Professor Spotlight: Shitu Rajbhandari
October 27, 2016
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With a love for writing and a passion for helping others, Adjunct English Professor Shitu Rajbhandari works to spread a love of writing with students and writers across the globe.
Rajbhandari saw the FMU sign while on a day trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with her husband, and she knew she wanted to work here.
She began working in the FMU Writing Center during the 2015 fall semester as a volunteer after coming to Florence, S.C., to visit her husband from Kathmandu, Nepal.
Rajbhandari was not able to work when first coming to the U.S. because she was on a tourist visa, meaning she was only able to volunteer at the FMU Writing Center.
Rajbhandari used this as a way to use her gifts to help others.
“I did not want to stay home all that time because I knew that I could give back, and it’s not like giving back really means you have to get paid for it,” Rajbhandari said. “Sometimes it means doing things for free. Volunteering and doing things for free gives you more satisfaction because the satisfaction is not financial.”
Rajbhandari used the time in the Writing Center to connect with students and faculty within the university.
“It was interesting to go through people’s writing without being someone in the position of authority,” Rajbhandari said. “It was nice to talk to people and get to connect with their writing with no judgments. It was like they came here for help, and I was ready to help them.”
During the 2016 spring semester, Rajbhandari began working as a paid Writing Center tutor and started working as a part-time professor teaching an English 101 class this fall as well as being the assistant Writing Center director.
“I’ve never been around American teenagers,” Rajbhandari said. “Back home when I was teaching, because we grew up in the same culture and environment, there were things I could pull out and give examples, but here sometimes I can only give references about the pop culture. Sometimes I feel that is undermining my students’ intelligence by only making pop culture references.”
According to Rajbhandari, being a nonnative speaker imposes challenges in the classroom.
“I like the challenges that the students bring up,” Rajbhandari said. “Not being a native speaker, I have to sort of up my game a bit in being able to communicate to them and get them to understand.”
Rajbhandari said that she enjoys the open discussion and dynamics encouraged by the American classroom, rather than the authoritative classroom from her education in Nepal.
“What I enjoy about the classroom setting here is the back and forth, the discussion,” Rajbhandari said. “It’s not like the teacher knows best or the teacher knows all; that attitude is not there. This is a good thing. It gives the students a platform to share their ideas.”
Apart from her time at FMU, Rajbhandari hopes to one day travel back to Nepal and open a writing center that focuses on creative writing and personal growth.
“If we could have a physical space for people to come in and say ‘I want to write; teach me to write,’ or ‘this is something I’ve written; what do you think about it,’ that would be helpful for people,” Rajbhandari said. “That’s where the idea came from. Because I didn’t have it I wanted other people to have it.”
Rajbhandari said that she wants the writing center to be unaffiliated with a university and focus on helping the public with writing.
“It’s only about pushing somebody or a young, aspiring writer, in the right direction to enjoy writing,” Rajbhandari said. “I believe in Nepal. There is a need for a space where you write not to be graded, not for a score, not for a degree; you write just for the sake of writing. It’s a good thing, this idea of writing to communicate, writing for creative release or writing just to write.”
Rajbhandari continues to write and tutor out of a love for the writing process itself.
“I strongly believe in the power of words,” Rajbhandari said. “I strongly believe in the power of writing. That’s something I know I can give. Being able to write and being able to help people with writing is something I am good at. So whether I am getting paid or not, I am willing to do that.”