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“Nepal is …”: International Recruiting in South Asia

Posted by on Thursday, November 10, 2011 in Admissions Committee, Diversity at Vanderbilt, International Students.


I have just returned from an exciting recruitment trip abroad in Nepal, which is one of the parts of the world that I represent for Vanderbilt. Before I get too far into this post, let me introduce myself: My name is John Nesbitt and this is my fifth year in admissions at Vanderbilt. I attended Vanderbilt as an undergrad and for the past two years have had the privilege of representing my alma mater across the world, working to increase our global perspective. I work with students from North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia (essentially Morocco to Bangladesh as the crow flies, which they probably couldn’t make it that far but you get my point!).

Visiting Nepal was a phenomenal experience, as it’s always been a place I’ve dreamt of seeing. Now having been there, Nepal has quickly moved to the top of my list of favorite countries.

It is a land of sherpas

Where corruption meets cows

Monkeys meet monks

Shrines compete with smog for impact made on visitors

Dogs roll in the dust

And the honks from the traffic become a language of its own

Nepal is Momo. A Nepalese dumpling, it is everywhere you go, their main appetizer and it’s absolutely delicious. Personally, I prefer the buffalo momo. It is quite good.

Nepal is the fear of another Maoist rebellion. One way to sum up life in Nepal is by what occurred during my first high school visit. About two minutes before I started my presentation to 15 students, a siren sounded and everyone freaked out. Considering there was a 6.5 earthquake the day before, I must confess I thought it was another one and had a bit of a scare. Nope, no natural disaster – just the monthly “MAOIST INSURGENCY” drill run by the students with great aplomb like a fire drill back in the states.  A little history: In the mid-nineties, Chinese insurgents attacked Nepal and attempted to take over the country; this school has a monthly drill in case an attack happens again. Together with the students, we closed the blinds, moved tables in front of the doors and hid like American students would routinely do during a fire drill.

Nepal is having someone into your home for dinner. I had the honor of attending our alum, Ram’s home for dinner. His son, Dishtika, informed me there are 3 gods in Nepal: Teachers, Parents and Guests. As I took off my shoes at the door, and thanked them for having me, he informed me that it was their pleasure to host me.

Nepal is hope: Hope in a generation of youngsters who want to come to America to receive an education (there is only 1 university in Nepal).

Nepal is laughter. Somehow my jokes are universal and these kids love to laugh.

Nepal is a smile. One day, as I avoided the rainfall (we are still in monsoon season after all) by ducking under a porch, I was greeted by a huge grin from a Buddhist Monk, in traditional maroon and yellow robes. He kissed my hand and held onto it smiling. He then took my hand and held it to his cheek.  Putting my hand down, he put his hands together – palm-to-palm, thumbs facing the face and said “NAMASTE” with a smile, to which I gave my best western attempt at a proper “Namaste” greeting to this holy man. And that may be my lasting memory of a place of peace, beauty, poverty, sickness, sadness, shrines, and shanties.

I had several phenomenal school visits and met with over 200 students (more than I will see in most domestic territories) who attended my reception/presentation, in addition to an essay writing workshop I led at the Education USA center. This was encouraging to see, and reminds me how lucky I am to have the best job in the world. To see these students’ excitement while learning about the American education system brought me great joy, as did the time I was able to spend visiting some of the temples and sites in Kathmandu in-between class visits.

For more information on Vanderbilt’s international reach, read about our international admissions program or talk to our international students.

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