International Student Center Hosts Events Highlighting Countries and Cultures at LU
The International Student Center was filled with students from across the world Friday afternoon who gathered to learn about the vibrant culture of Nepal.
Students experienced traditional Nepali street food and beverages including chai tea and a dish called pani puri, a combination of mashed potatoes, onions, herbs, and spices.
During the event, Shaira Neupane shared about her culture and life in Nepal and her university experience as an international student. Neupane grew up in a small town called Kodari near the capital city of Kathmandu, Nepal.
“I am an only child to my two parents and lived with my grandma who is 93 years old,” Neupane explained. “My uncle, aunt, and younger cousins also lived 10 minutes away, so there was a strong family bond. Saturdays were set aside for family get-togethers, but we would also eat and attend church together.”
Neupane attended the same school from kindergarten to 10th grade. In America, students may rotate from classroom to classroom for different subjects, whereas in Nepal, the students remain in the same classroom the entire school day.
“I think the friendship and the bond was a little stronger back home,” Neupane said. “You sit with the same group of people for eight periods for a year. You carry your friends with you, which was really special.”
Since the 10th grade, Neupane had a desire to study in America. She knew the process of gaining higher education outside of Nepal would be difficult, but she remained confident in the Lord’s sovereignty.
“My prayer was that God would open the door and make my decision clear,”
Financially, a private university was a risk, but after her uncle convinced her to try, and sponsored her process, Neupane attended an international student consultation.
“The guidance counselors were unbelievers,” Neupane said, “and were surprised I was even trying to come to Liberty. They told me there was no way I could get a visa. I was told I had a 20% chance of making it. This hurt, because in my head, I was already sold on Liberty and was so worried my heart would be broken if it didn’t happen.”
The day of the visa interview was nerve wracking and stressful for Neupane and
“After waiting in the line for so long, I was told I needed to retake my picture before I would be allowed to interview.”
This setback was not only frustrating but discouraging.
“Once I got back in line, I saw different categories of people in interviews,” Neupane said. “One man, in section five, was who the students were being sent to, and literally in front of my eyes, all the students were being rejected.”
The stream of constant “no’s” filled Neupane with fear.
“I prayed, ‘God give me strength. I’ve already forgotten everything and have no clue what I will answer. Please just speak through me, because I cannot do this alone,’”
Then, God moved a mountain.
She was sent to a different section, and after just seven questions, she was immediately issued a visa.
“If I had not left the line to retake my picture, the timing would have been ruined, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten my visa,” Neupane said. “If I had been sent to the section five line, I would have probably been rejected.”
Her journey to Liberty was far from easy, but Neupane trusted that the Lord had a higher plan and purpose.
“God truly turned the tide around by bringing me to Liberty,” Neupane said. “And he has been providing me with everything since.”
Once she got to the United States and then to Liberty, Neupane faced a whole new set of obstacles.
“Culture shock was something I definitely went through as a freshman,” Neupane said. “You have to drive here with a car. In my country, we have a lot of public transportation.”
Neupane studied English at a private school, but adjusting to the various ways people communicate was more of a challenge.
“Some are really huggers, but some really like space,” Neupane said. “I had to learn that the culture in America involved a lot more independence. People are more direct here, where my culture is a lot more indirect.”
Neupane spoke of how she felt a little overwhelmed with culture shock at first.
“I thought people were kind of commanding me to do this and that. Sometimes I would be saying something, and my roommates wouldn’t understand, even after the fifth explanation. But it was just the difference in communication,” Neupane said.
She spoke of the influence her own community group leader had in her life as an incoming freshman.
“Liberty’s community groups are so amazing,” Neupane said. “My CGL was an international student too and understood what it felt like to be going through
She also mentioned the phenomenal impact the International Student Center has had on her college experience.
“The resources at ISC are so great — you can tell them anything from ‘I miss home,’ to, ‘I want to cry,’ to, ‘Please help me with this,’ and they will (help you). You can cry on their shoulder, and for me, this was so special,” Neupane said.
As she prepares to graduate this May, Neupane reminds herself of the importance of her relationship with God. Being so far away from home, she recognizes how vital it is to follow the Lord’s plan for her life.
“Getting in God’s word is so important and it’s very easy to be swept away in the busyness of college life,” Neupane said. “But the community, encouragement, and worship are so worth it and really helped me stay in my walk with God and keep my path straight. I am so thankful to my family and God for every opportunity.”
Neupane is currently studying biotechnology. After graduating, she wants to work in the research department or biotechnology lab for about two years, before pursuing her dreams of pharmacy school.
“Pharmaceutical has always been something that is a dream in my head, and I know if God wants me to go, He will let me know.”
Kathryn Alley is a Feature Reporter. Follow her on twitter at @Kathryn_Alley08.