– Story by Rachel Stone, UNM Physical Plant Department

Nestled just north of India and south of China is a country called Nepal, a place located in the Himalayan region of the globe. Aakash Basnet, a first year UNM student in the College of Engineering, moved to New Mexico in January from Katmandu, Nepal and works as a student employee for UNM Recycling.

Basnet described the last several months in America as culture shock. “I had never been on a plane before and the people are so different here.”

Growing up, Basnet was taught a lot about community, harmony, and taking care of one another. “It’s hard for me to see the homeless people sleeping on the street and not helping them! When I first got to America I was shocked to see people walking by a homeless person and not giving them food. This doesn’t happen in my country.”

When the earthquake hit Nepal in April of this year, Basnet was suddenly struck with the idea of coming home to assist his family and their paper product business. The 7.8 magnitude quake rocked the country and devastated many homes, lives, and businesses. Basnet said the homes in Katmandu are made of concrete and could crush inhabitants if the aftershocks were strong enough. Because of this fact, many residents didn’t enter their homes for months because of the aftershocks. Basnet’s family lived in a government provided tent for two months while they waited for the aftershocks to subside.

“It took me a few days to contact my family after the earthquake. I was so worried about them. Once I knew they were safe, I wanted to come home to help them, but my father wouldn’t let me. He told me that I needed to stay in America to get my education in order to bring back skills to improve Nepali life. I listened to him.”

Working for UNM Recycling has taught Basnet a lot about sustainable living and the importance of recycling in today’s modern world. Right now, he’s thinking about using his engineering degree to improve recycling operations in Nepal.

“In Katmandu, the community recycles, but it is not done regularly or on an industrial scale. There is a need in Katmandu for more organized recycling efforts, and I think I can help with this after I get my degree. Maybe I will even start my own recycling business.”

Even though Basnet describes Albuquerque’s weather as “too hot and too cold,” he says that he has learned a lot from being here. “The UNM Recycling employees have helped me learn American culture, and I’m slowly feeling more comfortable with being so far away from home. I miss my family, my culture, my friends, but I know that whatever I learn here I will take back home to improve the life of my family and community.”