Almost a mile above sea level, the city of Dhulikhel, Nepal, features what some consider the most spectacular views of the Himalayas in the region.

While tourists target the town for its scenery, Amy Treonis, associate professor of biology, arrived in Dhulikhel for an entirely different purpose in fall 2012: to teach microbiology as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Kathmandu University’s science campus.

A soil ecologist, Treonis has tremendous enthusiasm for science, teaching, and travel. When planning her sabbatical, she decided it was time for a significant jolt, so she applied for a Fulbright teaching position in a culture far different from what she knew.

“I think that’s the purpose of a sabbatical, to reignite your passion for your scholarship and your teaching through some kind of novel experience,” Treonis said. “For me, that was really important as I looked to the next stage of my career.”

Kathmandu University’s Fulbright position combined all three of her interests in a setting far different from Richmond.

Unknowingly, her preparation for Nepal began years before her sabbatical. Treonis first encountered life in a developing country when she participated in the 2009 University of Richmond Faculty Seminar Abroad to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

“I wouldn’t even have applied for Nepal without the Faculty Seminar experience behind me,” Treonis said. “We visited universities and met our colleagues who do our jobs in a different country. It helped me know what to expect in academia in the developing world.”

Familiar with roughing it—she completed her doctoral work in Antarctica—Treonis did not shrink from living conditions in a developing country without the conveniences common in the United States. Eschewing time-saving maids and chauffeurs, which were easily affordable as a westerner, Treonis immersed herself in the local culture and living customs. She shopped the open-air markets, laundered her clothes in a bucket beside her neighbors on the apartment building roof, and rode a crammed, dusty bus three hours a day to work.

“I didn’t want to live like an American living in Nepal. I wanted to live as a Nepalese person,” Treonis said.

She adapted her teaching style to accommodate Nepalese culture in the classroom as well. An interactive educator, Treonis uses a participatory teaching method typical to Richmond.

At Kathmandu University, her questions to the class resulted in blank stares and paralysis. Educated for years through lecture and rote memorization, most of her students were shocked to be asked to express their own ideas.

“I had to hybridize my teaching style,” Treonis said. “I pulled it back and reassured them by saying, ‘Let’s do this together. What’s the first thing we know?’”

Now that she has another international experience behind her, Treonis’ time as a Fulbright Senior Scholar continues to inform her work as an advisor and academic. When she meets with students preparing to study abroad, she taps into her personal knowledge of living in a remote location, adjusting to a new school system, and undergoing cultural upheaval.

She has also found opportunities to weave her observations into programming and curriculum available to the greater campus community. In spring 2014, she presented “Reflections on Food, Agriculture, and the Environment from a Semester in Nepal,” as part of the University’s Global Environment Speaker Series.

And, she expects to put her observations of Nepal into class examples for the new Sophomore Scholars in Residence course she will co-teach in fall 2014, Eating Locally, Thinking Globally: Understanding Agriculture and Food Systems.

Photos, left to right: Amy Treonis with colleagues at Katmandu University, collecting soil samples in Nepal, and visiting Boudhanath stupa, a World Heritage Site in Kathmandu.