Alumni Spotlight: Daphne Lepere

Daphne is a 22-year old student living in Paris and aiming for a Bachelor's degree in Japanese at Diderot University. She is a big fan of travelling, video games, linguistics, and humanities.

Why did you choose this program?

Asia, particularly the Indian culture, has always fascinated me. Admittedly, I'd never looked into Nepal much, and it was a French movie which took place in Kathmandu that first piqued my interest in actually travelling there someday.

One thing led to another, and a couple months later, I was looking at volunteering programs, one of which featured the chance to discover Nepali culture as well as taking care of children. It immediately sounded like something I would enjoy, and it truly was!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The agency I worked with provided me with a lot of information (which I desperately needed as this was my very first volunteering experience) and a quick formation weekend that enabled me to ask previous volunteers any questions I still had. The rest I took care of myself such as looking for activities for the weekends and ways to improve my teaching methods.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be prepared, both for the environmental circumstances such as season, foods, and other details, and for the content of your volunteering project. I came in slightly underprepared and had to quickly adapt to the needs of the children within the monastery. Being able to improvise fast is something I ended up perfecting in Nepal as the entire country runs on unpredictability.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

We have breakfast very early in the morning. Classes are at around 10 – 11 AM followed by lunch at the monastery and a trip to downtown Kathmandu until evening right in time for dinner before going to bed at more or less 9 or 10 PM. It was a nice, comfortable routine.

The weekends were a little more eventful for I had booked a couple of fun activities to do outside the city with other volunteers, such as trips to nearby villages.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was being unable to live up to the expectations set by the program, as well as not connecting to the children. As mentioned above, this was my very first experience with teaching, ever.

I was extremely nervous as to whether the kids would even like me or listen to me. In the end, it turned out that they are far more open to new company than expected, and immediately grew on me. They may have been a little rowdy sometimes, but all in all, we got along very nicely and I was able to have very enjoyable class periods with the girls.

Was the culture shock as big as expected, and how did you handle it?

I must say that yes, Nepali culture is a LOT different than French culture. To be honest, once the first week's excitement had worn off a little, the realization that I was going to have to fare three more weeks on my own gave me quite a scare for a day or two. It was simply such a huge project that I had undertaken that it overwhelmed me at first.

One month in a place so far away and so vastly different from your own is a lot to take in. It eased up very quickly, though, as I learned to accept and embrace this as a way to broaden my horizons while having fun. Time really flew by, in retrospect.