Dashain celebration continues to grow

This weekend campus saw its very own celebration of the Hindu festival Dashain, which glorifies the triumph of the divine over evil.
While the festival will continue on until Oct. 19, the celebration in the Student Union Ballroom took place on Sunday, Oct. 13, from 6-9 p.m.
Roughly translated, Dashain means “10 Days” and celebrates the 10 day battle between the goddess Durga and the demon Mahishashura. While traditionally 10 days long in other Hindu cultures, the festival is celebrated for 15 days in Nepal.
The celebration hosted by the Nepalese Student Association at Southeastern provided traditional Nepalese food, dance and music.  Poetry and western music were also performed.
This celebration, while meant to make Nepali students feel more at home, also aims to share valuable parts of their culture with western students, staff and faculty.  Carley Furlan, a junior biology major, has been learning about Nepalese culture for the past two and a half years from her fiancé, computer science junior Rajan Poudel. According to the pair, their relationship has taught them much about their respective cultures.
“It definitely has opened my eyes to other cultures and religious ideas, even my own,” said Furlan. “Being with someone from another country, culture and background takes a lot of work. It can be difficult if you don’t learn to meet in the middle early.”
The couple began dating soon after Poudel entered the United States for the first time, and having this relationship made it easier for him to adjust.
“I’ll give you an example,” said Poudel. “I told her one time that ‘I wanted to take a sour.’ She corrected me and told me the word was ‘shower.’ Her help with language, how to dress and manners has really helped me adjust to life here.”
The NSAS reserved two tables specifically for faculty, their families and guests. Dr. Thomas Sommerfeld, assistant professor of chemistry, was invited by his students to attend the celebration. Sommerfeld said he remembered when only a handful of Nepalese students attended the university.
“It’s interesting and, in a way, more enjoyable than Christmas,” he said. “At first I thought it was very odd that we have such a large number of Nepalese students. However, I now see that their large numbers have helped them to succeed and even learn English more effectively. In the past, when fewer of them were here, we had issues with language; they only spoke Nepali. “
The NSAS is currently led by Prashanta Panta, an accounting junior, who said that events like these support Nepalese students during their time in the States, which can be very long.
“What usually happens is that people do not return home for a long time. If they do return home, it’s not until after they attain their master’s degree,” he said. “It’s like 50-50, the number of people returning to Nepal.”
According to Panta, the percentage of students remaining in the U.S. may be even higher because there are opportunities here that just don’t exist in Nepal.
“Many of us work very hard while studying here, and we develop a spending habit in using dollars,” he said. “The job opportunities here are not like the ones over there. Most of the Nepalese students study computer science or physics, and there are not many opportunities to apply that at home. We now even see people studying marine biology, which will not help you too much in Nepal.”
While these opportunities are readily available to Nepalese students, it does not make being thousands of miles away from home easier. Gatherings like the Dashain festival reinforce the support that each of the students has for one another and provides the comforts of home.
“It definitely makes it easier,” said Panta. “I don’t know what I would do if I was on a a campus with no other Nepalese students. This isn’t the only event we have; we have other festivals, but we just get together for them. It gives us a Nepalese environment to go to when we need it.  We get used to American culture, but it’s nice to feel at home.”
Southeastern’s annual Dashain celebration has grown over time; this year’s festival was the biggest one yet. Fundraisers and a new sponsor, Pioneer Technologies Inc. Panta hopes that even more fundraisers and sponsors will help with next year’s celebrations.
“What we can do depends on the finances we can collect,” he said. “Before there were no sponsors for us, except the office of Multicultural and International Student Affairs. But because there are so many of us on campus we’re attracting more attention. More people are finding us, and we expect that the same sponsors will help us.  If that happens we can expect to expand our activities and make our big events even bigger and grander than they were before.”