has suffered and will continue to suffer until a more economic and renewable source of power is implemented in a large scale. This brings me back to why Japan is the perfect country to learn from as they rapidly expand their renewable energy grid. Hopefully, the United States will undergo a similar change in the decades to come, as we shift from being a society filling the gaps of our power needs with renewables while depending on fossil fuels, to a society that depends on renewables while filling in the gaps with fossil fuels. When this time comes, we can look back to Japan, having already conquered the challenges that arose, learn from their example, and ultimately, follow in their foot steps toward a clean, efficient and renewable power grid. This study abroad will allow me to get some insight into the challenges Japan is facing, with the hopes of be able to address similar challenges in the US in the years to come.

This will by my first time I will be going to a foreign country while only knowing a grand total of thirteen common word/phrases in the native language. Not being able to communicate effectively without the aid of technology or a translator is quite scary for me. In the weeks prior to my departure, I’ve started practicing a few useful phrases in Japanese. Once I begin to feel comfortable with the pronunciation, I turn to the world most powerful tool for conquering language barriers: Google Translate. Unfortunately, when I try translating my new Japanese phrases back to English, I discover that my mispronunciation has changed the context and meaning to either nonsense or something completely offensive. Thankfully, most Japanese are more than understanding and forgiving when it comes to a foreigner’s attempt to speak the language; often, the attempt at respecting another’s culture and language speaks volumes, and is highly regarded and praised.

I look forward to updating you all on my adventures in the days to come. I know that I will learn volumes and only hope that I can apply that knowledge in a later day to help our nation move toward a better future.


Snoqualmie Falls Field Trip – Taken in front of Original Generator Installed in 1898

Blog Entry 1

August 21, 2017. Blog by Pearle Maki, Biology major, From Andes to Amazon: Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainability in Peru.

Hey everyone!

So, I leave for Cusco, Peru in 2 days, and I will be there for a month staying at biological stations and studying biodiversity in one of the most biodiverse places on earth! I chose this program because it sounded like an amazing opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things learning about one of my favorite topics!

I am very excited that I could have this opportunity to study abroad in Peru. I am also a bit nervous and anxious about leaving. I am anxious because I know little to no Spanish, but I know that I will be able to get around ok because my traveling partner knows a little. I know it will be a lot of fun, but I have not been away from my friends and family for that long. And we will have very little availability for contacting them once the program starts. It will be nice to be away from technology, and my friends and family have been really supportive of me going!

Anyway! Packing has been a lengthy process for me. We got the list of our essentials (including sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent, among other things) in the beginning of June and I have been slowing chipping away at everything we need and I think I finally have it all! Now I have to try to make it all fit in my duffle! I spent a Sunday at the beginning of August trying to fit everything in 2 backpacking packs, but it literally took me all day and I still couldn’t fit it all in. I resorted to a duffle bag because it can fit more, and it is way easier to find stuff in! Now if only I could fit Riley in too (The chocolate lab on the bed). I will miss her and her sister very much when I am gone too.


I made a few additions to the packing list because I am not sure what is available down there, and we will be spending 10 days camping in Manu National Park, so I would like to be prepared if I need to be! I made sure to bring melatonin, earplugs (I am a light sleeper), cold medicine, Benadryl/Calamine/Tea tree oil (for all the bug bites), Neosporin, toilet paper (herd this from another student), Pepto-Bismol. Those were the last few things I added in addition to Advil, and my normal prescriptions.

I will be heading out this week, and I will not be able to blog while I am there, but I will when I get back in about a month. So, stay tuned, and wish me luck!


Confused and slightly overwhelmed on the way to Paris

August 7th, Blog by Cassie Kays, Pre-Major, French/Comparative Literature France: Paris in the Summer

Wow, I’ve already been in Paris for a week!! Time seems to have flown by between class and touring the city, and I already have my first midterm on Friday!! I arrived in Europe on July 24th, a week before my programs start date, at 8 am at the Charles De Gualle airport, after being awake well around 24 hours. Confused and slightly overwhelmed, I began to search for my next terminal and hopped on another plane (with the help of a very friendly and helpful french couple) to visit one of my former exchange sisters, Louisa, in Hannover, Germany. The language barrier in Germany was slightly difficult, because I’m a strong believe of speaking the countries native language to be polite, but it was pretty easy to get around and get what I needed. So week one of my first time outside the states was the week of fun! After getting over the initial jet lag and waking up at weird hours of the night, my body had finally realized it was on European time.

Process Before Your Trip

Blog By Lorena Andrea Marulanda, Community Psychology, Gender, Culture and Human Rights in India

This is my first time writing a blog in English, so I am so sorry if I make any mistake. However, at the same time it is a representation of me as an immigrant whose first language is not English. So here is the process that I wanted to have before and during my time in India.

Process before your trip…

 This is a process that we should all enjoy, although it is stressful, once you get the congratulation letter everything will have a different face :).


For this I do not have much to say more than be yourself. If you do not know something it is okay to say it, you do not need to have a perfect answer. From this, you will learn (like I did) to be okay with who you are with your answers even if they sound silly sometimes. For a while I was worried that I was not going to be selected for the program because of some of my answers, but I got the good news and that opinion about myself changed…

…and if you are wondering about the picture in my congratulation letter, yes we took it while in India!



If you are like me and do not read the instructions, you are going to be very frustrated. For this, you will need:


  • A picture of yourself with a white background. What I did… I took a picture of my passport picture and change the size of the picture to what it was required and it work!
  • A clear picture of your passport


I thought it was going to be easier, so please take your time to do at once. However, if for some reason you can not finish it when you started it DO NOT FORGET to write down your application ID number which is on the middle top of the page. It happened to me, and I had to start over again and learn the hard way.


These were the mistakes I did while filling out the application:


  • DO NOT write your social security or your driver license enter NA.
  • DO NOT use punctuation marks. If your name is hyphenated then use a black space instead. Do not use a period if your name has a sux such as “Jr.”
  • AND write the address as they show it even though the space is not long enough. Copy and paste what they give you, and if it does not fit IT IS OKAY!


…and here goes your first investment on your trip $61.50 for you visa!



Go to the doctor as soon as possible so you will know what your insurance is able to cover. If you do not have insurance Bartell Drugs store and Walgreens offer the service of the immunizations that are required to enter to India. Bartell Drugs have an international nurse that will help you with the research and the decision with some the ones that are optional (malaria).


Hepatitis A $139

Typhoid $102


For me, my insurance covered the Hepatitis A, and with my doctor we decided that I was not going to take anything for Malaria. However, I paid for the Typhoid at the community clinic in North Gate and I paid $76.78, so it was more convenient.


DO NOT FORGET to ask your doctor for CIPROFLOXACIN for traveler’s diarrhea. Most insurances cover this. WHAT I DID TO NOT USE IT… I was really worried about getting sick during India, so my cousin who traveled to Nepal recommended to take probiotics as much as possible BEFORE and DURING the trip. I was eating two yogurts everyday, kombucha, and I bought some probiotic pills called “Pearls Complete” that he recommended. I got them through Amazon for $15.49…. and I never got sick of my stomach!

Arriving in London!

Blog By Brittney Phanivong, Science Technology and Society, English London: Spring in London

The worst part of traveling for me is the plane ride. But views like this make me feel better. It was so beautiful up in the air, which made me even more excited to reach the ground again. My plane landed around 9:30am on Wednesday March 22, 2017. Going through passport control took awhile, but after I reached an officer, he didn’t interrogate me as much as what I’ve heard from other people. He asked what brings me to the UK, and I told him I am here for a study abroad program. He asked for my paperwork (which was given during our study abroad meeting back in Seattle, so it’s important that you don’t lose them!), then it was awkwardly quiet while he read the letters and tried to find a stamp to stamp my passport. Once I was good to go, I went to claim my baggage, then met up with one of my flatmates, Hailey, who arrived from Portugal. We were both starving so we stopped by a cafe in the airport called Costa and ate sandwiches. After our stomachs settled, we both freshened up because believe me, after staying on a plane for several hours, you are going to want to wash your face, brush your teeth and possibly change clothes (specifically, undergarments).

London has a significantly better transportation system than back home in Seattle, so it was fairly easy to hop on a train from the airport to King’s Cross, and ride the underground to the closest station to our homestay. It was super nice for our homestay’s mum’s partner, Claudio, to pick us up from the tube station. He was so nice and friendly, and when we got to the house, we met his nephew, Clemente, who was also very kind. Clemente and Claudio showed us to where we will be living, which is in a large attic room where there were three beds and a couple of desks and chairs. I am roommates with three other people: Hailey, Mira, and Kaden. Kaden has his own small room near our large room. Once Hailey and I settled in, I took a well needed shower and then took a nap. The nap that I took was way longer than I wanted it to be, but when I woke up, there was sad news. I received several concerned messages from my friends and family because there was a terror attack at the Westminster Bridge in London. It was terribly sad that this event occurred. My prayers and thoughts are with all those affected by this attack today. It was definitely a scare for some of my loved ones because I wasn’t responding to their messages as fast as I could because I was asleep. But everything is okay with me, I am safe and unharmed!

Tomorrow is our first day of orientation, which means I have to wake up fairly early just to give myself some time to travel to central London to the place I will be meeting the rest of the students from the program. I am incredibly excited and I will update you all about the rest of my week soon!

My Study Abroad Experience

My study abroad experience was wonderful. There is no way I will be able to fully express it through writing.The full extent of my experience and feelings will remain with me in memory. During my journey I kept a detailed personal journal to document my experience. I may not include all the details in this particular essay. However, I will try to express some things.

I boarded the plane headed to Kenya, my home country about a week before my study abroad. Kenya was absolutely wonderful. I reconnect with family that I had not seen in eight to ten years. I visited my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Although it was many years since I have been to Kenya, talking and interacting with family was as if resuming a conversation that had just been put on pause for a while, as if no time had passed between the time I last met them. I reconnected back with family instantly.They were all ecstatic to see me again. I had missed them much, they had missed me much. I travelled from Nairobi to Nyandarua to Mombasa, to Kapsabet. Kenya has changed and grown a lot, it’s wonderful! I truly cannot express the joy and experience I had in Kenya. Look at the photos and see, these memories and feelings will remain with me.
After my week in Kenya, I boarded a bus headed to Arusha, Tanzania. The traveling time was about four hours. The view was wonderful, hills,plains and wild animals spread out. A student who was part of the study abroad group had decided to visit Kenya also. So we decided to take the bus together. Four hours later we arrived and got picked up and driven to where we were to stay.
During the first four days, we were hosted by small college. During this time, we explored the environment to get a feel of Tanzania. The rest of the students got a small crash course in Swahili, since I already knew Swahili, I helped them out a bit.
After that week, we started to travel to different parts of Tanzania. Most of out time in Tanzania was spent exploring and discussion. We started in Maji ya Chai we traveled to Arusha National park to Lake Natron Conservation to Serengeti National Park to Ngorongoro Conservation Area to Loliondo. We were not in a formal classroom. We learned about the discourse surround ecotourism. About the Positives vs negatives of ecotourism.
The positive aspects ecotourism is that wild animals are conserved and not invaded upon by humans and people get an opportunity to visit wild life. However, there is a down side to ecotourism. First, animals are glorified more that people. When tourists go to Africa, they mostly only go on Safari to see animals, yet they never take the time to actually interact and know the people in Africa. When tourists go to Europe, they go and see human creation, human architecture, when tourist visit Africa, they only go to see wild life. Negative stereotypes concerning Africa emerge due a lack of interaction and understand of African people on part of the tourist. Second, tourism lodges are so expensive that only rich people, mostly from Europe and America can afford. Third, the conservation areas were designated and made by European nations, it’s not the Tanzanian government who made the conservation areas. This shown the colonialist connotation that the conservation areas have. Who said that European nations are the only ones who know how to conserve and take care of animals? Animals are designated such as huge area of land by the guidelines of European counties, while the Maasai people’s land is getting snatched away from them by conservation workers and investors. That is ridiculous. No one tells Europe and America what to do with their land. As we were speaking with the Maasai people of Tanzania, we leaned that the Maasai have their own mechanics on how they protect and conserve the animals. Each clan looks out to conserve a certain type of animal, this is their way to be stewards of the land that they acknowledge was given to them by God. I strongly agree with them.
My favorite part of the experience was meeting the people of Tanzania. I truly do miss the people. I miss the people I met when I went to church. They were so welcoming. Church service was wonderful, just like in Kenya, just like in the U.S. I ate lunch with them, joined their choir practice in the afternoon and was invited to visit by two ladies. I had a wonderful time, I miss them. The members of the Pastoral Woman’s Council (PWC) were great. They are a strong organization that empower their community. There is so much I can say about them, but I need to summarize. The experience I had with them I will never forget. They educate the community regarding money, they educate the community by running a high school, they also fight against injustice regarding land by education the community about their rights. The students that we met were also wonderful. They reminded me of my experience when I went to school in Kenya. They were very friendly, I made friends with them. We played, laughed and talked together. We played jump rope. I used to do that a lot when I was young. The people that hosted us were also so wonderful. I talked much with them. They directed me on how to get African Style clothing tailored. We spoke about the difference between Tanzania and Kenya. We laughed and made jokes. I really connected with them well. It was great to be with my fellow Africans. There is just something wonderful about being with people like you, people who really get you. One of my goals is to travel to as many African counties as possible and interact with the wonderful people and see the wonderful treasure that lay in my home continent. After the study abroad ended, my adventure continued. I went back to Kenya to visit more family members. Before I had come for the study abroad, I had visited family in Nairobi and Nyandarua, now after the study abroad, I visited family in Mombasa and Kapsabet. The experience was wonderful, family was ecstatic to meet me again, we instantly reconnected. I was there for a about a week, time flew by so fast and soon I boarded the plane heading back the USA, my immediate family was missing me. I will never forget this wonderful experiences. I thank God for giving me this opportunity.