The Decaturian

International Student Feature

Nawaj KC

Wil Barden

Wil Barden

Athena Pajer

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International students have dreams we all understand. We can learn from them that though they might have grown up on the opposite sides of the world, we’re not so different after all.

Nawaj KC sits in the soon-to-be old Honors lounge on the first floor of Dolson Hall, where he commonly studies. His notebooks are spread neatly over the table in the corner of the quiet room.

Nawaj KC was born in rural Nepal, but spent much of his childhood in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. He began taking classes in the Fall semester of 2017. Throughout his time studying at Millikin, he has noticed that the experience is vastly different from the experience he would have had in Nepal. “Academically, I would say the best thing I noticed was how personal the education is. Where I come from, education is very strict, structured,” KC said, “I’m just studying here at my pace. The professors are very helpful, too, in getting students to do research with them from the Freshman year. So that’s also very, very awesome.”

Upon arriving in United States, Nawaj has excelled in Millikin’s Honors Program, studying physics and mathematics. After Millikin, he plans on going to graduate school to further his studies. “If someone asks me, ‘Why am I at Millikin?’ it would be because of Sarah Shupenus. She single-handedly changed the direction of my life,” KC said, referring to the Vice President of Enrollment and Marketing.

It was 11 pm in Nepal, just around lunch time in Decatur, Illinois. The person supposed to receive Nawaj’s call was out-of-office, but Shupenus picked up the phone. “And in a few days, everything happened. Okay, I’m going to the United States—which is crazy. That story definitely has some element of inspiration to it, and it’s really spooky for me. It shows how random life can be and how arbitrary decisions like calling on the phone—doing that can change your direction of life,” KC said.

KC originally came to the United States because the science programs are known to be better—or at the very least different—than those in Nepal. The American educational experience pleasantly surprised him, but he still experienced a difficult adjustment, particularly when it came to perfecting his English. “When I walked into the cafeteria, I didn’t know many things. Like, what is ‘mayonnaise’?” KC said, “I thought I knew things, but I just knew English in an academic context. Not in a social and a personal context. Even today, walking into the cafeteria is an exploratory program—is what I like to call it.”

Nawaj KC aims to learn in any manner he can, considering both classroom and everyday opportunities as opportunities to expand his mind. His interests extend to artistic work like music, poetry, stories, and film. In fact, what many might not know about Nawaj is that he loves classical music, having a particularly strong admiration for the sound of a violin. “I think the violin creates the best tune in the world. In the next life, if there’s an afterlife, I’d like to be a violinist. That’s what I’d really like to do,” KC said.

What he wants to do in this life is be like many who came before him, continuing one of the aspects that makes the human race special: making discoveries and changing the world. “The thing that really inspires me is that there are really humans that want to contribute to human knowledge. As a scientist, physicist, or engineer, I just want to add something to the human knowledge. I want to leave something behind in this short life. I think there’s a lot of value in that. That’s what gets me up in the morning,” KC said, smiling, with a sparkle in his eye.

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