Alumni Spotlight: Alison Cohan

Alison Cohan is from Boston MA. She was in Nepal from May 18 to June 9 in 2014. Currently, Alison is a student at James Madison University and plans on graduating in the spring of 2016. She is majoring in Social Work and minoring in Family Studies. She hopes to one day be an art therapist.

Why did you decide to enroll with United Planet in Nepal?

Beautiful Nepal

Alison: I decided to enroll in United Planet because I could tell that cultural immersion was a major factor in the program.

I am interested in working in issues related to sexual assault as well, so the project that I chose was something that I was already very interested in.

After looking into the program on the very detailed United Planet website, I could tell that Nepal and the organization as a whole would make for an incredible experience.

Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?

Alison: I do think that I made a significant impact. On one of my first days, my in-country coordinator explained to me that although I may not be able to see or feel it, just being in Nepal would show people so much.

Almost everyone I met was shocked to see a Caucasian 20 year old girl traveling alone. I think it really helped people to think about all that they could do in the future.

What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?

Some of the temples in Nepal

Alison: This is a difficult question because everything about Nepal is so different and that is why I loved it so much. The culture in Nepal so rich and everyone embraces it so much.

I am not a religious or spiritual person but I think the spirituality of the country was the most interesting thing that I embraced.

People really believe and live their lives for Hinduism, Buddhism, or whatever religion they may be.

There are temples all over the country and I never got tired of seeing the beauty of that.

Tell me about one person you met.

Alison: My in-country coordinator is the reason why I stayed in Nepal. I thought that since I loved learning about cultures, I would not experience culture shock, but I was very wrong.

Experiencing culture shock was very overwhelming and knowing that I could always talk to my in-country coordinator was really great! She helped me out a lot and is such a wonderful woman!

What was the best moment of the entire trip?

Alison: Working with girls who are survivors of sexual assault is challenging because the girls have experienced such a huge trauma. There are some girls who are very timid and others who are very outgoing. One of the best moments of the trip was when one of the shyest girls went to hold my hand.

I had never talked to her before and did not even know that she spoke English, but from that moment on I could tell that she had so much love in her heart. It was really wonderful seeing her grow and learn to trust me.