Where are you from?
I am from Kathmandu, Nepal.
What was your childhood like?
Overall, my childhood has been fun. Generally, my parents didn’t really discriminate in providing good education and other necessities between daughters and son (I have two sisters and a brother). But being born in a patriarchal society, there are certain societal and cultural norms that you have to follow, which made me feel like I am not as equal as men.
What brought you to Cleveland?
My first entry to USA was for undergraduate education at Wichita, Kansas, then I transferred to Davenport, IA. After my Bachelor degree in nursing, I worked for a year and half as a nurse. During that time, I met my husband, Tirth Bhatta. We got married in 2011 and I moved to Cleveland with him (he was already a graduate student at Case Western then). In 2012, I also got accepted to Case for PhD in nursing.
What were your first thoughts about coming to the United States? Did those change?
Like other people who come to the US, I also felt like it was a land of opportunity for me. I came here for higher education and to grow and explore in ways I probably wouldn’t have been able to if I was in Nepal. I was in certain level exposed to American life through movies and TV shows. Also, I thought when I land in the US, I will see tall buildings everywhere. I was surprised when I landed in Wichita and only saw flat lands, small buildings, and no crowds. I also realized that what they show in TV and movies is not total representation of what US is about (which is also the case for other countries, we tend to make generalization based on movies if we have never been to that country before). The US may be the land of opportunity, but as an international student, I felt like I wasn’t able to explore my potential as much because of the immigration restriction on F1 visa. However, I am thankful for the kind people I have met throughout my academic career and opportunity to grow as a leader.
What challenges did you face transitioning here?
Since I came right after my high school, I didn’t feel challenge in transitioning as there were enough help. However, as I mentioned above, restrictions for international students has been particularly challenging to explore my full potential. However, I have been fortunate to have support and opportunity to grow in ways I thought was not possible. Being an introvert, I thought leadership was not my forte, but I have been proven wrong. Sometimes we just have to try.
What is your occupation? Are you a member of a sorority, fraternity, or any other civic or social organization?
Currently, I am a PhD candidate in nursing. I am close to finishing my degree. I am a board member of Sigma Theta Tau International (an international honor society for nursing) local chapter (Alpha Mu) and Regional Chapter (Region 10). I was also one of the founding members of Nepali Akash, which is a non-profit organization established to provide support to underprivileged groups in Nepal. I have also been involved in Graduate Student organizations on campus at Case. I reactivated PhD Students Nurses Association at Case and served as its chair for two years.
How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?
I have had very positive experience in Cleveland. People are really nice. Organizations/Departments such as International student services, International student fellowship, and other multicultural organizations are huge support for international students on campus.
What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?
We have Nepali American Organization of Ohio (NAOO), for which I served in board for two years as well. We continue to take part in their events. I also love to dance, so I have performed at NAOO’s events and other multicultural events to promote Nepali culture. We are also attached to our customs through food. We mostly cook Nepali food at home.
What do you love about Cleveland?
I think the hidden treasure about Cleveland is its diversity. There are also so many things to explore in Cleveland (e.g. Metroparks, Lake Erie) and being in driving distance to other big cities is a plus.
Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?
Simple, because they are human beings. All human being should have rights to explore this Earth. Also, loving your fellow human being makes you a better and happy person. Research has shown that altruistic behaviors are good for health.
Why is it important to travel abroad?
Because it takes you away from our bubble, reduces the biases we have formed as we grow up. Whether we want it or not, what we are taught as we grow is not in our control as it is pretty much what our parents, society and schools have taught us. One of the way we can teach ourselves is by travelling different places, exploring the differences, getting to know our own biases, and understanding the similarities in differences. We can only change when we accept.