Back in the mid-2000’s Loras had a program that brought students from Nepal to Loras College. In fall 2007, some of these students had nowhere to go for the holidays since they don’t celebrate all our same holidays back in Nepal. That summer, I had participated in “Launch Into Loras” and got to know Gautam Lageju (’12), so I said I would love to invite him to our house for Thanksgiving. We learned that Sujan Devbhandari (’11) was one other Nepalese student that would also like to have somewhere to go, so I accepted and said we would invite both.
This began our journey into being more involved with international students, and to this day, we feel like all seven of them are like our own children. They have always called my wife, Gail, and me their “American Parents.”
Gautam and Sujan were the two that came that first Thanksgiving, but a year later, they would invite their friends to come over as well, and today we are extremely close to seven of them.
All seven of these students were very sweet and wonderful young adults. We hit it off immediately. From the beginning, they always told us they wanted to know more about our culture and experience what is normal to us. We took them to mass in the Basilica in Dyersville many times, took them to farms our friends owned where they got to experience farm life and run in the tall cornfields, had bonfires and s’mores, took them to the Field of Dreams and much more. At the same time, we told them we wanted to know more about their culture and experience some of the things that are normal to them. They would make us meals, and we would sit and talk about each other’s cultures for hours.
We attended two of their weddings. Even though they shortened things up a bit, it was an experience of a lifetime. The shortened version covered several days. On the day of the ceremony and the reception day, my wife wore a traditional Nepalese dress called a sari to each event. The girls took my wife’s measurements and had their mom back in Nepal make my wife a dress. She also borrowed one from Tania Tauseef, who is the interfaith outreach coordinator at Loras.
We got to know their parents very well when they came over for the weddings, and we somewhat stay in touch with them via Facebook.
Back in Nepal, as they grew up, they only became friends and hung around with the kids in their class, their same age. We recognized this the first time Gautam and Sujan came to our house and stayed the night. Sujan is a year older and treated Gautam as such. After adjusting to our culture, this went away, but it was noticeable that first year. Sujan is the most traditional out of all seven.
Gautam and Utshaha Maharjan(’12) are married and live in Seattle. We visited them a couple of times when we went out there to see our son. They just had a baby, Niam, in December, and they call us the child’s grandma and grandpa.
Om Gurung (’12) and Nitija Tiwari (’12) are married and just moved to Des Moines. Nitija graduated last May with her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and took a job in the Des Moines area. Om still works for John Deere out of Dubuque and is currently working out of Des Moines’ home.
Shrabya Kayastha (’13) and Aabristi Khadka (’13) are married and live in the Des Moines area. They love to travel. Shrabya has a couple of Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Sujan lives in New Your City. He won the McAleese Award his senior year here at Loras and received a free ride to Cornell University in New York. He is still living in New York at this time and is not married.
They all still live in the US, have awesome jobs making good money and are the nicest people you will ever meet. They don’t get back to Nepal much, nor do their families come to visit too often, so we still keep in touch regularly and are still their “American Parents.”
And now we are “American Grandparents” to Niam.