​On a sunny February afternoon, I sat down with PPCC student Sabita Bhetuwal to chat about her native country Nepal and hear her views on her new life in the United States, where she has lived since 2014. Her husband, also originally from Nepal, serves in the U.S. military and is stationed at Fort Carson.

On a sunny February afternoon, I sat down with PPCC student Sabita Bhetuwal to chat about her native country Nepal and hear her views on her new life in the United States, where she has lived since 2014. Her husband, also originally from Nepal, serves in the U.S. military and is stationed at Fort Carson.

I was expecting a cordial, but largely professional, conversation, like a meeting I might have with any student about an assignment. Instead, I encountered a vivacious and kind young woman with whom I immediately formed an affectionate bond.

Sabita’s vivacity, she might say, is a trait she has developed in the United States. “In Nepal, we are more reserved. We do not make eye contact with people, so this is something I’ve had to learn since coming to America.” She explains that she has adapted very quickly to life in the United States, particularly the difference in climate. “I cannot believe this weather today,” she said. “Nepal has long cycles of the same weather. In monsoon season, we get rain for weeks and weeks. Here you have warm and sunny weather, even in February!” (I forgot to ask her if she knows about Punxsutawney Phil and his yearly weather predictions, but we can discuss the groundhog in future conversations.)

Still, despite the many exciting changes Sabita has experienced in the United States, she misses her family, especially her grandparents. This is one reason she hopes to care for elderly people when she graduates from the nursing program at PPCC. “I want to help older adults feel more happy and comfortable in their later years, when they are struggling with the physical and mental difficulties that many aging people face.” I felt heartened when Sabita said this, since my own mother is in a nursing home after suffering a stroke almost four years ago. I know firsthand about the significant shortage of nurses (both CNAs and RNs) for elderly patients who need round-the-clock care.

Sabita laughs and acknowledges she experienced a little culture shock initially, especially when it came to understanding English in some parts of the U.S. where people speak distinctive regional dialects. “When we were in Oklahoma, a friendly man came up to us and said, ‘How-dee’... Is that how you say it? I did not know what he meant.” I chuckled and wondered whether my own southern accent might be difficult to understand. (If so, she was too polite to mention it.) Fortunately, she and her husband lived in Texas for a while, which helped her understand more variations in spoken American English.

She says she was nervous when she began her studies at PPCC because she was not sure what to expect. “In my country, the classroom is disciplined and formal. Students must ask the teacher’s permission if they wish to get a drink of water or use the restroom. Here, the classroom is much more relaxed.” She said that all her instructors have made her feel welcome, especially English Professor Emily Badovinac.

Sabita’s eyes light up when she talks about her love of animals. She was excited when I told her about my golden retriever, Mr. Darcy, and did not mind my bragging about him and showing her his pictures. We have promised each other to get together again soon so she can meet him. I know he will enjoy the extra attention. Sabita hopes to get a dog herself one day, when her schedule is less busy.

I’m sure Sabita will be successful as she continues to pursue her studies and moves on to a professional career.

By Dana Zimbleman, Faculty, College Composition and Reading