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From Refugee to Global Citizen: One Student's Story of Travel & Triumph

When the MV Explorer left Halifax for its fall 2012 voyage, Yadhu Dhital, a 20-year-old biological sciences student at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, just might have been the most excited student on the ship.

Four years ago, he says, he could have never imagined that he’d be traveling the world–living out a dream he’s had since the age of seven.

Up until 2009, Dhital and his family of seven brothers and sisters lived in a small bamboo house in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, heavy violence and inter-ethnic conflict in Bhutan forced out over 100,000 people. Many, like Dhital and his family, fled to Nepal, but were given no resources initially on which to live.

“My family fled in February of 1992 and moved to Nepal,” Dhital said. “At that time, my parents and brothers lived on the streets. They were homeless; they lived in a plastic tent by the River Mai. I was born in the bank of the River Mai.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees began giving assistance to refugees, and moved Dhital’s family to a bamboo house on government land in a camp alongside of tens of thousands of other refugees.

Living conditions were very poor, and diseases like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis and measles were rampant.

‚ÄúWe had very little to eat, only vegetables and rice,” said Dhital. “I saw many people around me dying because of the conditions.‚Äù

And then one day, while at school within the camp, Dhital saw something that would change his outlook on the world forever.

“When I was seven years old, I saw a globe in my school,” Dhital said. “And that day, I realized the place I was living was not the whole world. I was inside the box until then.”

It wasn’t easy to get here. The UNHCR relocated Dhital and his family to the United States only three years ago, where they first lived in Florida, but found it difficult to get work.

Eventually they were moved again to Pittsburgh, where his father, who speaks very little English, is now working, Dhital said.

Yadhu worked hard to get good grades, and got accepted to the University of Pittsburgh on scholarship. From there, he looked into study abroad programs and was introduced to Semester at Sea. He applied, and was accepted, with a full scholarship.

Though it took Dhital months to obtain visas for the countries we are visiting, he was determined. Now on board the MV Explorer, he’s taking classes to further his biological sciences degree, including his favorite course, infectious diseases. He hopes to one day become a doctor, so that he can work for a non-profit or non-governmental organization and help others.

“Because of my background, I saw many people dying without care and medical assistance,” Dhital said. “I want to be a doctor and hope to be part of some non-profit organization in the future, so that I can help.”

When in port, Dhital is immersing himself as much as he can in the cultures of the 14 different countries we are traveling to.

“I’m finally living my dream,” he said. “I’m seeing the world.”

 Pics provided by Yadhu Dhital. The picture on the top is Yadhu (middle, blue shirt) with his brothers and sisters. 2nd pic, left, Yadhu today; 3rd pic, right, Yadhu age 7 in his village, and the final picture is Yadhu at age 13 in Nepal.

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