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Dristy Shrestha ’11 talked about the life-changing opportunities she found at Middlebury and concluded her heartfelt remarks with “namaste,” a traditional salutation in Nepal and India.
Listen to Dristy's speech.

In my fast paced-life at Middlebury, often I have what I call “my moments,” when I pause, step out of the present frame and take a look back at my life. To be completely honest, I have a really hard time trying to imagine what I would have been like if I had never been to the UWC and had never made it to Middlebury. I think of my cousins and peers back home, and I can easily see myself taking a traditional/respectable profession like medicine or engineering in order to fulfill the dreams of my parents, having a regular job in Kathmandu, probably even having an arranged marriage soon like most of my friends in Nepal.

You might notice that the imagination in “my moments” has a certain trend—I can only imagine what I would or wouldn’t have done, but I can’t really imagine who I would have been. This is because being a UWC graduate and then a Middlebury student has transformed the deep core of the person I am, how I perceive and think, and what I believe in. It has been a long and beautiful journey, a journey that I consciously committed myself to at UWC, but that I got to continue further and grow at Middlebury. And I would have never made it this far without the UWC Davis Scholars Program.

Something you will hear a lot from most of the UWC students is that the two years they spent at UWC were the best two years of our lives. Indeed, they were. To each of us, those years delivered a unique set of lessons that helped us define what UWC meant to us. Despite the differences and disagreements, we learned what it was like to open our hearts and minds to understand each other and judge someone solely on their actions, regardless of their color, creed, or race. We saw the potential of what the world could be. So we prepared to leave UWC with the hope and mission to make the whole world like a UWC community and accepted this as a personal challenge. As we left the contagious, high-spirited UWC atmosphere, our main challenge was to find ways to apply our UWC ideals and values to real-life situations, outside the UWC setting.

And that is when the UWC Davis Scholars Program gave us the key to open doors—doors that brought us one step closer to our mission. Being a part of this program means much more to me than just being a Scholar who receives a generous scholarship to attend a college that I had never even dreamt of attending when I was in Nepal. And today, I can proudly tell you that coming to Middlebury was the best continuation of UWC that I could have asked for.

The opportunities and resources available at Middlebury have given me more courage to dream idealistic and big dreams and helped me make them come true or get closer to them. The opportunities that Middlebury offers allow us to grow further, develop necessary skills, and gain experience to find ways to achieve our mission in the long run through our academic and career paths. From mastering a new language at Summer Language Schools, to immersing oneself in a foreign culture by studying abroad, to using creativity to define and bring peace in just three months through the Projects for Peace competition, to gaining professional skills at MIIS—the choice is ours.

I bet Ron will agree with me. It is only here where a psychology major is selected as a runner-up in a competition to build a hydropower project and the president of the college takes time to listen to her idea, believes in it enough to grant $10,000 despite the recession.

As an institution that recognizes the role and potential of the UWC experience in global education, I believe Middlebury has additional advantages that contributed tremendously to my growth and learning experience here. This is where I got the chance to connect to other UWC students, collaborate with them and other peers with similar interests and passions. Being a part of this family has been one of the most inspiring and influential forces that has fueled my hope and mission.

More than anything, I am inspired by my fellow students: by their thoughtfulness and their energy, their determination to achieve the dreams they had talked about at UWC, their commitment to making a positive change in the world while pursuing their passions and the ways in which they continue to do their best. Just in this room, right now, present among us, we have an individual who has worked in President Mohamed Nasheed's office in the Maldives, one who has been working with the Chilean National Environmental Commission to make Chilean universities more sustainable, another who has done extensive study on poverty alleviation in China and India, another who has examined the relationship between economic (human) development and religious extremism in Senegal and Mali, and many more.

On a different note, the UWC Davis Program holds a very special place in my family. My father grew up in an orphanage and moved himself up the social ladder purely through his academic achievements. Although I don’t really know much about my ancestors, I am pretty sure that my father is the first one in our family to receive a formal education. Today, he is father of 2 Davis Scholars—actually, I should say three, because my brother, who graduated as one of the first 11 Davis Scholars at Middlebury, married one too. So before I even qualified to become a Davis Scholar, this program had already become an important part of my life.

Today, once again, as a senior now, I find myself back in the same position—of finding new doors to my future, but this time, thanks to the key that the UWC Davis Scholars Program gave me and with the Middlebury education, I plan to open those new doors on my own. And fortunately, I can plan to do this right after college because we have the luxury of graduating from college without loans and debts to worry about.

So today, I would like to take the opportunity to thank this program, Mr. Davis and Mr. Geier for giving us that key that made it possible for us to open all these doors that helped us become the people we are today. We thank you for recognizing our desire and need to grow and for not just making this possible, but helping us achieve it in a great college like Middlebury. Thank you for introducing us to a community with motivated people that embody a precious dream that countless many share—a dream of leaving our planet a safer and happier place for our children. Thank you for giving us the chance to be a part of this community, where we made life-long friendships and from where we shall always draw the additional courage and motivation to overcome hurdles and continue forward.

As we leave this place, we promise to continue dreaming and keep the hope and mission of making the whole world like a UWC through our individual endeavors. I hope that as we graduate, we feel more prepared to let the ripple effect of our UWC and Middlebury education do its magic, be it through Mr. Davis’s "mantra" of “Learn, Earn Return” or a new mantra that we discover in the course of our own life journeys.

Thank you!