Cultural Immersion and Professional Growth: My YEP Story

Thomas Kuhn in 1962 defined Paradigm Shift as “the fundamental change in the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new or different way”. Nepali poet Gopal Prasad Rimal’s song about paradigm shifts, which I sang in childhood, translates to “A day comes once in a lifetime, brings upheaval, alteration, and manipulation”. Such “day” for me was April 28, 2024, when I had set foot onto the Dutch soil for the first time to participate in the Training of Young Expert Programme and what followed for the next four weeks was truly once in a lifetime experience.

The Netherlands

My first impression

Despite thorough research and talks with Dutch colleagues, experiencing the Netherlands firsthand was extraordinary. From Nepal, it was about 12 hours of flight to the Schipol Airport, Amsterdam with a transfer to Delhi, India. Coming from a country where the topography changes from the flat land of Terai plain to the cloud-kissing Himalayas at a mere 190 kilometers distance; the Netherlands was extremely flat as seen from the sky. I was curiously amazed when my colleague, Tim Elfering who came to pick me up at the airport said his parent’s house is situated at -1 meter below sea level. With the cutting-edge technology of flood prevention; the journey from Schipol Airport to Leiden Central by Intercity Train offered some truly lush green farms, charming old canals, Tulip farms, and something we Nepalese don’t see very often “the wind turbines”.

Wind Turbine
Naturalis Biodiversity Center

My first day included a visit to Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, seeing Trix the T. rex, strolling Delft’s canals, and visiting Prinsenhof Museum and the 13th-century leaning tower of Oude Kerk. The day ended with a delicious Vietnamese Banh Mi with Pratap Thapa our CEO of the company and Tim at the premises of Nieuwe Church.

Start Training YEP

Meeting professionals from 17 countries and exploring our cultural and professional similarities and differences was very insightful. The getting to know each other phase was structured well by the trainers and the MBTI exercises we did in the group reminded me of the power of collaboration and the importance of understanding each other’s unique strengths.

YEP training

“My comfort zone might be someone else’s discomfort zone” a quote shared by our Intercultural Work trainer Sherrif Aligbeh was something that hit every one of us 25 participants. there were laughs and there were a lot of tears when we dived into the sensitive topics, that in turn helped us to understand others better and respect the boundaries while working in a diverse intercultural setting.

We all were equally amazed by the deep connections made during every training exercise, breakout session, and excursion. Be it during breakfast, lunch, dinner, or the karaoke and dance session conducted by Sophie and Charlotte, twin sisters Yeppers from Hague made sure all the Nationals and Dutch Yeppers had fun no matter how extensive the training days were.

In the Project Management training, we also delved into strategic models like the Integrated Organization Model (IOM) and the Theory of Change (with a memorable Horse Parable), underscoring the importance of meticulous project monitoring and the concept of optimal ignorance.

An interesting insight from Managing Your Terms and Conditions training was to understand what goes inside your leaders’ minds and then use the power of strategic decision-making and negotiation tactics, such as the “power cross”, to stay ahead and ensure favorable outcomes.

Among all these trainings we made time for Scheveningen Beach, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Keukenhof, the Liberation Day Celebration at Wageningen and Den Haag, Rhythm Workshop with Farid Sheek, and also the farewell party organized by Daan at his place in Utrecht who is now leaving for Uganda.

Excursion to Green Village at TU Delft which used to be where aQysta and its hydro-powered pump were first envisioned and developed was a sight to see and much to learn. Seeing firsthand the innovative solutions being developed in living labs and the sustainable practices at an organic farm at Hoeve Landlust was truly eye-opening.

My takeaways 

Apart from the Netherlands, we visited Ghent and Brussels in Belgium and Paris in France. The amount of work done to preserve these historic monuments and respect the traditions in these cities is something every country needs to learn from. The integration of development and conservation of environment, having open spaces for humans, birds, and animals alike, the attention to detail in making every public place and transportation well adjusted to differently abled people and lastly the efforts made in sustainable development and minimizing climate change effects is something I aspire to apply in my professional life.

The traditional Dutch dinner prepared by Tim and his parents is something I will never forget, the short getaway with Pratap,his wife Shinta, and son Rohan to De Grote Plas and IKEA was very refreshing although Rohan falling from the cycle was scary but Pratap assured its “the dutch life” and also was very fun to have dinner with Lennart, Pratap, Tei and Tim at Food Hallen and Tei’s favorite De Pannenkoeken Club in Rijswijk.

Team Meetup


I’m grateful to Pratap and Lennart for giving me this opportunity and making it happen, special thanks to my mentor in this journey Tim Elfering for all the support and hospitality, and Dhanyabad to Alisha and Bipasha my colleague cum YEP alumni for the heads up, and support whenever I needed.

The final days were emotional, with uncertainty about whether the return training would happen. If not, it might be our last day together, so we exchanged notes and promised to stay in touch through postcards and a traveling photo book. In every karaoke session and dance, we always included Cher’s song “Believe”, so it was a fitting moment on the last day of our training we altogether sang the song including our lyrics and the chorus went like this:

 Do you believe in YEP after YEP?

I can feel something inside me say

We’re really coming back again next year, oh

Do you believe in YEP after YEP?

I can feel something inside me say

We’re gonna be the ones who lead the way, oh

YEP Group

– Sanjog Khanal, Implementation Engineer (Nepal)