Neha Mandhyani

My First Generation Story: Neha Mandhyani

Graduate student Neha Mandhyani came to Lehigh from India to study healthcare systems engineering. She is pursuing her second master’s degree, having already completed a master’s degree in biotechnology from Bangalore University and an undergraduate degree in biotechnology from Veer Narmad South Gujarat University. 

Though her mother had attended college, she got married to her father and never completed her course of study, she says. 

“No one in my extended family has a double master’s degree, or even a master’s degree, and/or has studied in any other country, and here I am, breaking all norms,” says Mandhyani, who is a graduate assistant in Lehigh’s Athletics Department and a program assistant for the Sustainable Happiness Institute (Creative Inquiry + Mountaintop initiative).

Mandhyani says her parents have provided “immense” support in her journey. “I wish to not think of debts I incurred back then, as now I see the future way too bright,” she says, “and it is inspiring to myself coming this far, certainly to everyone who cares for me.”

We asked Mandhyani what advice she’d give her #firstgen self: “It seems you are alone on this journey, but you are not. There are resources and people to help you understand your desire, goal, or even challenges, and it is just a matter of ‘seeking’ help.”

We also asked Mandhyani about what people may not understand about #firstgen students: “We have turmoil in our head concerning choices we need to make: financial, setting the right benchmarks, fear of losing, etc. The list is never-ending. But on the positive side, it makes us the finest of all, ready to deliver 100% even under challenging situations, and we embrace ourselves for what we are and the change we are bringing along with us. ‘We are comfortable even when uncomfortable.’