Tag Archives: University

Weird Dreams and Pipe Dreams

I had a weird dream last night.

I dreamed that I was at a conference in a big room full of people that I didn’t recognize, but somehow  knew that many of the people in this big hall worked at the same institution as me, and they were all talking about Nepal… how professors at the school were writing a huge book about Nepal, teaching classes about Nepal, and talking about creating a new abroad program to Nepal, stuff like that. It was like Nepal was the hottest latest thing at the university, and I had no idea. I was running around the conference tables asking, “Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’d really love to help!” but no one wanted to listen to me. I was really frustrated and depressed. Then I woke up and it was 4:58 in the morning. Sigh.

Hmmm… what does it mean? I’m not big on dream analysis, although sometimes I think that my dreams are a way for my brain to sort through different thoughts and experiences that I’ve been having/going through–mixing them in a strange way and letting them play out on a stage in my mind.

So what can be relatable? Two weeks ago I wrote a paper (for some coursework I’ve been finishing up for a degree in international education) on creating international programs. When I first graduated from undergrad I worked for a “third party provider” high school study abroad program, and had I been better prepared to take on the challenges of it, I might have been able to create all sorts of programming. For a series of reasons (including being a one woman office with no director, and spending most of my time as a telemarketer instead of a program provider) the job didn’t work out, but it got me interested in something else… I thought it would be fun to create and run a program in Nepal some day… a “pipe dream” so to speak. Ideally it would be great to do it in conjunction with P… I could do logistics, recruiting, program design, orientations, culture stuff and P could teach the program from a sustainability and environmental background. I think we would make an incredible team.

I don’t know if it will ever really happen, but it makes my life kind of schizophrenic, because I’m always thinking about two potential paths– my five year plan always seems to have two directions. This leads me to have silly arguments with myself like: will we ever own a house, because if we did it would make it harder to up and leave the country; or I wonder how I’ll pay my education loans back if we have small Nepali incomes; or will it ever be too late to decide to do something really “out of our comfort zones” and really entrepreneurial like creating a company and running programs?  Not to mention, I like the job I have now (international student advising)… and I’m sure I’ll still really like it when P finishes his degree and we have to make a decision– stay here, move somewhere else in the US, go to Nepal. So I don’t know.

Also, last week I encouraged the Nepali students at the university to sponsor a “Nepali dinner night” (as part of the international student council activities) where they made nearly 600 (delicious!!) momos for the campus. It was a lot of fun, and when some students showed up early to eat and the momos weren’t quite ready, I happily put them to work teaching them my veg momo folding technique (I should make a video on youtube about this! Note to self).

This one history professor (in particular) who works at the school came to the “Nepali dinner night” who (I think) was in the Peace Corps in Nepal (or maybe he was a Fulbright?) and can speak the language fluently. He and I have run into each other a few times at different Nepali get togethers, although I have a feeling he always forgets who I am… I mean, I’m usually the only other American he finds at Nepali festival parties, how hard am I to remember? Anyway, we saw each other at the event and he mentioned that he wanted to push the study abroad office at our school to create a program in Nepal (BINGO!!!) although he had the feeling that the administrators there were still too leery about the political climate, and probably aren’t ready yet. The study abroad people have already sent this professor to lead a program in Costa Rica and Australia, and with his Nepali-influenced background, he would be a prime candidate in helping to organize something like this if he could allay the fears of political turmoil.

I think this might be where my dream came from. I told him not to forget me if he moves ahead with the plan, because I’d be VERY VERY (did I mention VERY?) interested in helping, and that I knew of several college programs (like SIT’s) which were planning to start their programs back up again (a sign of the political situation getting better). He kind of smiled non-committally.

However my boss helps with the Denmark study abroad program—teaching a Danish Culture class before students depart, and travels to Copenhagen every year to grade their final projects. Sure, my boss is Danish, and speaks the language fluently, but I think if given the opportunity I could design a great Nepali culture pre-departure course! I’d love to travel to Kathmandu once a year to grade projects. Not to mention this would bring me one step closer to my “pipe dream.”

So anyway… I think my subconscious is worried that opportunities are abound that might pass me by. Powers of the universe, I plead, don’t let that happen! Remember my secret talent… “I can talk about Nepali culture for three hours without stopping… probably without even taking a breath…”

Nepali Students in the US

I was reading the Chronicle of Higher Education today at work, and last week’s paper had a lot of information on international student trends based on the newly released Open Doors reports. I was particularly interested to see reports of the number of Nepali students studying in the US.

I know I am kind of biased, since I am now seemingly “tapped into” the Nepali community (at least while around P)… so I feel like I run into Nepalis all the time (case in point—I went to get my eyebrows threaded with R over the weekend in Connecticut and she was “Nepali ho?”-ed), whereas growing up I never would have imagined bumping into someone from this small Himalayan country. Anyway, regardless of the connection, recently I have felt that I see more and more Nepalis around. I guess Open Doors confirms the phenomenon (at least from the student angle, I won’t even get into the DV Lottery).

According to the Chronicle, Nepal was number 11 out of a list of the top 20 countries of origin for foreign students in the US during the 2008-2009 academic year, with a reported 11,581 students studying here. I guess 11,581 students doesn’t sound like a whole lot, particularly compared to the number one and number two countries India (103,260) and China (98,235) but I was surprised that Nepal even made the list considering it is such a small country (only 29 million compared to India’s and China’s billion plus populations). The article continues that in 2008 there was a 29.6 percent “surge” over the number of Nepalis studying in the US in 2007.

I have mixed feelings about the large number of Nepali students coming to the US. Of course I feel that it is important for everyone to have access to quality education, however with the exodus of so many young Nepalis to other countries I wonder what will happen to this nation which is still struggling to keep itself out of further civil war.

I’ve had this conversation a few times with P’s dad, who is firmly of the opinion that everyone and anyone possible should study in the US, and most likely stay here afterward to work and have a “better life.” My argument to him is that if the “brain drain” keeps all the best people away who will help to rebuild the Nepal of tomorrow? Friends of mine often talk about how when they visit Kathmandu most of their high school buddies are gone, not many seem to be around anymore… most of the young and educated have seemingly left to study and start a life abroad.

I know I have no right or place to judge people who leave as students and stay abroad, Nepal certainly has its many many problems– but I have a lot of respect for people who go back, I can’t help but feel it is impressive and courageous. Heck, perhaps one day, a few years down the road, I’ll be one of those who goes as well!

I have no illusions to the fact that the decision to stay or return home is a tough one, and the whole later section of this post could be a post in and of itself, so I won’t really get into it further than this—I am sure it could be a heated discussion anyway.

For those who are curious, the full list of 20 countries are as follows:

Top Countries of Origin of Foreign Students in the United States, 2008-9

1)      India 103,260                                     11) Nepal 11,581
2)      China 98,235                                       12) Germany 9,679
3)      South Korea 75,065                         13) Brazil 8,767
4)      Canada 29,697                                   14) Thailand 8,736
5)      Japan 29,264                                      15) Britain 8,701
6)      Taiwan 28,065                                    16) Hong Kong 8,329
7)      Mexico 14,850                                   17) Indonesia 7,509
8)      Turkey 12,263                                    18) France 7,421
9)      Vietnam 12,823                                 19) Colombia 7,013
10)   Saudi Arabia 12,661                         20) Nigeria 6,256

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

Happy International Education Week

I spent two hours yesterday evening hanging about 50 flags around our campus (mostly in the Campus Center but also in other locations). I dragged RH to the university to help me out, he is pretty tall, and he helped last year so he knew the drill. This is the second year that I have coordinated the university’s acknowledgement (celebration?) of “International Education Week.”

IEW09_color_info2No, I didn’t make this up, it’s an actual sanctioned week; it is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. But could they have picked a worse time to celebrate international education? The week before Thanksgiving? Students are already itching to go home, many have mid terms (at least at our school which runs on a 4 term system), and the last thing on their mind is to attend any additional events as part of a week of international programming… alas, I still go through the motions… because I do think it is important to acknowledge the roll that international education plays in our world today.

International Education Week was initiated in 2000, and has been held annually each November. Now in its tenth year, it is celebrated in more than 100 countries worldwide. It is a week which allows communities, such as colleges and universities, to celebrate and highlight international and intercultural diversity, and to appreciate the importance of a multicultural environment, particularly for a learning community.

In an official statement Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized November 16th-20th as International Education Week:

“In a world that gets smaller every day, a quality education must incorporate an international dimension—not as an add-on, but as an approach that is integrated across all subject, from math and science to social studies” the Secretary explained, “Our graduates should be global citizens prepared to work on solving challenges that transcend borders, and they should be able to work well with people from diverse backgrounds, whether it is an individual who is a recent immigrant to the United States living in the community, or a business client or colleague located halfway around the world.”

Amen.

For more information on International Education Week visit http://iew.state.gov/

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.