By Chris Gionta
Each Springfield College student has their own unique path to Alden Street. Most come from the Northeast; having the opportunity to visit once or twice. Some students may have taken their own personal tour with their parents and some may have gone to an Open House on campus. Finally, when it gets to the final weeks of August or the first week of September, everyone arrives, each with a different story of how they ended up there.
First-year student Kushal Bhandari is someone who forged a unique path to campus. Coming to Springfield, Mass., all the way from Nepal in the midst of a global pandemic was not an easy journey.
“The U.S. embassy in Nepal closed and had very limited visa slots,” said Bhandari. “So, I had to go to India for my visa. I traveled from Kathmandu to Bagdogra, and then had two or three flights to go to India, and then had my visa. And I had to spend about two weeks in India.”
He was in India for that long due to his visa appointment being set up for later than he would have wished. Along with the inconvenience of being in a foreign country for two weeks with only one goal in mind, Bhandari also worried about contracting COVID-19 while there.
“I was not even vaccinated. I couldn’t get the time to get vaccinated before I went to India because it [happened] so quick,” said Bhandari. “So I had to be very careful. That was a very difficult situation for me, when I had to think about my health as well as my visa, and I had to make sure to get the visa because I had to come way far to get the visa. I could not get rejected.”
Despite his stressful experience, Bhandari still made sure to soak in his travels and not waste the moment.
“I tried my best to enjoy it. I tried my best to make that trip worth remembering,” he said. “Because, though I went for an education purpose — getting my visa — I made sure that I traveled and visited many places in India so that it could be a fun trip as well as an educational trip.”
Luckily, he was able to get his visa and get on his way to Alden Street. He has enjoyed Springfield College very much in his first few months on campus.
“I had heard a lot of stories about Springfield, that students and everyone there was so welcoming,” said Bhandari. “And I can see that. People here are so kind. Whenever I go outside my dorm or whenever I go into buildings, people hold doors for you, and that’s very sweet of them.”
There are some stark differences between his home in Nepal and the campus of Springfield College. He had many normalities to get used to while at Springfield, and there are some things he is looking forward to.
“The time zone is the biggest difference,” said Bhandari. “And talking about the culture, the biggest shock that I found here in the U.S. is that people are so motivated and so work-driven, with people who are 50 or 60 working, and they are so motivated. But back in Nepal, people retire very early.”
Any college student could attest that food consumption changes when one gets to campus. However, not many have the perspective of seeing a food that was not in their home end up being one of the main food sources where they go to school.
“I don’t eat beef. You know, that was a very shocking thing for me to see,” Bhandari said. “Our national animal is the cow. That is why we don’t eat beef.”
Cow-slaughter is officially prohibited in Nepal, which means cow meat is also prohibited.
Overall, Bhandari’s first steps onto the Springfield College campus induced a huge sigh of relief. After sojourns to foreign lands, piles of paperwork, and a 36-hour flight, he finally felt at ease once he arrived at the school.
“I had the biggest relief of my life the night I came to Springfield,” he said. “Whenever I remember the hardship I went through, it feels like I did something very commendable, because I had not been outside my country, or my home, in fact, for so long. But now I have spent a month and a half at Springfield.”
Bhandari is a business management major, and is enthusiastic about his future at the school. He is also excited about seeing things in the U.S. that he has not seen before.
“I guess it will snow like next month in Massachusetts,” said Bhandari. “We don’t have snow in Nepal. The place I come from, it’s Kathmandu, it has a moderate climate — but we have Mount Everest in Nepal; it’s very cold and it’s the world’s tallest cliff — but, in the city I come from, I’ve experienced a moderate climate throughout my life. But now I will experience different weather — like, I will be experiencing snow, and that’s a big challenge and I’m very excited for that.”
Following a strenuous journey to Springfield College, he looks to savor what the new college and his new country have to offer.
Photo Courtesy Kushnal Bhandari