My name is Arjun Hamal.

Kathmandu, Nepal

Washington, District of Columbia



The interviewee has requested that their story not be shared on social media.

From the political tensions to the lack of job prosperity, my beloved country of Nepal was ridden with corruption. During the early 2000’s, the Maoist Party of Nepal was constantly terrorizing people and as the general secretary of the National Democratic Party, I was in danger. This realization settled after finding out that the vice president of my committee was murdered. Along with him, many of my cousins and friends had also lost their lives due to the Maoist Party. With an 8-month-old daughter and a wife at home, I knew that I had to escape. There was still so much to live for and I had to make sure of it for my family.

I was given an invitation through the Heritage Foundation in the United States to participate in the International Young Democrat Union conference in Washington D.C. Seeing the current political climate, this was my chance to escape. With my president and treasurer, we decided to apply for the B1-B2 visitor visa for the conference, which gave us a month to stay in the U.S. My wife advised me to go as well because she was afraid too. So, on July 17, 2005, I immigrated to the United States with my colleagues. Excitement, sadness, and anxiety were only some of the feelings I was experiencing. The hardest part was leaving my daughter behind because she was so young. I think that in the back of my mind, I was scared that she would forget who I was. Despite those feelings, I tried to be optimistic. Coming from a third-world country, I was excited to see what a first-world country was like. When we landed in the nation’s capital, it wasn’t what I expected at all. With the very few words of English that we knew, we struggled to get directions from people working at the airport. I remember that there were only rotary phones at the airport during that time and none of us knew how to use them. We kept feeding the phone machine coins without rotating the dial. Eventually, we found a taxi driver that looked South Asian. Even though we struggled with English, we were fluent in Hindi. In Hindi, we were able to communicate that we needed a ride. The taxi driver understood and took us to a five-star hotel that was arranged by the conference. I had never stayed in a luxury hotel, so my first impression was already a good start. I remember that our rooms had snacks. There were prices next to them, but we didn’t understand what the numbers meant. We just ate as many snacks as possible and later on, the president found a huge charge to his credit card. While there were funny moments like this, it still shows how unfamiliar we were with this country. After the two-day conference, I moved to Baltimore where I started working at Dunkin Donuts. Working all night shifts, I had a hard time finding time to call my wife and stay in touch with family back in Nepal. It was also challenging to communicate with customers with my limited English proficiency. That barrier made life harder and easier for others to discriminate against me. I constantly felt judged and inferior just because of my race. I always used to hear that America was a “melting pot,” however, it became more evident that diversity wasn’t always welcome. Nevertheless, I continued to work hard and decided to apply for asylum and was granted a longer stay. I was determined to mark my rightful place in this country, regardless of the obstacles I might face.

Eventually, my family was able to immigrate in 2007 and we established a beautiful life. Reflecting on my experiences, I am still proud to say I am an immigrant. The challenges I faced have made me who I am today. For any future immigrants, there will be times when you struggle to find hope. We may not have the same resources as born citizens, but we still have something called perseverance.