Sougat Basnet, a 21-year-old college student from the tiny, mountainous Democratic Republic of Nepal – located between India and China – won a significant lottery last year.
He didn’t receive a check for $1 million. His prize was far more valuable than that.
Basnet has been given a permanent U.S. green card that permits him to live and work in the United States for the rest of his life. It also provides him with a path to U.S.citizenship. The government also is paying for most of his college costs through FASA, the Federal Student Aid program.Those who qualify receive a grant of $5,815 annually.
Compared to many of his fellow students, Sougat probably will never make the football or basketball team. He is slight in stature, closer in size to a Kentucky Derby jockey. His eyes sparkle while his frequent, enthusiastic smile is almost overwhelming. He speaks with almost no accent.
He had completed several years in college in Nepal, but couldn’t transfer many of his credits to the Bluegrass Community and Technical college, although he found classes much more demanding in his native country. Here he carries a class load of 18 credits.
Sougat is just one of the 50,000 men and women who become eligible through the lottery run by the U.S. State Department which it calls its “diversity” program.
Sougat is not the first Diversity Lottery winner we have met. In Southwest Florida we got to know a talented young man named Tomasz, a young Polish immigrant. whose wife was learning English as a second language from my wife, Judy, in a program held at the North Port, Florida library.
Tomasz is skilled in many trades, including tile work, finished carpentry, drywall and construction repair. He also builds fences, His father is a talented stone mason who travels Europe. In fact he is so good we flew Tomasz to Maine to work on our 100-year-old farmhouse.
We were surprised to learn that Sougat lives in a “colony” of some 30 families from Nepal who have become friends and socialize together as well as support one another. That just wasn’t something we had expected to find in Louisville, KY, known for the Kentucky Derby.
Geographically, Nepal is roughly the size of Arkansas, but has a population of 31 million, many times greater than the 4.4 million residents in Kentucky. How did Sougat end up in Louisville, He is there because his father, who paid for his flight to America, has a friend from Nepal who has a home in Louisville.
Not only did his father, a retired government employee specializing in water systems, pay for his son’s airline ticket, he asked his friend to rent a room to Sougat and also help him become acclimated. Sougat now thinks of himself as just another member of that friend’s family. His landlord has a son attending the same college.
expected to do.
There is an Amazon warehouse and distribution center in the Louisville area. Sougat found his first job there, sorting through returned goods to determine their condition.
He had learned enough English to get by in America while attending a private school in Nepal. He arrived here in July of 2015. Socializing with young people his age helped erase any trace of an accent. Sougat does have a cousin, a male nurse, in Seattle. (In Nepal cousins are identified as “brothers,” he notes).
His goal is to launch a career in a technical field when he graduates. There is a shortage of individuals in Silicon Valley with the right training, but he believes there are corporations in Louisville requiring technical skills that will hire him.
Sougat was raised as a Hindu, and there is a temple in Louisville, but he reports he seldom attends.Yet he follows his family tradition. He doesn’t eat beef since cows are considered sacred to those in his religion. Nor does he eat pork.
What does he do for recreation? Hiking in the woods is high on his list and he is enthusiastic about photography. He has purchased a car to drive to class and to work.
Back in Nepal, Sougat has an older sister, Khusbu, a college graduate with a masters degree in the same technical field. She is trained in creating computer chips and is thinking of coming to America. as well. In Nepal training is, he believes, more advanced than that American college graduates get. Nepal colleges focus on the theoretical while here one largely learns practical skills, he explains.
Will Sougat eventually marry an American girl? He feels at 21 it is far too soon to think about that possibility. Besides in Nepal marriages are arranged by one’s parents. Yet he is convinced that if, in time, he finds someone he wants to marry he will receive his father’s approval.