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Why Nepalis who studied abroad are choosing to come home in growing numbers?

Kathmandu, August 5, 2016: Krishna Gaire has studied abroad for four years now: two years in the United Kingdom as an IB student and two years at New York University in Abu Dhabi. He was also a student in Shanghai and is now planning to do a year in New York.

Throughout this period, Gaire held strong to his intent of returning to Nepal after his education. He says it gives him the best combination of work that is fulfilling and being with family.

“With the skills I have learnt abroad I can make a real impact in Nepal, more so than anywhere else in the world,” Gaire said. He wants to work in education and has already started a website(www.collegesodhpuch.com) with friends, which will help connect aspiring Nepali university students to those who are currently enrolled or have completed their education.

Many other students share the same sentiment. Some want to return to their family and give back to their community and country a measure of what they had received. They also feel more comfortable using their skills to work among Nepalis because of the shared language and culture. Like Gaire, they believe Nepal is undergoing an immense transformation, and want to be able to contribute positively to its future.

Shisir Khanal, a Master’s graduate in International Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, is the CEO of Teach for Nepal.
Shisir Khanal, a Master’s graduate in International Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, is the CEO of Teach for Nepal.

Priya Joshi graduated from Vassar College in the United States, and made the decision to return to Nepal while the Maoist conflict was still ongoing. She felt a sense of responsibility for the Nepalis suffering from the violence and deprivation, and wanted to make a difference.

Joshi had studied wildlife research and conservation, and three days after her graduation she returned to Nepal with her degree and determination, and started her work in earnest. She was involved in introducing wildlife genetics to Nepal, revolutionising research in this new subject.

She worked in a wildlife genetics research project and is now co-founder and manager of #MakerKT, which works to spark a maker culture among Nepali women.

“True, there is not much in Nepal, but the flip side is that there is so much to be done,” Joshi says, adding that those intending to stay on in Nepal need “grit and perseverance”. Many Nepalis have been away for so long that they have lost their contacts, and some even experience culture shock when they come back. Both Gaire and Joshi say it is important to maintain a connection with people in respective fields, and mentors.

VIRTUAL CONNECTION: Krishna Gaire founded a website to connect aspiring Nepali university students with current students and graduates.
VIRTUAL CONNECTION: Krishna Gaire founded a website to connect aspiring Nepali university students with current students and graduates.

Shisir Khanal, CEO of Teach for Nepal, always wanted to work in Nepal, with a focus on education. Khanal completed his Master’s degree in International Public Affairs (MIPA) in 2005 at University of Wisconsin-Madison. In recent years, he has noticed that more Nepali youth with education and/or experience abroad are choosing to return to Nepal.

In Teach for Nepal itself, there are several young graduates from universities in Bangladesh, Germany, India, United Kingdom and the United States, who are serving as fellows in high-need rural communities in Sindhupalchok, Lalitpur and Dhanusa for two years. Khanal says: “Before you return, you must know why you are coming back. If you know your reasons and are open to taking on the challenges, Nepal can be a very rewarding place.”

The journey to make things better in Nepal is tough, and has always been. Many have given up after a few years of trying, unable to take the hardships for everyday givens like water and electricity, as well as the weak work culture and corruption.

Asks Joshi: “You can imagine how demotivating the ugly politics and corruption are these days, so if everyone leaves, how will things ever get better?”

Women in technology

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Tseki Lhamo, who took a Java and C++ programming course in her gap year in the US, knows she represents a minority in a field dominated by men. Asked to help connect with women in the technologyfield in Nepal, she replied, “Women? They are all men.”

Although there are now more Nepali female software engineers and programmers than before, it is still mostly men who work and run information technology (IT) companies. Many young women interviewed for this article said they were either too afraid or intimidated to join the field.

Google Developers Group (GFG) Kathmandu as well as Women Leaders in Technology (WLiT) are working to change that. They are lobbying to eliminate the perception that it is a difficult field suitable only for men.

The two institutions held an annual conference to help increase visibility, line up resources and help the community of women in technology.

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These initiatives are important because although their numbers are increasing in Nepal, many women are still not confident about their skills and believe their field is a ‘boy’s thing’.

“This fear only hinders the career growth of women,” says Irina Sthapit, who has a Bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from Kathmandu Engineering College and currently works as a research assistant with the group Karkhana. “Women need to be brave and fight stereotypes about technology jobs being only for men.”

Lhamo is going to Mount Holyoke College in the US as a Computer Science major, but is fully aware of the challenges ahead. She wants to find an environment where young women can pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and is seeking female role models in the field.

At 24, Rojina Bajracharya (left, top) is already a role model. Bajracharya was the first winner of the Toptal Scholarship for Female Developers. Toptal is a US-based company that connects businesses with freelance developers, designers, and software engineers.

Bajracharya understands that girls who wish to study in the IT field often have not been given the same opportunities and exposure as men. She co-founded Girls in Technology, to give women in the field a chance to break the glass ceiling, and allow a younger generation to say: “If she can do it, why can’t I?”

By Ugyen Lama