For Anusha Karki ’24, communities are intricate layers of people, resources, opportunities, and identities. For migrant domestic workers, these communities are essential to creating new lives in new lands. Yet the tireless childcare, caregiving, and other household responsibilities they provide behind closed doors often go unrecognized, as do their stories.

As the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Karki will spend the coming year researching what she has referred to as “the hidden help.” Specifically, she plans to explore migrant domestic labor, community-building, and humanitarianism in four countries: the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Cyprus, and Australia. The national fellowship, awarded to graduating seniors from 41 partner institutions, grants recipients $36,000 to pursue academic topics of their own design.

It’s an honor that Karki didn’t expect to receive.

Anusha Karki ’24

Major: Sociology
Hometown: Elmont, NY
High School: High School for Health Professions and Human Services

“It felt so far out of my reach until I took that risk,” she said. “People around me believed in me more than I believed in myself.”

Karki’s years of involvement in leading mentorship and dialogues with peers, improving awareness of immigrant populations, and examining structural and intersystemic inequalities speak for themselves. As a high school student, she volunteered with her mother, who has been a nanny since immigrating to the United States from Nepal, at Adhikaar, a New York-based nonprofit that organizes Nepalese-speaking communities around promoting human rights and social justice.

As a pre-med-turned-sociology student at Hamilton, Karki has delved into the complex relationships between healthcare and refugee resettlement, integration, and policy. Interning at Emmaus House in Utica, N.Y., through Hamilton’s COOP Service Internship Program and connecting one-on-one to refugees while studying global health in Switzerland and Morocco affirmed her focus on service work. Yet Karki strove to comprehensively understand the migrant domestic worker experience from start to finish.

“I’ll have an understanding on an international level that will give me a domestic understanding of how and why.”

“This is something worth exploring, and it’s under-researched,” she realized about her project. Her friends and mentors agreed. Brenda Davis, associate director of Hamilton’s Opportunity Programs, immediately encouraged her to apply for the Watson. Assistant Professor of Anthropology Julie Starr offered her readings on various countries to inspire her, and Career Advisor Virginia Dosch and Student Fellowships Coordinator Lisa Grimes lent their assistance in every step of the competitive application and interview process.

Karki will travel first to the Philippines, a critical “sending” country, to gain insight into migrant domestic workers’ pre-departure training and eventual reintegration efforts. Next, she will visit three “receiving” countries. In the UAE, she will volunteer with the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children to investigate contract regulations, community aid networks, and workers’ means of sustaining cultural ties. By shadowing community organizers and continuing to volunteer in Cyprus and then Australia, she will study work-life balance, multiculturalism, and activism.

Fellowships & Scholarships

Each year our students compete favorably for some of the country’s most prestigious and competitive national fellowships and scholarships for international study, travel abroad, and research.

Above all else, Karki aims to foster organic connections. She identified contacts from a range of backgrounds, including community organizers, academics, and individuals who are expats residing and working in local contexts. She expects to have fulfilled her goals when she leaves a mark wherever she goes and with whomever she engages.

Of course, she also plans to enjoy her time abroad by trying unfamiliar foods, meeting new friends, and embracing being a tourist. With a commitment to collaboration and a healthy dose of enthusiasm and adaptability, Karki is ready for the challenges of living and learning in multiple communities. And, when she returns, “I’ll have an understanding on an international level that will give me a domestic understanding of how and why,” she said.

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