By Dan Lyksett
Manish Joshi’s story reads like an Ellis Island ancestral tale. A decade ago he came to America from his home in Nepal, leaving family and everything else familiar behind, 18 years old and with a treasured visa in hand.
He settled in River Falls. He had no marketable skills. His first job was as a janitor. He puzzled over getting electricity and a phone for his apartment or mailing a letter.
To better himself he trained to be a nursing assistant, then went to school and became a licensed practical nurse. That job gave him the income to pursue his real dream, to get an American college education.
Come December Joshi will don a cap and gown, step forward and receive his bachelor’s degree in business from UW-Eau Claire.
“I really believe that no matter where you come from, if you try hard, if you do the things you like, if you put enough effort into it, you can become the somebody you want to be,” Joshi said.
“There are hard times, no doubt about it. But those are the tests. That’s when you ask yourself, ‘how motivated are you to achieve the things you want to do?’ ”
One of the most difficult tests Joshi has faced has been the long separation from his family. He’s been able to return to Nepal a couple times for visits, and two years ago his mother came here for a two-month stay.
“She really liked it,” he said. “She is a very energetic lady and very friendly, so she met a lot of people. Her biggest obstacle was the food. She was more than willing to try everything, but she never really got used to it.”
But other than those infrequent visits there have been mostly e-mails and occasional phone calls. When Joshi was absent from a recent family celebration, the blessing of his parent’s new home, his mother called and cried over the phone.
“It’s hard because you really want to be with your family, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices to make your own way in life,” he said. “But sometimes it’s hard to think about.”
During his nearly decade-long stay in this country Joshi has visited both coasts and met a wide variety of people. Perhaps because he’s had to adapt to a culture so different than his own, he has highly tuned perceptions of regional and even local differences.
“You go to these different places and you see totally different cultures,” he said. “From San Francisco, Seattle, New York, you see such differences in the food, the clothing, everything. You even go from Eau Claire to Minneapolis and you see a different culture. It gives you a good idea of the diversity in this country.”
When it came time for Joshi to pick a college he looked at a number of schools before selecting Eau Claire. He recently wrote of his choice, “I wanted to attend a college that was not only strong in academics, but had also created a strong sense of community, a college where the students were open-minded, helpful and dedicated to help me pursue my dreams.”
“I had been to Eau Claire often, and I really wanted to stay in Wisconsin because of the friendliness of the people,” he said.
When he graduates Joshi will have a major in human resources and a minor in information technology. His faculty advisor, Scott Lester, called him “a hard-working, conscientious student.”
“Manish asks questions, gives opinions and shares experiences in ways that enhance learning opportunities for his classmates.”
Joshi has continued to work as a nurse to support his studies and is completing an internship in the human resources department at Luther Midelfort.
“I can tell you that he’s been a great addition for us,” said Ken Lee, director of human resources.
“He has a great personality, he’s a quick learner and has good follow-through on the projects he’s worked on for us.
“He’s been a delightful person to have with us.”
Once Joshi is finished with college he will continue to pursue age-old immigrant dreams: a good job, a home, a family.
“I think about it sometimes, coming from a really underdeveloped, poor country, now I have the opportunity to do anything I want,” he said. “I know if I work hard, I probably will be able to do all those things.”