A Nepalese Trailblazer in Tauranga

"I always wanted to go to an English-speaking country and my sister-in-law used to live here in Tauranga. I did research and the city reminded me of Pokhara – both are really nice and beautiful cities that are popular local tourist spots."

A Nepalese Trailblazer in Tauranga

Nisha Adhikari Khanal is a bold and brave woman who likes to break all the rules.

Growing up in Nepal with two sisters and a visually-impaired younger brother, Nisha’s mum went outside conventions to make sure her son would always be supported and cared for. Nisha was brought up ‘like a boy’, encouraged to be loud, contrary and independent, because one day she would be the one supporting Bijay.

“When I met my husband, I said to him, ‘if you want to marry me, don’t restrict my study.’” – Nisha

Nothing could stop Nisha from pursuing her education because, as she explains it, as long as she has her education, she has her independence and can therefore take care of not just herself, but her brother too.

Nisha was the first woman to take her university exams just days after giving birth. She was the first of her family to move to Tauranga and set up a new life. And she was one of the first international students to study at EmployNZ.

But Nisha takes it all in her stride because she is, and always has been, a trailblazer.

Life in Nepal

Nisha is from Nepal, a small, landlocked country sandwiched between China, Tibet and India with beautiful scenic mix of mountains, hills and plains. Nisha is from Kathmandu, the capital city with a population of one million. Her family often escaped the busy city to holiday in her favourite lakeside city, Pokhara.

“Growing up, my mum always helped me to be strong. She allowed me to do whatever I want and encouraged me to work hard. I was treated like a son – it was not traditional!”

Nisha loves her younger brother dearly, and has grown up with the understanding that one day supporting her brother will be her responsibility, and this knowledge has shaped her life.

Her younger sister was even married before Nisha – very unusual in her culture – as her priority was always to pursue education which held the key to personal and financial independence that she considers necessary to always support her family.

Starting a family

Nisha’s husband Madhu and his family loved her unconventional manner and strong sense of self, and they assured Nisha they would always support her and allow her to further her studies. IT specialist Madhu went above and beyond his promise, cooking and typing notes for Nisha while she pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology at Kathmandu University.

Not long after marrying, Nisha fell pregnant with their first child, but not even this stopped her from continuing her studies.

“Two days after giving birth, I had to take a practical exam to complete my degree. The exam was five days, for three hours each day.”

Unsurprisingly, she was the first student to ever do this – and of course, she passed.

Nisha went on to work as a tutor at a college preparing cadavers for and teaching anatomy lessons to medical students.

Tragically, when she was eight months pregnant with her second child, Nisha’s mother-in-law passed away suddenly. The family was very close, and this painful life event saw Nisha and Madhu start to think about moving abroad to get away from the daily reminders of their loss.

Moving to Tauranga

Nisha and her husband decided that Nisha would pursue a diploma in New Zealand while Madhu stayed in Nepal with their two young children. As soon as possible, he and the kids would meet her in her new home.

“I always wanted to go to an English-speaking country and my sister-in-law used to live here in Tauranga. I did research and the city reminded me of Pokhara – both are really nice and beautiful cities that are popular local tourist spots.”

It was a massive sacrifice to be away from her family, but one they both saw as worthwhile for the future she would be building them.

“It would not be possible to achieve my dreams without Madhu’s support, love and help. My mum is my role model. My husband is my best friend who makes my dreams come true.”

Studying at EmployNZ

Nisha enrolled in EmployNZ’s Diploma in Health Management Level 7. She started studying the one-year programme and EmployNZ helped her secure a part-time job as a healthcare assistant during her studies.

“EmployNZ was my first choice because of its facilities. I want to know everything about the healthcare industry and with small classes and approachable tutors, I can do that here.”

Nisha’s trailblazing ways continued in Tauranga, as she and an Indian student were the tertiary institution’s first international intakes into the Healthcare Management programme, a position EmployNZ didn’t take lightly.

For her first month in Tauranga, Nisha lived with Pam Hayes, the school’s general manager in charge of pastoral care for international students.

“I felt very comfortable with Pam and it meant I didn’t have to find my own accommodation right away. She took us shopping, took us to the Mount, Rotorua, out for fish and chips. She cooked Kiwi food and I’d cook Nepalese food.”

“Nisha stayed a month as she was very homesick and she’d left a husband and two small children behind in Nepal and I thought I was the best person for her to be with until she established herself with the local Nepalese community.” – Pam

Once Nisha was more settled and familiar with New Zealand life, Pam helped her transition into a home of her own.

Nepalese Community

Finding a local Nepalese community has been a real bonus for Nisha. She connected with the local Nepalese community from the start, having met a helpful Nepalese man who lives in Hamilton on the same flight from Kathmandu to Auckland.

“In Nepalese culture, you connect with each other and help. If you need anything, I’ll help you. We share culture and language, sometimes I go to the Hindu temple in Tauriko. It all helps me feel at home here.” – Nisha

Future pathways through EmployNZ

Nisha graduated and was granted a three-year work visa. She is now searching for her perfect job in Tauranga, meanwhile her family has applied for their visas and are looking forward to joining their wife and mother soon. As Nisha starts her career search, she is excited about the possibilities ahead. She credits EmployNZ with helping her refine her CV for Kiwi employers, prepare for interviews and even help her obtain her two-year work visa after completing her studies.

“I would like to work in healthcare management, or maybe even teach students again.”

Justin Morris, EmployNZ’s General Manager Sales and Marketing, elaborates on how the institution helps international students prepare for a suitable career:

“We help all our international guests find a part-time job while they study and a full-time job once they graduate. Our team of work brokers assist local people find work all the time, so they have very strong connections with local employers.

To prepare students, we offer employment workshops and practice interviews. If spoken English needs improvement, we organise extra English lessons.

Once the student is work ready we identify suitable employment opportunities, and organise the interviews. We have a de-brief after each interview to identify areas for improvement.” – Justin

Future goals as a family

This new phase is also filled with excitement as it means her family is starting to plan to join her. Nisha and Madhu can’t wait to see what the future holds for their family in Tauranga.

“Madhu loves cooking and makes the best Momo – Nepalese dumplings. He’d love to sell them when he’s here, you can’t find them anywhere! He’s also an excellent and passionate photographer, he’d love to work in either of these fields.”

Images of a happily reunited family living in New Zealand with Mum working in healthcare management and Dad running a Nepalese cafe at the Mount or working locally as a photographer may have seemed farfetched just a year ago, but in Tauranga it feels like anything is now possible for the Khanal family.