Getting an education in the United States is something not all non-U.S. citizens have the chance to do.

This opportunity was recently given to Nepali students Puja Thapa and Benajil Rai when they were selected through the Little Sisters Fund to study for four years here at Keene State College.

According to Dr. Skye Stephenson, Director of Global Education Office at KSC, the girls were students at a school in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, before they were chosen to study in America. The girls explained that they went through a screening process in order to be chosen for the program, which included writing an essay and interviewing with Len Fleischer, a retired KSC professor who assisted the students in receiving this opportunity. After all of this was done, the two were selected through the Little Sisters Fund from a large pool of candidates to come study here in the United States.

Angelique Inchierca / Equinox Staff

Angelique Inchierca / Equinox Staff

The Little Sisters Fund is a U.S.-based program that has been funded to support education for Nepali women, along with other issues such as child labor, child marriage and human trafficking, since 2007. It provides scholarships to girls like Thapa and Rai to come study abroad in places such as the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan. The fund has kept the Nepali girls in school so far, and has now given them opportunities for a better future by coming here to study.

The education system in Nepal, according to Rai, is vastly different than what we experience here in America.

“It’s exam-oriented instead of knowledge-oriented, so our grades depend on how well we do on the exams, not class participation, discussion or presentations,” Rai said.

“I never imagined coming here,” Puja Thapa said. “But after getting the chance, it’s been unbelievable.”

For Rai, going abroad and getting a quality education was a dream.

“Many other students have similar dreams, but it’s hard to fulfill,” Rai said. “For me, it’s a big opportunity being here because I can learn and build my capacity.”

Of course, coming here for four full years is probably difficult to do considering they would have to leave their families. The Little Sisters Fund has the funds to send the girls home about once or twice during these four years, but other than that, the girls are living here permanently for their college career.

Both Rai and Thapa both said it was hard for them to leave their families, but once they got here, it was worth it. Rai described it as “a blessing in disguise.” She said that although they miss their families, being here is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow as students.

In addition to the experience Thapa and Rai are getting here, it’s also an experience for KSC to have them as well. Dr. Stephenson said having the girls here will benefit the college in more ways than one.

“Here at Keene State, we’re always looking for new ways to enhance our diversity, and also to try to help make the world a better place, so the fact that we have the opportunity for these two wonderful young women to come from Nepal is an incredible opportunity for us, as well as these women,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson is confident that having Thapa and Rai here will not only enrich their experiences and the diversity on campus, but also put things into perspective for the staff and students.

Being able to receive a quality education in the United States is something that people all over the world dream of, and the opportunities that we receive here aren’t available to people in other countries. Puja Thapa and Benajil Rai are happy to be here, and Keene State is happy to have them.

Zoey Day can be contacted at

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