Rupa Pandey, a junior in microbiology, was
among the dancers who performed at this
year's Nepalese Night at ISU, which drew
hundreds of attendees who were treated to
food, music and dance.
Image Credit: ISU Photographic Services

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Idaho State University's Nepalese Connection

Small country has relatively large presence at ISU

In fall 2008, 45 Nepalese students were attending Idaho State University, making this contingent of international students the second largest at ISU, behind the 66 from India and ahead of the 39 from the People’s Republic of China.

These latter two countries each have more than a billion citizens—approximately 36 percent of the world’s population—and are two of the geographically largest countries (China ranks No. 4, India, No. 7). It stands to reason and proportion that they would be represented in greater number.

Nepal, on the other hand, is a much smaller country located between these two giants. It has a population of about 30 million and geographically is the 93rd largest country in the world, slightly larger than the state of Arkansas. The reasons for its high number of students are less obvious.

A suggested primary reason students from Nepal are enrolling at Idaho State University appears to be the result of positive recommendations by both undergraduate and graduate students.

“We cannot underestimate the power of word-of-mouth recruitment by our international students,” said Maria Fletcher, director of ISU’s International Programs Office.

After having positive experiences with Nepalese graduate students, the Graduate School developed a strategic plan to recruit more Nepalese students about two years ago.

“We have limited resources and it is difficult for us to recruit in places like China and India,” said Dr. Tom Jackson, dean of the ISU Graduate School. “We made a decision to concentrate some of our efforts in Nepal and it has worked out well.”

These efforts are widespread and include developing relationships with universities and faculty in Nepal, advertising ISU programs in English-written Nepalese newspapers and developing and mailing ISU promotional material to Nepalese students. The Graduate School also developed a Web “micro-site” for Nepalese students,, and Steve Bezdeka, coordinator of graduate promotion and recruitment, personally responds to each Web inquiry by a Nepalese student.

As a result of these contacts, Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal, proposed the development of a memorandum of understanding between the two universities to promote research collaborations and academic exchange.

Recruiting and marketing efforts would not be successful, however, if Idaho State University did not deliver on providing quality opportunities for the Nepalese students who attend, and this is where word-of-mouth recommendations continue to be fruitful.

“Being Nepalese, far away from the place I was born, I got everything I could ask for in the course of acquiring an education in a foreign land,” said Rishika Sharma Lamichhane, who earned a master’s degree from ISU and is now working on a doctorate.

Several Nepalese students said the cost of attending Idaho State was less than competing U.S. universities they considered. Some international students can receive non-resident tuition waivers if they are pursuing studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

Additionally, ISU offers fields of study that interest many Nepalese students.

“There are so many options here,” noted Sanjeev Niroula, an ISU sophomore in engineering. “Back home you have to choose one field, one way and then pursue it. Here, there are so many fields, so many options, it is amazing.”

Many also appreciate the lifestyle Idaho offers.

“It is a good place to go to college,” said Prawag Koirala, a junior biochemistry major from Katmandu, Nepal’s largest city with more than a million residents. “It is not too crowded and it is quiet so you can focus on school. It is also good that you can see mountains around and nature close by, like in Nepal.”

The students on their own gather to celebrate Nepalese holidays or festivals. They also, like many international groups on campus, join forces once a year to put on a cultural dinner for the ISU and Pocatello community. This year’s Nepalese Night attracted an estimated 600 to 800 guests who were treated to food, music and cultural presentations.

Though they have integrated well at ISU, Nepalese students keep tight bonds with friends from their homeland.

“It makes a world of difference to have people from your own country around when you’re here who can lend you a hand or help you adjust to the culture,” Niroula said. “And, if you get sick or something, you know where to go.”

Nepal quick facts:

  • It is a small landlocked country located between India and China.
  • Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is located in Nepal.
  • The country is the birthplace of Buddhism.
  • It is a culturally diverse country with more than 40 native languages.
  • About 80 percent of its residents are Hindu, 10 percent Buddhist and 4 percent Muslim.
  • The national language of Nepal, Nepali, is only spoken by about 60 percent of its citizens.
  • The country became a federal republic last year after being a monarchy for 239 years.

Geographical breakdown on ISU students (Fall 2008):

  • ISU had students from every Idaho county.
  • ISU had students from every state in the union, except South Carolina.
  • The states with the most nonresident students at ISU were California with 139, Utah with 137 and Washington with 107.
  • International students from 69 countries attended ISU.
  • Top five nations represented: India, 66 students; Nepal, 45; China (People’s Republic) 39; Saudi Arabia, 30; and Ghana, 17.

Andy Taylor
ISU Magazine