The University of Kentucky is excited to share that it has admitted and offered a full-ride scholarship to Ojaswi Piya, one of the 61 talented students from Nepal whose scholarships at UT-Tyler were recently canceled. Three scholarship programs and offices across University of Kentucky’s campus came together to make this possible – the UK International Center, UK Enrollment Management and UK Student Financial Aid and Scholarships offices.
“This full-ride made my dreams and educational goals and aspirations seem possible again,” Piya said. “I was beyond happy - words can’t convey how grateful I am to have this amazing opportunity come to me.”
Piya, from Kathmandu, Nepal, accepted the offer and will join the Wildcat family this fall. Piya said she will major in biology but is also interested in other areas such as sustainability, the environment and waste management.
When searching for universities, Piya said she wanted to see which institutions had her programs of interest as well as undergraduate research opportunities. That was one of the reasons she had originally applied to UT-Tyler.
Piya had been selected as a candidate for the Presidential Fellows scholarship program, which would have covered all of her tuition and living exp
enses at UT-Tyler. Unfortunately, one morning, Piya learned her future plans and dreams had been “ripped away” from her, as she said. At that moment, Piya’s thoughts were heart-wrenching. She said she thought she wouldn’t be able to study in the U.S. anymore and that one year of huge effort was all going to waste.
Piya had already paid her confirmation scholarship fee, housing deposit, and most importantly, she had already scheduled a visa interview.
“I was completely baffled,” Piya said. “I stared at my screen for several minutes. I pinched myself to see if it was a dream or if it was really happening because this was completely unanticipated from a U.S. University. It felt like the whole world came crashing down on me. I was in a state of panic and anxiety about what I was going to do about the visa interview date, about my academic career, how I would tell my parents about this situation, if I would even have a university to go to at that point, or if I could even trust another university."
Piya shared that after learning the news, she researched universities exhaustively, trying to find solutions but had little to no luck. “And even if they did take the application, their funding had been depleted,” Piya said.
Piya didn’t know all of the students who were planning to attend UT-Tyler. She only knew three of her high school friends who were joining her this fall but that didn’t stop her from trying to find ways to help the group.
“They’re till new to me but through this process I got to know them and I’m glad I did because they’re an amazing group of people and we looked after each other,” she said.
Piya, along with other affected students, quickly came together to devise a plan on how to find placements for all the students who they knew at the time had been affected. Piya said they formed a Facebook group chat to discuss next steps -- visiting EducationUSA in Nepal and sharing their story on social media under the hashtag #uttylervictims, with the hopes that media would pick it up and make others aware of the situation so that it didn’t happen again to other students. Piya said they also created a form where they collected the details of the students who had been affected, as not all of them had come forward or reached out to EducationUSA.
Piya met with several advisers including Selena Malla, who told her not to give up and that there could still be possibilities.
“Initially I thought there wouldn’t be sympathy,” Piya said. “We’re from a small country, miles away from the U.S. I didn’t think it would lead somewhere but with the news spreading around, people taking measures in higher education to ensure we had options… a miracle started happening. People started stepping forward, universities started to step forward. And there came University of Kentucky.”
When universities came forward to help and going to their extremes, Piya said, the affected students slowly had their trust repaired. “We realized that not all universities will turn out like the UT-Tyler situation,” Piya said.
Malla was one of the main contacts for UK, as Audra Cryder, director of international enrollment at the UK International Center, reached out to the EducationUSA Nepal team via Facebook to offer help.
Cryder messaged Malla and offered a partial scholarship to one of the affected students but she learned those funds weren’t enough to support a one’s full tuition and living expenses. Cryder came back to the drawing board and with the help of the Enrollment Management as well as Asia Payne and Sandy Copher in the Student Financial Aid and Scholarships office, the team was able to pull the resources to assist and help fund one full-ride scholarship.
Piya was one of the students Cryder selected as potential candidate based on a set of criteria including being academically admissible, programmatic fit, leadership and engagement experience and whether the location was a significant factor in making a decision on the university. Malla then verified Piya’s credentials and confirmed UK was a good fit.
“Once we knew that she was interested, we pretty much admitted her within the same working day,” Cryder said. Piya received her acceptance packet in only 10 days. “Everyone worked very quickly and very efficiently,” Cryder added. “It helped that Selena [with EducationUSA] provided all the documents immediately. Anything we needed was right there.”
Piya didn’t know UK in-depth but after researching, she said she knew that UK would be the perfect place for her to explore her research interest in the sciences and the environment, and potentially find solutions to what she sees are pressing and shared issues found in both Kentucky and Nepal.
“UK really came as a knight in shining armor for me,” Piya said. “I’m really grateful to the University of Kentucky and I will try my best to not let anyone down and make you proud of taking me in. I’ll do that by giving back to the university by sharing my culture and being successful in whichever career path I decide to pursue in the end.”
Piya said she’s most excited about being an International Student Ambassador. “It’s an awesome opportunity. I’ll be able to promote my university in my own home country and be able to have students around,” she said.
Cryder is also excited to have her in the program. “Our International Student Ambassador program will definitely benefit from Piya’s great service and leadership experiences,” Cryder said.
So far, 26 out of 61 students have been placed in a university.
Even though things have fallen into place for Piya, she said it is not over because other students are yet to be placed. “I’d like to help them and continue on this mission to finding homes to all of the affected students,” she said.
“I can't thank everyone who has been on board enough to emphasize how much this means to a student who had everything ripped away at the very last moment,” Piya said. “It's terrifying is an understatement. I hope no other student, international or not, ever has to go through something like this."
For more information on the Nepali students who still seek replacement scholarship, or on ways to help, please visit https://sites.google.com/issh.ac.jp/nepalistudentshowyoucanhelp/.