What a journey: There was danger in this doctorate
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Leeches, earthquakes and multiple days of dangerous travel by foot aren’t the typical obstacles that come to mind when completing a doctoral dissertation.
“It was a very tough journey,” Ghale said. “There were all kinds of problems I had to go through.”
A little more than seven years ago, the Nepal native found Grand Canyon University’s website while researching quality Christian universities and became GCU’s first international doctoral learner. Having access to an online program made it possible for him to complete his degree in his home country, but he had to overcome a lot to access that convenience.
Ghale’s home village of Barpak, which sits on top of a mountain in Gorkha, Nepal, doesn’t have the same access to resources that many in the United States take for granted. His computer selection was limited, and he didn’t have reliable internet access and electricity, which led to multiple interruptions.
Something as simple as a windstorm could result in a loss of access to his coursework.
“It’s very difficult to access the modern possibilities,” he said. “The problem we had was that I needed fast internet to load the GCU website. I would go to other places and it was hard to load … it takes a lot of space and memory. That was tough.”
On top of internet struggles, Ghale had to take two semesters away from his studies early in his program after an earthquake ravaged his village, ultimately resulting in the loss of his mother, family home and many relatives.
Still, he persisted.
But there was a new set of unforeseen struggles when he made it to the next phase of his program – his dissertation.
Titled “Understanding the Potential Economic Contribution of Wild Forest Products in Northern Gorkha, Nepal,” Ghale’s research aimed to contribute to the local economy and benefit the people of the mountain.
How would he do this? By getting an appointment to speak with the local leaders of the different parts of Gorkha.
Sounds simple, right?
“It was very difficult to get an appointment,” Ghale said. “I requested many times — not one time, maybe a thousand times.”
His persistence eventually paid off, and he got the appointments scheduled. But then he ran into his second issue with the data-collection process.
“There’s no motor access and there’s no road access. I had to walk,” he said.
Some destinations required a day of walking. For others, it was three to four days of travel by foot … sometimes up and down steep mountains … in the rain.
“If you miss one step, your life is gone,” Ghale said. “The trail was slippery, and you cannot see the trail because of grass has grown up at the time. You had to be very careful.
“It was very difficult.”
As if that weren’t enough, he had to deal with Nepali leeches, which are blood-sucking, parasitic worms.
The weather that comes with traveling through the thick vegetative jungle during monsoon season (mid-June to September) is known to be favorable to the leeches. These small land leeches are known to be able to crawl through holes in shoes, and he frequently had to stop and to use salt to detach them from his flesh.
“There were lots and lots of problems. Sometimes I even cried,” he said. “My body is quite healthy, but it was very difficult to walk.”
But again, he persisted.
When he finally arrived at a destination, he often faced language barriers and a lack of archival data, which further prolonged his dissertation. What Ghale initially anticipated would take two years turned into five. But this summer, Ghale’s dissertation finally was completed and signed by CDS Dean Dr. Michael Berger.
Not surprisingly, considering how much effort it took to earn his doctoral degree, Ghale has no shortage of big plans moving forward.
“In the past, I used to work for my own benefit, to make money,” he said. “Now I want to do something that helps the mountain people.”
Up in the mountain villages, it could take days of travel to reach the nearest primary school or hospital. Ghale hopes that by helping stimulate the economy he can change that.
“I want to help those kids,” he said. “Education is our backbone. It can open our eyes to see the world in a different way so that we can understand ideas and how to improve our livelihood.
“My job is to promote them, to equip them, to empower them, to encourage them to send their children to school. If they get sick, I encourage them to go to the hospital.”
With such limited access to education in Nepal, having a doctorate brings a level of respect to Ghale that few in his country get to experience. It is a blessing that he has no intention of wasting.
“I want to use this respect, this credential for the benefit of the mountain people,” he said. “That is my purpose; that is my aim. Otherwise, this degree is worthless.
“Maybe in the future they will also get the opportunity to go to the (United) States to get higher education, because to get higher education in the States is very hard for us.”
Now that his doctoral journey has come to a close, the hardships he endured along the way stand as a testament to his resilience.
“I definitely feel proud,” he said. “I really appreciate the GCU team and the opportunity that GCU has given me.”
Ghale plans to venture to Phoenix with his wife for his Commencement ceremony this fall. Despite the distance, it will be a much easier trip than what he endured to earn his degree.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].