My name is Navaraj “Raj” Lamichhane, and I am a volunteer Program Assistant at Gratitude Alliance, USA. I graduated from Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV) with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and a Professional Sales Certificate. Currently, I am pursuing an Executive MBA in Non-Profit Management at the University of Portland.
My story is about tragedy, hard work, luck, leadership, miracle, and compassion. I love to read, play guitar, swim, sing, write, travel, and connect people. From Nepal to Southwest Washington, I bring many life experiences, including working as a student senator, student ambassador, international student club president, admissions and financial services intern, energy research intern, program intern, program assistant, mathematics tutor, guitar teacher and music director at the children’s home where I grew up in Nepal. I have a passion for rural developments in renewable energy programs in electricity-strapped communities. My biggest wish is to eventually work for a clean energy company, perhaps eventually starting my own.
When I was 6 years old, I lost my mother. My father abandoned our family. Because nobody knows when I was born, I had to pick my own birthday. I picked May 4th. May the 4th Be With You.
Though my siblings scattered to my relatives for shelter, I was lucky to go school at Bright Horizon Children’s Home School (BHCHS) – home for orphaned children in Kathmandu, Nepal. This was my first miracle. I studied hard at BHCHS for more than ten years and was accepted to high school in Kathmandu. To earn a living and pay for school tuition, I got a job tutoring mathematics.
I always dreamed of going to school in America. I wanted to explore the world, do something important with my life, and find a way to help others.
To save for my education, I continued teaching math and music and worked as a research intern for a global nonprofit, commuting 4 hours a day to and from Kathmandu to the children’s home. It was a challenging time, but I hoped that someday, my life would change.
Then, another miracle came into my life. With support from my generous Swiss sponsors, Birgit Krneta and Marlies Kornfeld, the founder of BHCH, I started my undergraduate degree in Kathmandu. Then, two years later, another miracle: I met Ms. Beverly, a kind, compassionate, and generous English teacher from Vancouver, Washington. Beverly taught me how to write SAT essays and tackle critical reading. With her encouragement and support, I studied hard for the exams.
When the earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015, I feared for my life. But, I continued to study, took the TOEFL and SAT exams, applied to WSUV… and got accepted! I was the first transfer student from my school in Kathmandu to go to an American university.
In December 2015, with my U.S. student visa, two suitcases, funding from my sponsor for one semester, and free room and board at Beverly’s house – a 10-minute walk to campus – I arrived in America. It was the happiest day of my life.
When I was hungry for school tuition support, I received campus scholarships and grants. My campus life at WSU Vancouver was very challenging financially, but I always got the support. Another miracle came into when I received the $4000 Vancouver Rotary Foundation scholarship to use toward my school at the WSU Vancouver campus, became the first student speaker at the scholarship recipient ceremony, thanked the donors, and networked with local Rotarians.
In 2018, I completed my undergrad studies, earning a 3.4 GPA while working part time on the campus. I’ve made many friends from different countries, learned many new cultures, and even got served at the Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver (ASWSUV) multiple times.
Henri Moreau, the fellow Rotarian I met at the scholarship reception event, become one of my great friends and father figures, invited me to speak at the Vancouver Rotary Foundation event to share my success story. After the story sharing session, I received a standing ovation. Dr. Richard K. Green, the former Vancouver Rotary Club President, and the Salmon Creek Plastic Surgeon, saw something on me and offered to provide tuition assistance toward my graduate school studies. I picked the University of Portland for its rigorous Pamplin School of business program and decided not to leave Southwest Washington. I am finishing up graduate school this fall at the University of Portland with the support from Dr. Green and the campus scholarships, such as Presidential Hope Fund, International Student Award, and Intersectional Hope and Healing Fund.
After I graduated from the WSU Vancouver in 2018 and needed a school break, I lived with another American host family, Julie and Jeff Barclay, in Brush Prairie, Washington. I worked for a marketing firm in Beaverton, saved money for graduate school, learned to drive, and moved out when I received enough support to attend the University of Portland. I always have them on the back as a family.
For many international students, it’s not an easy transition to college life in America. School is expensive and challenging. I could not have come this far alone. I am grateful for all the support I received from many helping hands, including friends and campus scholarships and grants. They prepared me well, and, maybe someday, I can offer a miracle to another student who has a dream to change his life, too.
I am at the University of Portland finishing up graduate studies in the fall 2020 with the dream of becoming a future social entrepreneur to help the disadvantaged people of my country. I am so happy and proud to be a Pilot. My biggest wish is to finish the graduate school, and eventually work for a clean energy company and even start my own someday. I am excited to experience what the future holds.
I hope to make the best use of all the generosity and education to educate myself and to create a better future for my family, my community, and my country.
Written by Navaraj “Raj” Lamichhane,
MBA in Nonprofit Management 2020 Cohort