Star professional climber and associate professor, Edurne Pasaban, takes you through the Transformational Leadership Journey in Nepal, and the valuable lessons learned.

When I first scaled the peaks of Annapurna in 2010, I was nearing the end of a successful run in a long climbing career. As difficult as the journey was, it taught me many important lessons that I treasure even today. And after completing my last climb, I became the first woman—now, one of three—who has summited every 8,000-meter-plus mountain in the world. 

Annapurna, and Nepal in general, is the site of IE University’s Transformational Leadership Journey. Over the course of three weeks, students from the Bachelor in International Relations travel through Nepal on an odyssey of self-improvement and discovery. This year, 26 second-year students took the trip and came back with their own lessons from the mountain.

When I was invited to accompany the students to Annapurna Base Camp, I was thrilled! I knew that the first thing they would learn is that the mountain not only tests their limits, but also shows them what they are truly capable of. It’s powerful and transformative, shaping the student’s mindsets in preparation for an impactful global career in international relations.

Against the stunning natural landscape of Nepal, inspirational leaders guided these 26 students through a series of physical, mental and professional challenges specially designed to challenge the status quo and spark new perspectives. Apart from that, these activities served to build their teamwork skills while also promoting individual growth. 

I was also excited to be part of such a unique initiative that allows students to test what they’ve learned in the real world. As an entrepreneur, author, consultant and executive coach, I know how important it is to stay on the cutting edge of your field. So, an approach that complements classroom knowledge with hands-on experience is the only way to strengthen your skill set. 

In life, certain goals will require a lot of sacrifices to achieve. And though it might seem difficult at first glance, you just have to keep going up.

Edurne Pasaban

My diverse career has also taught me the importance of building international connections. That’s why the trip to Nepal is particularly important—it provides these students with exposure to Nepali culture, sharpens their critical thinking and deepens their understanding of foreign affairs and public policies. This insight will prove invaluable for any successful career without borders. 

I’m glad my professional journey led me to my teaching career because I get to share in the process of learning and witness it in action. As we were heading to Annapurna Base Camp, we saw the mountain slowly become taller against the horizon. At first, the students thought that they could handle anything but suddenly, the mountain’s height presented them with an impossible limit. 

You could see the point where they started to accept that they were not capable of doing everything—of achieving everything. Despite this, they still had to complete the trek. This is one of the most important lessons from Annapurna: in life, certain goals will require a lot of sacrifices to achieve. And though it might seem difficult at first glance, you just have to keep going up.

To me, this is what the Transformational Leadership Journey is about: presenting students with an exciting opportunity to push themselves past their comfort zone while discovering their unique passions. In the end, they return to IE University with a deeper understanding of themselves, their peers and the world at large.