Teacher Talks: Faraz-Kiyani Mirza


On the six trips that Faraz-Kiyani Mirza has taken to Nepal, he has gone paragliding with a monk, paddled through a crocodile-infested river, and been charged at by a wild elephant.

“Every time [I have a] holiday, I’m like, ‘I gotta go back to Nepal–it’s been a while,’” Mirza said.

Even though Mirza grew up in the UK, he feels a special connection with Nepal.

“That’s a country for me that I love, adore, [and] feel that I am a part of,” Mirza said. “I can’t put my finger on it, because I’m not religious or really super spiritual, but there’s just something there.”

After attending the University of Leeds, Mirza was unhappy with the corporate work he originally undertook. He decided to pursue a different career after a nine-month backpacking trip around Europe and Morocco. During his trip, he worked at an orphanage in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

“The happiness I felt in doing that job made me feel like, ‘this is something that I could potentially do in the future,’” Mirza said.

His experience at the orphanage inspired Mirza to become a teacher, a profession that gave him an opportunity to help people while providing a stable income. With travelling in mind, Mirza took teaching jobs in Abu Dhabi and Barcelona, before moving to Hanoi.

The love for travelling that Mirza developed on his backpacking trip also led him to discover Nepal. He first visited Nepal in 2008 with a group of other teachers when he was living in Abu Dhabi.

“That’s when I got hooked,” Mirza said.

Three of Mirza’s six trips to Nepal have been with the Habitat for Humanity service group from the school at which he taught in Barcelona. The trips allowed Mirza to see his students, most of whom came from privileged backgrounds, immerse themselves in a culture very different from their own.

“Taking them into the mountains and living with no electricity and your basic requirements, [and] seeing how their appreciation for things changed…was one of the happiest [moments],” Mirza said.

Although Mirza doesn’t speak Nepali, he is fluent in Hindi, which is understood by many people in Nepal. His ability to communicate has allowed him to connect with people who live there.

“To me, going to a foreign country with somebody who knows the place like a local–you can’t beat that,” Mirza said.

One of Mirza’s friends who owns a hostel in Nepal had a best friend who was ripped in half by a wild elephant. The locals nicknamed the elephant “Ronaldo” for his savage nature. When Mirza and his group encountered Ronaldo during their Habitat for Humanity trip, the others wanted to move closer to the elephant.

“And me, being a coward, I was like, ‘uh-uh. I’m gonna stay right here,’” Mirza said. “And then there was one moment where the elephant charged at us.”

Mirza is looking forward to more adventures in Nepal and around the world, while continuing to work at UNIS. He appreciates teaching at a school that emphasizes the United Nations values, and finds enjoyment in making his lessons exciting, interacting with his classes, and watching his students learn.

If Mirza wasn’t a teacher, he might open a coffee shop in the Himalayas. However, this “grandioso dream,” as he called it, will have to wait.

For right now, he says, “I’m happy with my decisions, and I’m happy with where I’m going.”

Reporting contributed by Karan Jain