Name: Prabha Upreti
Pestalozzi Scholar: 2013-2015
'Pestalozzi gives deserving students a home and an opportunity for further education and to build a career. When Pestalozzi selects a scholar, they select a certain type of student who is going to multiply the investment that's made in them. In today's society, education is a necessity to move forward. It makes things so much easier for a young person when they have a formal education'.
I wasn't sure exactly what to expect when meeting with Prabha. I knew the basics: She was from Nepal, finished Pestalozzi in 2015 and continued on to Princeton University, where she graduated as an Economics major. However, after five minutes spent with her, I knew she was so much more than these few attributes.
Prabha was born in the southeast of Nepal, but her family moved to Kathmanduand then to the district of Sindhupalchowk, where both of her parents taught in a rural high-school. Neither Prabha or her brother got to see them very often, but Prabha told me they've been very supportive throughout her education, especially considering how restricting the culture can be for young women in Nepal. After her social science teacher recommended Prabha apply for the Pestalozzi scholarship, she went through our interview and exam process and was selected for the programme. She lived and studied for two years in the UK, saying that although all of the classes were fun, she particularly enjoyed Maths and learning Spanish with Astrid (at school) and our Spanish volunteer Ale. 'I hadn't had to learn a formal subject from having no experience with it in a while, so Spanish was challenging and fun'.
In her second year at Pestalozzi, Prabha applied to study her undergraduate degree at Princeton University, one of the top universities in America. She now works as a trainee for AES, an international energy company, where she is currently doing a leadership developmentrotationalprogramme and will be working with the Financial Planning and Analysis team in January.
Prabha and I met for dinner in Arlington, Virginia, after an exchange of messages describing our appearances to more easily locate one another (I had already had one case of mistaken identity on this project and wasn't quite ready to have another just yet!)
As part of our time together, I asked her to describe Pestalozzi in 3 words and she chose family, community and exposure, continuing on to tell me; 'Pestalozzi was a stepping stone. It helped me to believe in myself and it inspired me when I met other young people like me. It meant I pushed myself harder, by showing me opportunities of who I could be and where I could go. Financially without my Pestalozzi scholarship, things would have been really hard for me. I would have probably pursued a government high school programme and tried to pursue higher education, but wouldn't have gotten a good quality of education and I'm not sure if I would have had a job or not. Now I can be anything and I'm confident I can give back'.
Prabha also spoke to me about how coming to Pestalozzi allowed her to study subjects that weren't available to her back in Nepal. 'My parents would have had to have taken loans out to help me study science subjects. My career options are much more diverse now'.
Whilst studying at Princeton, Prabha was also a varsity athlete on the women's rowing team competing against other Ivy League colleges. She also returned home during the summer of 2016 and undertook a fellowship at an organization called Daayitwa Nepal. As part of this, she carried out some policy research about economic sustainability in a western district and met many female entrepreneurs. 'It was very inspiring to see how economic independence empowered these women, a lot of whom were single, not treated well by their family and community or were previously living in poverty. The experience influenced my choice of economics as a major and inspired my interest in entrepreneurship.' Prabha also returned home in 2017 in between her sophomore and junior years of college and tutored in Science and Maths in Kathmandu.
Upon her graduation, she had the chance to bring her parents to the US, which was an amazing experience for them all. 'I made them try all different kinds of cultural foods here (this is one thing I really love about the US!) and now they no longer bug me about not eating rice every meal!'
Speaking about the differences between US and Nepali culture, Prabha said, 'I like the fast pace of the US, but there is a lot of stress. The living conditions in Nepal are worse, but the people don't let their problems show. I appreciate the positivity and resilience of Nepali people and that they don't let small things effect their happiness. Happiness means less materialistic things back home'.
I asked Prabha what her goals were right now and she responded, 'I want to work my way up the career ladder'. Whilst this seemed to be an almost expected response, she then went on to say 'I want to do this so I am able to make decisions that will positively impact other people’s lives and therefore the world'.
'My message to Pestalozzi donors would just be... Thank you. You made a big difference in my life. I want to be one of you in the future, because I know what it means to young people like us and how donating can actually change the world. I want to be on the other side and be giving. I've been given the opportunity to be able to pay it forward. Your donation is not only helping us it will be helping others in the future, because of that multiplying effect of return on investments'.
When I have interviewed other alumni and asked them about their short term goals, often the responses are small and more easily achievable. Prabha's answer was that she is hoping to set up a non-profit in Nepal that benefits the local community and targets what there is currently a need for. Long term she hopes to undertake an MBA and eventually become a Chief Financial Officer.
Prabha is driven, bright and wildly fun to spend time with. Her aspirations may be sky high, but I have every certainty that she will go on to achieve what she sets out to and more. I feel so proud that Pestalozzi could play a role in helping her onto higher education, because alongside this and her own amazing character and determination, she is going to succeed at whatever she turns her hand to next.