Ranjana and Barsha are two students from Nepal who started their MSc in Wageningen in February. Resource will follow them during their adventures in Wageningen. This week: is this really a developed country?
Ranjana and Barsha share the room with one other Nepalese student, Sangita. The three girls met on the plane to the Netherlands and became friends right away. Just as well, now they have to live at such close quarters. Their beds are divided by black curtains, and they have one table and one wardrobe between them. Most of their clothes are still in their suitcases. Barsha says she's 'not happy' about it, but Ranjana is downright angry. 'You don't put up students like this. We are stuck here; we have no other options. The university should have informed us before we left', she says.
A bummer, especially since their first impressions of Wageningen were pretty good. When they arrived, there was an introduction week for all the new MSc students. Barsha: 'The winter AID was very nice. I met a lot of people and I especially liked the salsa class.' Ranjana picked up some essential information during the city tour. 'I learned how to ride a bike and where to buy things.' And when they got lost, a Dutch girl took them to her room to look up directions on her computer. The shared room was to be their home for two weeks only. Or so they thought at the time.
One month later, the girls are making the best of it in their overcrowded hotel room. Barsha:
'We take our phone calls on the balcony, because we don't want to disturb the others. The fridge is too small, so we keep our fruit
outside to keep it cool. And we've been waiting for a vacuum cleaner for a week now so I swept the floor with a brush.' And there is only enough hot water for one person
to shower, so they each have a 'shower day'.
Studying in their room is no easy task, with their first exams coming up. 'The lighting is terrible for studying - it gives you a headache', says Barsha. 'And the internet hasn't been working for four days. But it's so cold outside that I don't want to go to the Forum. It takes time to go there, and I'd rather spend that time studying.'
The girls from Nepal feel especially cheated because they weren't aware of the situation before coming to Wageningen. 'Then we would have been able to take action from Nepal. We have friends here who could have helped us', fumes Ranjana. She just called the Student Service Centre and was informed that she won't be able to get a room until the first week of November. She seems close to tears. 'It's really terrible here. I don't want to stay here till November. We came to study in a developed country.' To add insult to injury, the rent for the room is 11 euros per person per day. 'Almost as much as the self-contained rooms at the Haarweg', calculates Barsha. 'Each.'
The students started looking for other housing options like renting an apartment together. But landlords seem to prefer PhD students as tenants.
Even though the conditions are difficult, Barsha is happy that she has Nepalese roommates, because this is her first time away from home. 'In Nepal it is normal to live with your family until you marry. Boys never leave their parents' house, so if you get married you move in with the new family.' Nepalese are always surrounded by family, and they have a festival almost every month. People visit their relatives and receive Tika (red mark on the forehead) and blessings from family elders.
'I really miss my food', says Barsha. 'We have lots of spinach for example, many different varieties. In Nepal you could eat a different green vegetable every day for a month. ' But no beef please! Bashra doesn't even want to touch it because the Nepalese worship the cow.
The food they miss most is the momo. Momos are small steamed dumplings filled with meat or vegetables. In Nepal you can buy them on every street corner. 'But it takes a lot of time to make them yourself', says Ranjana. 'The food here is very sweet, and we like spicy food', adds Bashra with a touch of pride.
Missing the family
Barsha misses her friends and family very much. 'I would call my cousins or friends every day after school so we could go shopping on my scooter.' During class in Wageningen she interacts with her classmates, but after class she rushes home to Skype with her friends back home. Ranjana got married almost a year ago. 'My husband is doing a sandwich PhD in Delft, but he is in Nepal now. When he arrived in Delft he was picked up at the airport and taken to his room, with a desktop computer and internet', she says. They talk almost every day (on the balcony). 'I think to myself: why am I here? I miss my home and my family. You cannot know what it is like, living here. It's really hard.'
Ranjana thinks she will have to stay in De Brink until early November, but SSC says that is an exaggeration. How long she will have to wait is not known exactly, but it will be at least six weeks.
26 years old
Born in Kathmandu
Did her BSc in biotechnology at Kathmandu University
Worked for three years in the
genomics department a health company on human gene
Started her MSc in Bio-informatics because: 'I studied biotechnology before and was really interested in computer based technology. Bio-informatics
combines the two.'
28 years old
Born in Mahendranagar
Married to Dinesh Bhatt
Did her MSc in Environmental Sciences at Tribuvan University in Kathmandu
Worked in wildlife research, at an NGO on climate change and at the ministry of Environment.
Is doing an MSc in Environmental Science because she needs it to be able to work in government in Nepal. She also considers doing a PhD.
'I want to raise my level of knowledge. The teaching
methods and the facilities are far more professional than in Nepal.'