At IE University, the learning experience extends far beyond traditional academic settings into immersive, real-world challenges that foster significant personal and professional growth.

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Each year, second-year International Relations students have the incredible opportunity to embark on a journey to Nepal, where majestic landscapes provide the backdrop for profound lessons in teamwork, personal growth and global awareness. The Transformational Leadership Journey involves a series of challenges designed to push students out of their comfort zones and expand their worldviews.

We recently sat down with two second-year students, Clara Navarro and Emanuel Mayagoitya, to hear about the experiences they gained and the lessons they learned during the trip. Clara is studying a Dual Degree in Business Administration & International Relations and Emanuel is pursuing the Bachelor in International Relations. Their insights illuminate the challenges, rewards and lasting impact of this remarkable expedition.

Preparing for the journey of a lifetime

The expedition to Nepal is designed to deepen students’ global awareness and help them apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical setting. Although Clara admitted, “If someone had told me a few years ago that I would go to Everest Base Camp, I wouldn’t have believed them,” both Emanuel and Clara jumped at the unique opportunity to experience a very different culture.

The preparation for the trip was rigorous, involving both physical training and academic research into Nepal’s environmental and geopolitical landscape. Students were divided into teams to research different themes, which Clara described as a crucial part of their pre-trip engagement: “We each focused on one topic, whether it was the environmental impact on the Himalayas, the geopolitical situation in Nepal or the social impact we would make.”

Stepping out of their comfort zones

The journey to Nepal itself is a testament to pushing boundaries. Both Clara and Emanuel emphasized the physical and mental demands of trekking to high altitudes in the Himalayas. However, both agreed that the support of their peers and the guidance of experienced mentors like Edurne Pasaban, the first woman to climb the world’s 14 highest mountains, were crucial to their success.

“Mentally, it was really hard to tell yourself to keep on going, to get to the goal,” Clara commented, emphasizing how the lack of oxygen and the unfamiliar environment posed a unique challenge. But through these obstacles, the students discovered camaraderie and determination they never knew they had. “In the end, we overcame the challenges as a group and it was all worth it,” said Emanuel.

Uncovering the local culture and making global connections

Beyond their physical achievements, the students were deeply affected by their interactions with local communities. Visiting a school for underprivileged children and a Himalayan monastery offered glimpses into the richness of Nepalese culture, while also broadening their understanding of global inequalities and the complexities of international relations. 

“It was eye-opening to see how isolated some communities are and how their culture remains relatively untouched by external influences,” Emanuel explained. At the same time, they were aware of the challenges the local people faced every day. “There’s a lack of infrastructure for bringing food, construction materials and everyday items. They carry everything in themselves—this really shocked me to see,” commented Clara. This firsthand experience helped the students understand the importance of empathy in international affairs.

A lasting impact

Clara and Emanuel agreed that the Nepal journey solidified their passion for their chosen field of study. The trip offered “a way of applying what you learn in the classroom to the real world,” noted Emanuel. “This is what is most important about International Relations—getting this broad perspective to be able to understand systems and make them change.” 

The experience also helped students appreciate the importance of teamwork, leadership and resilience in their fields. Clara encourages future students to embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: “It’s definitely a trip that will change your perspective on many things.”

The IE Transformational Journey extends beyond self-discovery. Through community engagement, the students learned the value of contributing to meaningful causes. Their visit to the Kailash Home, an organization that supports the education of underprivileged local children, was particularly impactful and moving for Clara and Emanuel.

The Transformational Leadership Journey embodies IE University’s commitment to providing students with experiences that shape them as future leaders and global citizens. If you’re an International Relations student interested in challenges, adventure and meaningful growth, the journey to Nepal promises an experience of a lifetime.