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Student from Nepal Finds Her Niche at ESF

Jyotika ‘Nicci’ Shah plans career in water quality
4/4/2017

Jyotika "Nicci" Shah came to ESF as a first-year student from her home 7,400 miles away in Kathmandu, Nepal. But, despite the distance and differences in cultures, she said she never really felt out of place; instead, she felt like she was part of a family.

Before she arrived on campus, ESF's strong science programs and affordability had swayed Shah to travel to the United States for the first time and pursue a degree in environmental science. Shah had not visited the campus before arriving in Syracuse for her freshman year. Everything she knew about the college she had learned online, reading reviews and browsing through photos.

"(ESF) was smaller than I expected it to be," Shah said, "But that wasn't a bad thing - I appreciate how close everything is."

When she was admitted to ESF, Shah emailed the school to inquire about scholarship funding, describing herself as a hard worker who was deeply interested in the environment. She later received an ESF National Scholarship that has served as a dependable source of support, she said. "I thought 'Wow, someone is actually listening to me,'" she said. "I really appreciated that."

Shah, now a senior, said she adjusted well to life in the U.S. and at ESF. Her brother and father both attended college in the U.S. and while she was growing up in Nepal, she and her family watched American television shows, including "Friends" and "Seinfeld," which gave her an idea of what to expect in this country.

Throughout her time at ESF, Shah said she has made friends from various cultures. She said she notices a difference in topics of conversation and group dynamics between her friends from home and her friends in the U.S., but she appreciates the cultural differences. During her first year the Baobab Society, a campus organization dedicated to promoting a culturally conscious community, helped her feel welcome to the community.

Shah also works for the ESF Annual Fund - a job she has held since her junior year. There, she calls alumni to solicit donations for the college. It was weird to ask for money at first, she said, but she grew to enjoy having conversations with alumni. She enjoyed chatting with them and hearing about their accomplishments.

During Spring Break, Shah participated in the ESF alternative spring break program that involved volunteering with A Tiny Home for Good, an organization that provides safe housing for those facing homelessness. She and other ESF students helped renovate and build houses in the Syracuse area, and they weren't fazed by the storm that dumped two feet of snow on Syracuse.

"Despite the snow and being tired, everybody really wanted to do this," Shah said. "The only complaint was that one day there was a snow day, and we couldn't volunteer."

To balance schoolwork with activities and friendships, Shah said she works until she feels like she needs to take a break and see her friends, but acknowledged that she is still working on her time management skills. It also helps to be surrounded by other motivated students.

"Everybody is here with a similar motive of doing something good," she said. "I appreciate people who are motivated by doing something positive."

Shah hopes to have a career that pertains to water quality assessment and treatment - something she developed an interest in while at ESF - but she plans to attend graduate school first. Now in her final semester at ESF, Shah said she has come to appreciate the school even more than at the beginning of her college career. She feels that the courses she has taken supplement one another, she said.

"It is all coming together and it makes sense," Shah said. "You definitely learn what you need to know and in a way that you can apply it anywhere."

- By Taylor Watson SU '19