Guest Post by Rakshya Pokharel:

Standing at the gate of Shikharapur School where I was supposed to meet with the scholars of Rukmini Foundation, I was nervous and excited.  Nervous because I wasn’t quite sure how I would relate with them, but also very excited to meet the girls in person after following their progress online for a few months while I was in the US.  The hectic lifestyle of Los Angeles, where I had been for the last year of my stay in the US was a world apart from where I was currently in many ways.  The only similarity I saw was when I got stuck in a traffic jam in Kathmandu on my way to Pharping to visit the school.  It had only been a few weeks since I came back to Nepal after a 4-year stay in the US, so I was trying to get adjusted myself.  Having known about the foundation because of my family’s involvement, I wanted to do whatever I could to help. When I was asked to make a visit to the girls to talk about my time in college in the US, I was very happy to agree.

As I waited outside the school, I started to get nervous because I was not sure where I would start or what I would talk about.  I really wanted to make an impression and wanted to inspire the girls to continue their studies … maybe some of them would even consider going to college in the United States.  I wanted to talk about how they have to study hard and focus on their schoolwork in order to be successful.  I thought I would know what to say to “inspire” them.

I was joined at this meeting of Didis (older sisters / mentors) by three of my cousins, two of whom had been to the school before and had already held a few mentoring sessions with the girls.  This made it more comfortable for the students, but I was probably happier to have them there.  After we gathered, it felt a little awkward because I did not know if they were going to ask me questions or if I was supposed to start.  I felt like they were staring at me waiting to say something amazing, but I was not sure what to say or where to start.  I was a bit intimidated by the situation and they might have been intimidated by me.

Thankfully one of my cousins opened things up by asking me a few questions about my experiences.  I talked about my school days in Nepal and how I went to the US to further my studies.  As I was talking about my time in the US, I had wanted to talk about the difficulties I faced there.  I wanted to talk about having to work 7 days a week, while carrying more than a full load of classes.  I wanted to talk about the challenge of learning a new culture while trying to do well in my classes.  However, realizing the many difficulties these girls have faced in their daily lives in pursuit of education, and the financial difficulties their families have faced, I stopped seeing my situation as difficulties.  I talked about how fortunate I was to have been born in a family where we did not have the same kind of financial difficulties and also how lucky I was to be in a family that promoted education for their daughters.  I talked about my own older sister who is pursuing a doctorate in the US and how she has always been a source of inspiration for me.  All those “difficulties” I had in the US, I talked about them as great learning experiences.  Going to a foreign country and learning a new language and culture was one of the best experiences.  I also talked about my interest in learning about the different cultures that were present in the US and  how I was able to learn Spanish.

Even though we got off to a slow start, once we began to interact, the girls seemed interested in hearing about my experiences of school in the US.

Thinking about my time in the US, I felt very proud about my time and experiences in school and at the various jobs I held.  I felt like the girls enjoyed listening to my stories even if they probably did not understand everything I said.  I had wanted this to be a very interactive session where they would ask me a lot of questions and I would give them inspirational answers.  That was not to be, as my stories probably seemed very far-fetched for these girls.  However, I do think that I was able to connect with them because at one point, we were all students in Nepal without an idea of what we could do in the future.  Studying Psychology in the US wasn’t something I thought of until late into high school for me.  Luckily for me, I had an older sister already studying in the US so I had somebody I could look up to and imagine that I could do it too.

I thought I would inspire these girls by talking about my experiences in the US, but I was the one who was inspired by hearing about their lives and what they hope to achieve through education.

That is the biggest thing I hope to take away from this meeting. I hope the girls will think of me as an older sister they can look up to.  I hope that I will get more opportunities to meet with them so that our interaction can be more open in the future.   I also hope that one day these girls can dream of doing something bigger than they ever thought possible.  I know from personal experience what having somebody you can look up to can do for a person, and I hope to be that kind of role model for these girls.  The foundation is doing a great job in recruiting Didis from the local area to fulfill this role, and I am very honored to be invited to meet with these great girls.  I went to this meeting thinking I would hopefully inspire the girls through my experiences, but I left completely inspired by them.  After hearing about their daily challenges, how hard they work at home and at school, and to hear what kind of people they want to become, how can anybody not be inspired?

Many thanks to Rukmini Didis Rasmita and Pramila and my cousins Prakriti, Prabriti and Surabhi for sharing this wonderful session with me.

Rakshya Pokharel

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