My road to commencement: Roshan Khadka

December 26, 2016

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Roshan Khadka, who received a bachelor’s of science degree in psychology from the Penn State Harrisburg School of Behavioral Sciences and Education during the campus' fall 2016 commencement, has a story unlike many of his fellow graduates. Khadka is a refugee from Bhutan who came to the U.S. in 2009 after years in a refugee camp in eastern Nepal. 

Khadka was born in Bhutan, a small country that lies between China and India. When he was seven months old, his family, along with 80,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, were forced to leave the country under the government’s “One Nation, One People” policy, which imposed a complete ban on Nepali language, culture and religion.

“Many Nepali schools were destroyed and Nepali dresses were burned,” Khadka recalls. “The government of Bhutan tagged Nepali-speaking people as illegal immigrants, although they had been living there for many generations. Nepali ethnic people were forced to smile on a camera to show the world that they were willingly leaving their motherland, where they had acres of land, farms, and businesses.”

In 1990, his family was expelled from Bhutan, and according to Khadka, started living a miserable life in the refugee camp in the eastern Nepal. “I spent my whole childhood and adolescence in the refugee camp where there was lack of proper food, clothes, and shelter. Imagine life without electricity at home, without computers at school, and without any means of transportation. Despite all of the hardships, I feel lucky that I was able to go to school up to grade 10,” Khadka said.

“In 2009, with the hope to see my bright future, my parents applied for the United States, which was part of resettlement solutions. I am very much thankful to this great nation, the United States, for resettling and opening the door of education for me,” he said.

Khadka was enrolled in Central Dauphin East High School in Harrisburg and completed his studies there in 2011. After that he went to the Harrisburg Area Community College for two years then transferred to Penn State Harrisburg.

“As a full-time student, I was also able to keep my part-time job to support my family. I always valued the importance of education and kept working hard. As a result, I was able to become a member of the National Honor Society,” Khadka said. “Being a Penn State student, I learned very important lessons in my life: lessons of success and confidence. Penn State fills this former refugee student with all the knowledge that is necessary to take to the next level of achieving his goal of becoming a social worker.”

Khadka plans to pursue graduate studies with the hope of eventually working in social services. "There has been much higher suicidal rates among the Bhutanese refugees in the United States. Numerous studies showed that psychological disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and anxiety are the main leading causes of suicide in my community of about 80,000 Bhutanese refugees in the U.S.," Khadka said.

"After I become a professional social worker, I will help people to overcome psychological problems in their lives, train refugees to cope with various mental illnesses, refer them to the services, and educate them about the psychological disorders in their own understandable language.  

"I would like to encourage everyone not to give up on your goal. Of course, it will be very difficult to reach to your goal, however persistent hard work will always pay off. If I had quit trying to overcome challenges of hardship, such as the language and cultural barriers, I would have not seen myself here today. Therefore, never give up your dream just because it is challenging.” 

Last Updated December 26, 2016