NUS MSc 17 January 2020

The trip of our lives

The group of six, who embarked on the hike to Mount Everest Base Camp only two months into their NUS MSc in Finance programme, are now friends for life. (From left) Mcrid Wang, Enrico Viora, Alhasan Alkaff, Napath Lertpinyopast, Soyena Dhakal, and Xavier Janssen.

The six of them had only just met, but decided to embark on the adventure of their lives together.

Alhasan Alkaff (Yemen), Soyena Dhakal (Nepal), Xavier Janssen (Netherlands), Napath Lertpinyopast (Thailand), Enrico Viora (Italy) and Mcrid Wang (China) met during the induction week of the Master of Science in Finance programme. Two months later, in late November 2019, they embarked on a climb to Mount Everest Base Camp.

It was a hike with a good social cause too. The group had started a fundraising campaign where full proceeds will go to the Samaritans of Singapore. “I have worked alongside some companies and people who are committed to addressing mental health issues previously, and my interaction with them opened my eyes to a problem I never knew was so prevalent. As a NUS Business School student, I was particularly drawn to the fact that corporations and employers in general are an excellent starting place to propel mental well-being in our communities. It was even more encouraging to find like-minded peers in my NUS class. Given that Singapore is what binds us together as a group, it made sense for us to choose a local charity,” Alhasan added.

Hiking the world’s highest mountain range, the group reached Mount Everest Base Camp on 2 Dec 2019. Though Alhasan had to turn back earlier due to illness, he turned his energy towards fundraising. Having reached their initial fundraising goal of $5,000, they set an even higher goal of $15,000.

Reaching Mount Everest Base Camp on 2 Dec 2019. (From left) Enrico Viora, Napath Lertpinyopast, Soyena Dhakal, Mcrid Wang and Xavier Janssen.

Distinguished Professor Andrew Rose, Dean, NUS Business School, said, “At NUS Business School, we aim to develop caring leaders that will contribute to business and society. Our MSc in Finance students are walking the talk by taking up this tremendous challenge to raise awareness for a good cause. I could not be more proud of them.”

Donors can support their campaign at Giving.sg: https://www.giving.sg/campaigns/hope.

Outside-In speaks to the students on their most memorable moments from the journey.

Alhasan: My most memorable moment would have to be when we landed in Lukla town (2860m altitude) and started the hike. We all had our gear prepared and had been waiting weeks for this moment. The fresh air, the smell of cows, and the sound of a small DHC-6 aircraft landing. After a thrilling flight, and a pot of black tea, we set off towards our first stop Phakding. Two hours into the hike and we’d already delved into all sorts of deep, exciting, funny and controversial conversations. I remembered thinking, “Boy, this is going to be one hell of an unforgettable trip if we maintain this unique balance of depth and humour in our conversations.” And it was indeed an unforgettable trip…

Soyena: A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step indeed. This was the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done, and easily something I would do again.  This adventure with a cause has been humbling, and made me realise that our lives are a product of our choices, and our choices are what determines the direction of our lives.

Xavier: When I think back to the hike in the Himalayas, mostly the effect of altitude comes to mind. When we commenced our trip in Lukla town, we were so excited and full of energy; we had been waiting weeks for this. The first days were characterised by intense conversations and laughter. As we reached higher altitudes, that group dynamic obviously changed a bit. We were not being able to maintain that immense level of energy in our conversations, caused by the lack of oxygen and by us focusing on the physical challenge. In the first couple of days, we definitely underestimated what was to come!

Napath: The higher we go, the more we experienced health difficulties such as headaches, sleeping difficulty and loss of appetite. I’m so grateful for the kindness and care we extended to one another as the altitude took its toll. This was when I realised that I’ve got five amazing friends who I can count on through thick and thin.

Enrico: The excitement for the trek is definitely maintained by the different panoramic views of Mount Everest that one gets day after day. One of the most memorable moments was when we were approaching the base camp. Standing at 5200 metres altitude, we were surrounded by huge 7000-metre peaks and right behind those peaks, we could clearly see “His Majesty” Mount Everest. It was so close yet so far. I then looked back to check whether I could see the road we had walked the previous days but I could only see a huge and infinite valley. This made me think about all that we had seen, all the people we met, the fundraising and the reason why we were there, the -20°C at night and all that I had learned from the incredible conversations I had with the group. I could only think, “There isn’t any better group that I could share this experience with. What an unforgettable trip…next step –  the summit!”

Mcrid: The most beautiful episode in my memory came a few hours after we had reached Everest Base Camp on Day 8. After bidding goodbye to Mount Everest on Kala Patthar mountain, as the day drew to an end, I chased the sunset down the hill. I was running towards the fainting golden orange glow in the sky as the view of Gorek Shep – our destination for that evening – grew prominent in sight. There was no other mountaineer that I could see besides Suman, our porter, running a few metres ahead. Suddenly, as we reached the last part of our descent, a spurt of energy rushed into me, and Suman and I decided to sprint our way to the tea house – at above 5000 metres altitude after nearly nine hours of trekking. Needless to say, he won the race, but I was smiling nonetheless. That moment I felt deeply joyful and truly liberated.

Chasing the sunset down the hill.