Courtesy of William Wrobler

Puja Thapa
Administrative Executive Editor

I was around 11 years old when my father brought home a painting book. I remember getting all excited and turning the pages of the book. While I was flipping the pages, my eyes landed on a painting that didn’t have many colors; just black, blue, brown and some yellow. The house in the picture was side-gabled and had a chimney. In front of the house was a weird tree. It looked kind of barren. I didn’t see any green leaves on it. Growing up in Kathmandu, I hadn’t seen a whole bunch of naked trees. So, at 11 years old, I had some difficulty understanding why the tree was pictured like that.

Little did I know, that was going to be the view from my window seven years later. On a wintery, gloomy morning, the first thing I would see from my Keene State College window is similar houses with barren trees around them. It always reminded me of the painting. It was an interesting coincidence that a view like that, so different from my hometown’s environment, would bring me back to my childhood.

At the age of 18, I was given a huge opportunity to come to Keene through an organization called the Little Sisters Fund (LSF). LSF promotes girls’ education and women empowerment in Nepal, and it has helped more than 2,500 girls get their education so far. This big opportunity of education required me to sacrifice five years with my family and friends and go and live in a different part of the world that I had never even heard of: Keene, New Hampshire.

Then, I got on the very first plane ride of my life. That’s how I made it from Nepal to the United States; from Kathmandu to Keene; from the crowd to the quietness; from the moderate weather of Kathmandu to the unpredictable New England weather; from the end of adolescence to the beginning of adulthood.

I am very thankful to the United States, Keene and Keene State College for accepting me. However, no matter how grateful I was and am, it was frightening to leave the place where I had spent 18 years of my life.

A week after my arrival in the United States, the co-founder of Little Sisters Fund, Trevor Patzer, me and my friend Benajil Rai, who came with me from Nepal, made the road trip to Keene from Maryland, where Trevor lives. It was a seven-hour-long drive. We drove through the cornfields of Maryland and through different states. I saw the sky changing from sunrise to noon, and then we finally reached our destination: a cozy mushroom-shaped house with a Buddha statue in the garden and prayer flags fluttering in the wind, and a couple with big smiles waving at us. We met our host family, Len Fleischer and Erika Radich, for the first time on that day.

Our host family embraced us with a warm hug and pesto pasta and Caprese salad that day. It was the month of August, the windows were open and there was a cool breeze coming in. Len explained to us that in New Hampshire, people don’t have air conditioning in their houses but have heating instead to sustain long, cold winters. That was my first introduction to the land of New Hampshire.

Later that day, they held a small gathering for the Little Sister’s Fund committee. It consisted of community members, Keene State College faculty and friends from the Monadnock region. The affectionate smiles I saw on people’s faces that day took away all my tiredness. I could sense from their radiant eyes that they were waiting for us, they were curious to know about us, and they were gonna be there for us when we needed them. It’s been almost four years now, and the feeling has only gotten stronger.

That day, I knew that I had come to the right place, and that was the only thing I needed to know at that moment.

In these four years, I have fallen in love with Keene State College. I am not lying when I say my eyes tear up these days while walking around campus and through downtown Keene. Every time Keene changes its seasons, the memories I created in these different seasons flashback in my mind and there is a feeling of nostalgia.

I feel a strong connection to the campus community, a connection so powerful that I know it will stay with me forever. People connect with a place in different ways. Some are connected through nature, some through spirituality and some through culture. For me, it’s the people. The people I have met and the stories they have told me are how I have connected with Keene. These stories help me understand them and get inspired and give me a new perspective on life.

I have come across countless stories in these past four years. Working for the student newspaper at Keene State, The Equinox, has given me opportunities to learn different people’s stories. While hearing them, I see the world through their eyes and it is life changing.

My father always used to say that you don’t cross paths for no reason. There’s always a reason when you come across some energies in your life. I strongly believe that, and I want to be thankful to all the people I have bumped into in my journey of college.

I will be leaving Keene in a week or so with a heavy heart, and it is hard to believe that. However, I hope that I will leave a little bit of me at Keene State and take a little bit of KSC with me.

 

Puja Thapa can be contacted at:
pthapa@kscequinox.com

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