Name: Pratikshya Bhandari

Hometown: Kathmandu, Nepal

Title: Investment risk management specialist

Business: Northwestern Mutual

Pratikshya was 18 when she packed two suitcases and left home, bound for a place more than 7,000 miles away that she had never seen in person.

“My first impression of Lakeland did not do it justice,” the 2011 Lakeland graduate says today. “It was raining and gloomy. But I told myself, for better or worse, this is where I’m going to be.”

Like many international students, Pratikshya experienced a bit of culture shock early. After all, her densely populated hometown has about 1 million people, who inhabit just over 200 square miles. Sheboygan County has just over 100,000 people, comfortably scattered across more than 500 square miles. “Now when I go home to Nepal, it’s too loud and bustling for me,” she says with a laugh.

Academically, Pratikshya shined at Lakeland, earning a bachelor of arts in international business. She then earned a master’s of science in applied economics at Marquette University before landing her fulltime job at Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee.

While she stresses that Lakeland fully prepared her scholastically, she says the social experience had the biggest impact on her development as a person. Two of the classmates she met during freshman orientation remain among her best friends, and that was just the start of her social investment in Lakeland. During her time here, she was involved in the Global Student Association, International Food Fest, Habitat for Humanity, Lakeland’s community service group and the student newspaper. She also enjoyed Friday movie nights with friends and worked as an assistant in the president’s office.

“The first time I turned on a stove was at Lakeland College,” she says. “School doesn’t teach you things like that, people do. It was the personal touch that mattered so much to me. I felt valued there. The people at Lakeland College made sure I was well-positioned to face the future.”

She strongly recommends Lakeland College to prospective international students, recalling the time she had lunch with her friends and noticed there were students from seven countries at the table.

As for that shaky first impression of Lakeland College, it’s a distant memory.

“I’m still in touch with professors and students,” she says. “When I think of Lakeland, I think of the great people. It’s the people who make the place.”