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Off to a strong start from Kathmandu to Rochester

August 20, 2018
Prajita Shrestha, posing on the quadPrajita Shrestha ’22 received an Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship to the University of Rochester and has been on campus since June as part of the Summer Start program, “It’s all been wonderful,” she says. “Now, I’m ready for my first year of college.” (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

After graduating from high school in Nepal in 2017, Prajita Shrestha ’22 knew she needed a break.

“I didn’t feel adult enough to travel to the United States for college and live independently,” she says. “I needed to grow my inner self and learn outside the classroom.”

During her gap year, she wrote articles for three Nepalese magazines, took Spanish lessons, tutored high school students, and volunteered in the public health sector. Once she pronounced herself  “college ready,” she quickly decided Rochester was the place for her.

“My best friend (Ichchha Pradhan ’21) entered the University last year and told me I should apply,” says Shrestha, born and raised in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu. Shrestha did her own research on Rochester, and was impressed by the offerings in her main area of interest, public health. The open curriculum “was a huge factor” as well as the fact that Rochester offers several different public health programs for undergraduates.

“It’s very rare,” she says.

There were other aspects of the University and its surrounding community that appealed to her. “I didn’t want to wind up in a large city and get lost,” she says. “Rochester was the perfect size.”

Shrestha was part of the University’s Early Decision cohort last December and received an Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship that provides complete financial support, including housing, for all four years of undergraduate study. She arrived on the River Campus in June for Summer Start, an intensive, six-week residential program designed to give newly admitted students a strong start to their academic careers and University experience. She took classes in abnormal psychology, writing, and career exploration, and already has earned seven credit hours toward her degree.

She plans to major in epidemiology and either economics or data science and hopes for a career in a health-related field.

“People make me passionate,” says Shrestha, who met doctors and health workers from around the world last fall as a youth delegate at the World Congress on Adolescent Health in New Delhi, India. “Everyone deserves to live a happy life. I want to improve society and make the world a better place.”

Shrestha says Rochester already has given her plenty of “first experiences,” including her first Subway wrap, first Starbucks coffee, and first swimming lessons—something provided for the first time by the Handler Scholars program through the College Center for Advising Services. She takes lessons at a YMCA in downtown Rochester, near the Eastman School of Music.

“It’s all been wonderful,” she says. “Now, I’m ready for my first year of college.”

Shrestha loves to express herself through writing and was published nine times in national newspapers while in high school, on subjects ranging from human rights and music, to the bond between siblings (she has a 12-year-old brother). She enjoys cooking and networking, but her favorite “hobby” is cleaning.

“I cleaned my dorm room here 10 times my first two days,” she says, laughing.

She speaks Nepali, English, and Hindi, the native language of India.

“I learned that by watching Bollywood movies,” she says.

Shrestha plans to return to Nepal after graduation.

“My main goal is to change the stereotype that doctors are the only stakeholders in the health field,” she says. “I want to promote preventive health care measures as a long term solution as well.”

She’s interested in event management and may start a student club in this field, and she plans to study American Sign Language. But that’s not all.

“Someone wrote a story about 101 things to do before you leave Rochester,” she says, referencing a story by Dana Hilfinger ’10 that first appeared in the Rochester Review in spring 2010. “I want do to all 101.”


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