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Image courtesy of Bloom Nepal School

From Saadiyat to Kathmandu: One NYUAD Alumnus Changing Education in Nepal

Following the unconventional, Chandan Mishra, Class of 2019, returns home to generate impact on the education system, pushing students to chase their dreams.

Oct 5, 2019

In April 2019, Chandan Mishra, NYU Abu Dhabi Class of 2019 Alumnus, had a decision to make. Like many NYUAD students, Mishra had been offered a lucrative job in Dubai upon graduation. According to Mishra, “the pay was good and everything would have been comfortable.” On paper, accepting the job offer should have been a no-brainer.
However, Mishra desired something more than money and comfort. As he describes it, he “felt a calling to give back to the community.” For four years prior to his graduation, he spent his summers teaching underprivileged children at Bloom Nepal School, a non-profit school initially established by a former high school classmate. Rather than joining the corporate world as a civil engineer, Mishra decided to return to Nepal as the Executive Director of Bloom Nepal.
As Mishra acknowledges himself, this was not a conventional decision. “Not many people who are educated at a college like NYUAD on a full scholarship choose to return [to their homes] and I just decided to give this a shot and see how it goes.”
While this may have been a difficult choice, it does not compare to the adversity that Mishra and Bloom Nepal faced in 2015. Shortly after Mishra joined the school, Nepal was struck by a deadly earthquake that killed around 9,000 people and destroyed much of the country’s critical infrastructure.
“Our building … collapsed. One of the security people died as well … [the] transportation network within the country was severely affected. So we were not in a position to send the students back to their home,” recounted Mishra. “We decided to relocate to an entirely different place for which we had the students stay in makeshift camps … made from tarps and tents … We operated the school within those premises while at the same time, the teachers, the founders and the staff of the school manually worked in … [constructing] semi-permanent buildings.”
Such challenges did not stop Bloom Nepal from attempting to fundamentally change the Nepali education system. With the articulation of a longtime professor, Mishra described the school’s pedagogical vision:
“[I have learned that] every child is special, which is a conventional thing – I mean, everybody says that, but I got to see it practically. For instance, in countries like Nepal, there is a prescribed set of curriculum and everyone has to follow that. And, as a result … if you are not good at maths, you are forced to follow that subject anyways … But then say you are good at music, for instance – they don't have the right environment … Some students are good at a particular thing and some others at something else. We just have to provide the right kind of environment and Bloom aims to do just that.”
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Image courtesy of Bloom Nepal School
When Mishra discusses Bloom Nepal, it is hard to miss the parallels with NYUAD. Like NYUAD, Bloom Nepal aims to educate students regardless of socio-economic standing.
“Around 25 to 30 percent of our kids are on scholarships and most of them are on full scholarships … So, some come from very humble economic backgrounds,” Mishra said. “We also provide scholarships to earthquake-affected families or students who are marginalized. For instance … in the Nepalese community, the idea of caste is still there … We are trying to promote equality by providing educational opportunities to people from the so-called lower castes.”
In addition to this emphasis on economic and social justice, Mishra is also particularly proud of Bloom Nepal’s diversity.
“Nepal is a diversified country. And back now in our school we have students from more than 55 districts. And in the near future, we are aiming to cover all the 77 districts of the country,” Mishra noted. “Our students speak … more than 15 languages, come from different religions and cultures, and I think getting them together in one point to study in a residential setting would mean the kids would grow up with knowing the entire country during the process of their education.”
Despite his own personal decision, Mishra does not necessarily believe that returning is the only way that NYUAD graduates can contribute to their home countries. He did, however, argue that it is important to return in order to make a long-lasting impact if the system is not functioning well.
“Unless we come and take the lead ourselves, like, we cannot expect people who haven't seen a well-functioning system to fix the things that are not right,” Mishra added.
As for Mishra’s definition of a “well-functioning system,” one need not look far beyond Saadiyat Island. He explained that the most important thing he learned at NYUAD was the idea of respect, where individuals peacefully coexisted irrespective of national origin, language and culture.
“Everyone has an equal opportunity to flourish in the field of their interest. And, you know, like, it's such a beautiful environment,” said Mishra. “It kind of made me think of the larger picture – on how we can all help make the world a similar place [to] Saadiyat.”
Abhyudaya Tyagi is Features Editor. Email him at
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