ROADS: Education Provides Opportunity

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The United States is known abroad as a land of opportunity, a land of freedom, a place where people can enjoy the fruits of their labor and receive a solid education — no matter what caste they are born into.

“I came here to pursue an education and a better life,” said Rupen Shah, an attorney and professor at Blue Ridge Community College. Shah, who resides in Augusta County, immigrated from India more than 20 years ago. “I had four degrees back home,” Shah said. But once in the United States his goal was to become a lawyer — and he did. Shah`s wife, Shruti, who is from Bombay, India, also holds a bachelor`s degree.

Others, like the Parekhs, finished their education in their native
land and had to pass medical boards in order to practice here. Jayashree and Shashank Parekh had been trained as doctors of radiology in India. Shashank Parekh`s brothers had settled in Staunton and he wanted to be close to them.

Some immigrants from this region receive their early education from both countries. Hipal Dobariya was raised in Canada and India. He studied accounting and computer science in India. He came back to the United States and became a software engineer, but when the computer market softened, his job was eliminated.
“I had a friend in Staunton, so I moved here,” Dobariya said. “But in my heart I want to be in India.”

Most of Dobariya`s family is back home. He said that if his mother asked him to return he would gladly go. “But she wants me to stay here, where there is more opportunities.”

Prajeep Adhikari is thankful to have come to the United States from Nepal. He had a degree and a good job back home, but he relocated for his children.

“I want them to have a good opportunity,” Adhikari said. “A job after they finish college.”

Rachna Patel`s parents, like the Adhikaris, came to the United States from India, via Great Britain, so their three daughters could be educated here.

“They felt that education was superior here,” said Patel, an ophthalmologist, who has degrees from Yale and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Patel did her internship at the University of Virginia, liked the area and came across the mountain to work at Augusta Medical Center. Her sisters both continued their education; one became a lawyer and the other a nurse.

John Lall was a pharmacist in India, passed his boards and practiced in California. He moved to Staunton when his wife, a doctor, obtained a job at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. Lall, who sells real estate now, thoroughly enjoys the Valley. Both he and his wife Madhu, are natives of India.

There are many reasons to come to the United States. Krishna Pradhan came for the wealth of opportunities. Pradhan, who co-owns a store in Staunton but resides in Waynesboro, has a high school degree from Nepal.

“Within a week I had a GED in the states,” Pradhan said.
Many immigrants from Nepal and India compare their high school education with college education in the United States. In Nepal and India, education is only free in elementary school. After that, the student must pay, as well as pass exams in order to continue to the next grade.

“My father always insisted that I take my exams in India,” said Dobariya, who spent most of his school years in Canada. His father would take him back to India each year to learn and take exams.

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