KATHMANDU, Sep 1: Many young people leave for foreign places in search of better education and opportunities. But home away from home poses them with its own set of challenges. Born and raised in a particular type of culture and environment, moving to a new place is exciting, overwhelming and for some people, frustrating.
While some go abroad to study by their own choice, for some, it becomes the only option.
Four young people, Atul Baluni from India, Sahan Uditha Chathuranga from Sri Lanka, Tsering Dema from Bhutan, and Xitis Lal Shrestha from Nepal share their experiences of studying and living abroad. While the former three have come to Nepal through the South Asia Foundation (SAF) Madan Jeet Scholarship to study Bachelor’s in Development Studies at National College in Kathmandu, Xitis is pursuing his Bachelor’s in Electromechanical Engineering from Groep T University in Belgium.
Xitis Lal Shrestha
Why did you choose to study abroad?
Sahan: It’s a big chance to study abroad. We get many experiences. That’s why I decided to come to Nepal and study Bachelor’s.
Atul: Because the place where I come from, Dehradun, doesn’t have the option of studying Bachelor’s in Development Studies.
Tsering: After I completed my class 12, I didn’t qualify to some of the colleges in Bhutan that I wanted to attend. So my uncle recommended me to this scholarship and I got it.
Xitis: The main reason is the political instability in Nepal. Also, the education system here isn’t as good as in Europe.
What were your thoughts about the foreign country before actually going there?
Xitis: I knew a bit of its geography. Belgium is a pretty small kingdom surrounded by rich countries. And I knew that it was famous for beer and chocolate.
Sahan: I had heard Nepal was a very beautiful country with many hills and mountains. I knew it is the birthplace of the Buddha, and as a Buddhist, it’s special for me to come to Nepal.
Tsering: I was told that there were many Bhutanese people living in Nepal.
Atul: Nepal is good, but Kathmandu is very crowded. This is what I knew.
What was your actual impression when you first stepped into the country? Did you find any stark differences in the culture or environment?
Sahan: I’m so alone: This was the first thing I felt. I was all by myself at the airport. I didn’t know the local language and felt a bit frustrated. Talking about the culture, it’s not very different.
Xitis: Shocked! The airport was so big. The traffic was so well managed. And everyone was white. When it came to culture, people seemed to be enjoying a lot. In Nepal, we work hard but not many of us enjoy life to the fullest.
Sahan Uditha Chathuranga
Tsering: The airport was big compared to Bhutan. And the feeling I got was that I was the only Bhutanese sitting in this airport. I didn’t know anything about the procedures, the people or the language. But most of the people seemed to have similar physical characteristics like us in Bhutan. Some people even came to speak to me in Nepali. The transportation system, however, is very new to me. We don’t have tempos and microbuses back home.
Atul: This is the first time that I’ve been abroad. I felt that the culture here is pretty much similar to India’s. Also, everyone seemed to know how to speak in Hindi.
Have you felt homesick?
Sahan: Not yet. But I miss my mother. I also miss the spicy Sri Lankan food and tea.
Tsering: I’ve been feeling a bit too homesick. I’m missing my family a lot.
Atul: Only sometimes, at night before going to sleep. I really miss Indian food. We get it in restaurants here but it doesn’t compare to food from back home.
Xitis: During my first year in Belgium, I didn’t feel homesick at all. I only missed my friends sometimes. But in the second year, I started missing my family and also Nepali food.
Let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of living alone. What do you enjoy the most and what do you have a problem adjusting to?
Sahan: I get to try a lot of different things. Living alone isn’t that bad, but not that good, either. I think the adjustment process happens on its own, in time. But I know I’ll have to try getting used to the roads here. But in the end, it’s a big opportunity.
Tsering: For me, too, it’s the same. It’s a chance that people have to make good use of. But one problem I have is that I don’t have friends in my apartment. That seems to be the disadvantage right now.
Atul: My friends are always here to help me when I need them. There’s a lot to explore and experience.
Xitis: I really enjoy staying alone because there’s no one pushing me around. I get to make my own decisions. So freedom is the biggest advantage. One disadvantage can be that you have to move out of your comfort zone and really try hard to make friends. But that also taught me how to socialize and improve my skills in talking to new people. You also learn to have an open mind.