Waterford — Shenendehowa senior, Shreya Mainalee, is committed to staying true to her roots. The 17 year old was born in Nepal and spent six years in Japan before moving to the states in 2007. Prior to landing in the Shenendehowa School District, Mainalee spent a couple years in the Bronx and in Connecticut.
“I am proud to not have lost my roots and my culture despite living far away from it,” she said. “I’ve seen people who originally come from very different cultures change dramatically once they are physically removed from it, but I have worked at maintaining my integrity, beliefs, and values and not letting my surroundings change my values and beliefs,” she added.
Mainalee, who will turn 18 next month, lives with her parents and 11 year old brother in Waterford. Her father is a software engineer and her mother works part time at Walmart.
After Mainalee was born, her father began studying in Japan, “so the three of us lived in Japan for about six years,” she said. Her younger brother was born once they returned to Nepal. The Mainalee family moved to the states so Mainalee’s father could pursue engineering.
Upon arriving in the states, the Mainalees settled in the Bronx. She said her first year of school in the Bronx was hard since she didn’t know as much English as she originally thought. She said “ I wasn’t really able to talk to anyone and I didn’t have friends for most of fourth grade. Even though I was in an ESL class, it still took time before I was able to talk and make friends.” Though she began to hit her stride in fifth grade.
Today, Mainalee is Vice President of Shenendehowa’s International Club and is involved in Muslim Student Association club and CAPteens, a youth-run branch of CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services. Mainalee said the Muslim Student Association is “meant to encourage more open mindedness and clear up misconceptions about Islam.” She said the club plans to hold a fundraiser for a refugee and immigration center soon. She also hopes to begin volunteering at Beacon Pointe Senior Center soon.
She hopes to study either biology or neurobiology at SUNY Albany and then go on to medical school. “As a doctor, I want to travel the world volunteering and helping out those less fortunate,” she said. From a young age, she realized that many places around the world had inadequate health care and decided “I want to help as a doctor by setting up clinics in poorer places.”
Travelling has always been a major part of Mainalee’s life and she hopes to continue exploring.
Throughout her experiences living in different corners of the world, Mainalee has learned not to take anything for granted, especially education. “I’ve learned to be very thankful for having the opportunity of going to school, which from a young age I realized was not a right granted to everyone,” she said.
“One of the things that I really want to do with my life is to raise money and build momentum towards free education, especially for marginalized groups, like girls in third world countries, in as many places as possible. I would ideally want to start this in Nepal, which is still very close to my heart, and then go on from there,” she explained.
Q & A with Mainalee:
Q: What are you most passionate about and why?
A: In terms of academics, I am really passionate about the sciences, especially biology. I think the human body, and really all of nature and life, is so intricate and fascinating. The sciences are always evolving and the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to know, and I think that’s really exciting. Outside of academics, I am really impassioned by my desire to help others, especially those who have lived difficult, poor, or unhealthy lives. I lived in Nepal for three years and during that time, I would sometimes see or hear about poverty and some people’s struggles and it would always make me wish I could do something to help or make a difference and I still want that.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: In 10 years, I hope to be close to finishing my medical residency. I also hope to have had completed some adventures and travels from my bucket list and to be even closer, physically and emotionally, to my family. I want to be able to give back to my family for every single thing they have done and sacrificed for me and my life and I want to make their lives better and more secure. Lastly, I hope that in 10 years, I will be doing things with the intention of helping others and to create positive changes in the lives of people locally and around the world.
Q: What’s your favorite band or musician?
A: Honestly, I don’t have a favorite band or musician. For the most part, I don’t even listen to American music, other than pop music. I usually listen to things from my own country or from Bollywood. I think that sort of music is more important to me because it was such a huge part of my year living in Nepal and it’s nice to keep the memories alive.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie? If so, why is it your favorite?
A: I’ll definitely always love Disney movies, no matter how old I get! One of my favorite Disney movies is Mulan but some of the other movies I’ve enjoyed in the past include “Forest Gump,” “Good Will Hunting,” “The Karate Kid” and “The Martian.” I watch Bollywood movies much more often. I love Bollywood because I feel like they have a fusion of everything: love, family, conflict, music, scenery, life lessons, and even some cheesiness! My favorite Bollywood movies are also really emotionally moving and inspiring for me, because they are always reinforcing values that I already have, and inspiring me to be a better version of myself and to appreciate life more.
Q: Do you have a favorite book and why is it your favorite?
A: I like a wide range of genres, but one of the books I’ve really loved is something I read awhile back, “Haroun and the Sea of Stories.” It was a simple story, but filled with really smart allusions and really inventive characters. I remember it being a really fun read fit for a wide range of ages. Also, the “Colors of the Mountains,” and “A Long Way Gone,” were books that we recently read in school, and they were both really inspiring and emotional.
Q: Who’s your favorite teacher and why?
A: Well, I actually really like all of my current teachers, so I don’t think I could really pick one favorite. But I remember in 7th grade, my favorite teacher was Mrs.Waterstram. She taught math, and she was a really great teacher. She has been my favorite all these years simply because of who she was. She was a not just really good at teaching math, but she was also really kind, and encouraging, and just the right fit to be teaching young students to love math. She is a large reason that I started trying harder and learning better in math during middle school. And again, she was soo nice!
Q: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
A: It’s really hard to just choose one place! But if I could travel anywhere, I would travel to outer space, to the two planets (Kepler 62 e and 62f) that scientists say is similar to earth. I want to see if life exists there, and if so, how similar are they to earth. Like many other people, the vastness of outer space is very fascinating. It would be unbelievable if I was actually able to travel that far in the universe and explore it.
Q: If you could meet anyone who would it be?
A: I would like to see my late grandfather. He passed away when my family and I were here, in the States, so we hadn’t seen him in three years and we weren’t able to attend the funeral in time, either, so we didn’t really have a chance to say goodbye. The whole thing is actually still unreal to me, because I never saw it with my own eyes. His work and his love for work was inspiring to people around him, and after he was gone, so many people came to acknowledge how great of a man he was and how honestly he did his work. He had so much love for everyone and everything around him and he was just an all around beautiful person. I feel like if he was still here, I would have a lot to learn from him, and now that I’m growing up, I feel like if I could talk to him today, he would inspire me to be more like he was and he would be there to motivate me to constantly try to grow and be a better version of myself.
Q: What were some useful resources while learning a new language growing up?
A: When I was learning English, watching TV helped a lot. I kept watching Disney shows over and over again and I picked up a lot from that. And since I didn’t talk to anyone in fourth grade, due to my English, I had a lot of time to listen to other people speaking English and I ended up learning a lot from there as well. And finally, I read a lot of novels and stories for my grade level, and I read them over and over again, and I ended up learning a lot of vocab and style from that as well.