Young Refugee Grateful for Job, Education, Opportunity

November 19, 2012

Upesh Sharma came to the United States in 2009 after growing up in a Nepalese refugee camp. As a young man living in a new country, Upesh was faced with the challenge of navigating a new system while also embracing the educational and employment opportunities in front of him. In three years since arriving, he's made the most of those opportunities. In this post, Upesh tells, in his own words, how his hard work in a Nepalese refugee camp and the opportunity to come to the United States have brought his dreams within reach.

I am originally from Bhutan; I was only 10 months old when my parents left Bhutan. My family had enough land to grow crops, enough cattle to produce milk, a beautiful home, and other things. The main reason my family left Bhutan was because of political and religious conflicts between the Bhutanese government and our people, who are Nepalese.

I lived for more than 17 years in the refugee camps. I passed my childhood and became an adult in a camp in eastern Nepal. My house was made of plastic and bamboo. We did not have electricity, transportation, or health facilities. But we did have a school.

I studied for years in the English school. I used a kerosene lamp to study when I was in the camp, and I graduated from high school with first division marks. After completing high school I started to think about my future. I wondered what to study in college and what to become after I graduated. I started my career with a basic computer course for three months because I had never touched a computer in my whole life.

When I was going to college, I got a chance to study computer hardware and software. After this course, I became a computer instructor for other Bhutanese people. I taught for eight months at the Pathivara Computer Institute. This position inspired me to study computer science at New England College now that I'm in the United States.

I came to the U.S. on September 3, 2009, and I started volunteering at Lutheran Social Services in Concord, New Hampshire. At Lutheran Social Services, I am a very hard working volunteer. The staff there knew that I didn’t have a job this past summer.

They heard about an internship opening at McAuliffe Shepard Discovery Center, an air and space science center in Concord, and they told me about that position. I am very interested in science and talking with people, so I went to the discovery center and filled out an application. Finally I was called for an interview. The interview went well and they hired me for the position.

This internship is going very well and it's fun to go to work. I am doing a research project about Mars and the Curiosity rover. I made some quizzes about Mars and the rover to put on the McAuliffe Shepard website. I am also greeting new guests to our discovery center and explaining our exhibits.

This internship is helping me to increase interaction with American folks because English is my second language. My goals are to get experience with office work, work with different kinds of people, and make friends. It is also helping with my degree. I am doing research and making some educational materials for the website – I want to study web design at college.

The meaning of the word “refugee” always makes me cry. I have seen many struggles and passed many hurdles throughout my life. I was a poor refugee guy before with a very rich heart. My heart will always remain rich, no matter how much money I earn in my life. I was in a refugee camp for more than 17 years. I know how life was during that time. And I will never forget that life.