How the American Girl and the Nepali Guy First Met…

I know on the other blogs that I read, I really enjoy the personal stories—how the couple met, how did they get together, what happened next—so I figured it was about time to make some introductions.

New York is a massive state, not just a city!

New York is a massive state, not just a city!

I say in my “About” page, that P and I met at a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. I’m originally from central New York, several hours drive north of New York City (yes, such a place exists), so when I say upstate I don’t mean Poughkeepsie, I mean “practically Canada.” (sorry, I had to get that off my chest, upstate New Yorkers don’t like being confused with “downstate” and NYC- I actually come from a part of New York with cornfields, onion mudflats and cows! No skyscrapers, yellow taxi cabs or hot dog and pretzel stands…)

As the first of three daughters, my family was more restrictive with the geographical range of my college choices. I was ready to fly the coop and move half way across the US, but when reality hit, I eventually settled on a school in upstate New York because of its African Studies program (and multitude of study abroad options- if I couldn’t go to school far away, I’d find another way to do it). I can’t really articulate why I was interested in Africa straight out of high school. Everyone probably thought I was just weird, but I thought it sounded so exotic and different, so far from everything comfortable and “normal,” everything that I had known all my life. I grew up in a very monocultural town in a very Caucasian school system. Cultural diversity was expressed through wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day or red on St. Joseph’s Day depending on if your ancestors where Irish or Italian. It wasn’t a bad place to grow up, but I was ready for something different.

Nepal

Nepal

Meanwhile P grew up in Kathmandu in a house with his mother, father, younger brother (U) and paternal grandparents (particularly his grandfather, Kakabua). He was granted admission for his “plus 2” at one of the prestigious boarding schools in the valley with a reputation for sending graduates overseas for their university education. After finishing secondary school it took him about a year to finally gain admission (with an affordable price tag) at a small, very rural state school in the northeast. Luckily his old roommate had been granted admission at the same school a semester before and was already there to help with P’s transition from life in Nepal to life in the States.

Can you imagine this being your first experience in the US?

Can you imagine this being your first experience in the US?

P’s first experience in the US was during a layover in Minneapolis, Minnesota when a cousin picked him up at the airport for a few hours to visit (this was pre-9/11, air travel was easier back then) and took him to the Mall of America. Already a bit overwhelmed, P was going to buy an alarm clock, but then converted the price into Nepali rupees, and quickly put the clock down. His cousin said that he had to stop converting or he would never survive in America.

P was at the state school for about a year and a half. He lived with his old roommate, S, and the two of them were probably the only Nepali people within a 200 mile radius, especially after another high school friend of theirs (AC) transferred one semester into his program from their school in Maine to my school in New York.

P’s original plan was to study biology, his parents were encouraging him to become a doctor, but he found he was more interested in environmental studies. Since the school was located on the ocean, the biology and environmental program was specifically geared towards marine environments. Nepal, as a landlocked country, would not benefit much from P if his knowledge was about the oceans, so he decided to start over at a new school. He gained acceptance at the school where his other high school friend transferred… my school in New York.

I had already been a student at the school for a year, but had jumped at my first opportunity to leave the country on an experimental freshman abroad program in the spring of my first year. It was an introduction to the “francophone world” and included study in Quebec, France and–this was the selling point for me–Senegal in West Africa.

International House, affectionately referred to as "I-House" was in this building...

International House, affectionately referred to as "I-House" was in this building...

When school started again at the end of August, I was excited to start living in the International House, a place I qualified to live in because of my recent international experience and my international major. However, I still felt like a new student since I didn’t know many people at the school besides the small group with whom I traveled to France. Luckily an older friend from my high school had introduced me to some international students my first semester, so there were a few familiar faces in the International House.

That August I was able to sneak in to the dorms early since I was assigned a Ukrainian exchange student roommate and she had already arrived. It wasn’t long after I finished moving my boxes in that I bumped into AC, the Nepali guy I knew from the previous year, with the “new Nepali” (as we called P for a while) transfer student. We exchanged quick hellos and took off down the hallway in opposite directions. That was the first time I remember seeing P, but he thinks the first time we met was this:

Now, I have the misfortune of having a birthday at the very end of August. When I was a kid I didn’t like it because it meant the end of summer, and when I was older I found myself constantly in a new place, with people who didn’t know me on my birthday, so it felt like I could never do anything “special.” That year was no different. Few people knew me, no one knew it was my birthday, and I was a bit bummed out. So I walked to the one grocery store in town, bought some cake mix, and baked my own birthday cake in the I-House kitchen. I figured that a good way to meet people was to give away food, so I propped open the door to my dorm room, put the freshly baked cake on a chair and invited who ever walked by to come in for some birthday cake and conversation. That’s when P walked by… and got himself some cake.

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4 responses to “How the American Girl and the Nepali Guy First Met…

  1. Nice blog. I am an international student from nepal and reading your blog about my country’s culture and food is nice. I have never seen an american so intrested in nepal.
    Keep going

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement Nitesh! I’ll try to keep it interesting ;)

  3. Huh. So does your school house all the international students together in the same building? That seems like it would really discourage intercultural connections between the American majority and the internationals.

  4. It was an active debate at the school while we were there. Certainly there are positives and negatives to the way it was set up, but for those of us who lived in the I-House, we wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else. It was probably as much of an important part of our college experience as our classes were.

    First of all, the only people who were “placed” in the International House were the handful of exchange students who came to the school each year. International transfer students (like P) were given a choice between a regular dormitory or the I-House. For everyone else it was an application process.

    I think about 80 people could live there (it was basically a “theme floor” of a large dorm) and each year about 1/2 were American, usually those with international interests or experiences. The other 1/2 were international students, but they had to apply as well and show an interest in programming, being international alone wasn’t necessarily a “given” that you could live there.

    Since the “House” was essentially a theme floor to remain “active” and able to continue living there from semester to semester you had to participate in or organize a certain number of international cultural activities for the campus. The South Asians were responsible for the big Diwali celebration, many of the African students (and Africa lovers like myself) organized the African dinner… Francophone night, Eastern European night, etc.

    There was also was a big “issue” with the “Multicultural Floor” that occupied the floor above us. The students on that floor had to take a class together, but didn’t have to do any programming. The academic and administrative departments who coordinated the Multicultural Floor didn’t think the International House “did enough to constitute a theme” since we didn’t take a class. Whereas the International House (and the International Programs office which coordinated our residence) felt that we did a lot more for the campus, class or no class, since our main goal was bringing international and cultural programming to the campus community in general and we were a lot more visible and active.

    But anyway, some international students lived there, some didn’t, but it was a great place for internationally minded people (American or not) to have a great time together!

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