By Catherine Donnelly
Pabitra Dahal, BA/MSW ’22, spent her early childhood in a refugee camp in Nepal. She and her family moved to the Buffalo area in 2009 with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"I have to thank my parents for bringing us to Buffalo and for all they did for our family,” said Dahal. “Even though we had very little while I was growing up, my parents always prioritized what we needed to have a better education. They knew that would provide me and my siblings with a more stable future. They encouraged me throughout my educational journey.”
Dahal thought that she wanted to be a nurse after she finished high school. She had participated in the Erie 1 Boces basic nursing program while attending Kenmore West High School.
“I wanted to be in a helping profession, but coming from an immigrant family, I did not have the flexibility of trial and error to explore career fields. I thought nursing was the best choice and it was hard for me during my internships and volunteer work to realize that it was not,” she explained. “After talking to my advisors, I changed my major to social work so I could still help people. Shortly after transitioning to the School of Social Work, I realized it was exactly what I wanted to do."
Dahal ended up completing a five-year combined BA/MSW. Her placements included the Erie County Department of Social Services, where she was able to give back to the community through providing services such as job skills training, daycare, substance abuse treatment monitoring, and integrated employment and training services in the comprehensive employment division.
“Many of my clients had limited English. Since I am trilingual and able to translate between Nepali, Hindi, and English, I was able to help individuals obtain vital services."
Dahal also interned at Buffalo Public School #198 where many students are immigrants and refugees with limited English proficiency.
“While I did not provide therapeutic services in the BPS, I did help students learn coping skills and my immigrant past helped me connect with the people attending the school.”
As a social work student, she enjoyed her classes with Peter Sobota and Deborah Waldrop. “Professor Sobota was fascinated to hear about my experiences as a refugee. It was motivating to be able to share information about my life with my classmates. I will admit that I was a little scared to take classes with Professor Waldrop but I am so glad that I took at least one class with her. She inspired me so much."
Dahal is currently working with Liberty Partnerships Program at Buffalo State College as a program counselor. There she helps to develop and implement interventions and opportunities for students identified as being at risk of dropping out of school. She also interprets for the International Institute of Buffalo.
Her advice to someone considering the program is: “You can do this. Don’t wait for the right time; make the right time. Transitioning into something new is not always an easy task. Throughout my education, I realized that everyone has ups and downs in their lives, but they should learn to focus on the outcomes rather than the obstacles and never give up. Growth is a part of life; things are constantly changing."