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First-generation student’s videos capture honest, guiding glimpse of college life

Rising second-year anthropology student Binisha Dahal runs a YouTube channel through which she aims to depict the reality of the college experience. She provides tips on productivity, her daily activities and personal Q&As about UCLA. (Lauren Man/Daily Bruin)

By Julie Lee

Aug. 11, 2019 10:40 p.m.

Binisha Dahal spent her senior year of high school making YouTube videos.

The rising second-year anthropology student runs a YouTube channel with over 8,000 subscribers and makes content surrounding college life, including tips on productivity, her daily activities and personal Q&As about UCLA. She also incorporates her own interests such as makeup and fashion into these college-themed videos.

Dahal, hailing from the South Asian country of Nepal, was expected to adhere to certain cultural expectations that disallow unconventional career paths, said Babin Dahal, Binisha Dahal’s older brother and a marketing advisor. Nepalese children who come to the United States are assumed to follow the typical career path of a doctor or lawyer, he said.

However, when Binisha Dahal expressed to her brother that she wanted to explore a more creative career path, he bought her her first camera.

“That made me really proud, even though she was really nervous,” Babin Dahal said. “I thought it was awesome that she knew what she really wanted because at the end of the day, you’re going to find success in what you’re passionate about.”

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Like Babin Dahal, UC Davis student Hajiran Rehman, who is occasionally featured in her videos, was proud when Binisha Dahal told her about her YouTube channel. Like Babin Dahal, Rehman was also supportive in Binisha Dahal’s decision to explore her imaginative side, participating in shopping challenges with her in a video titled “Best Friends Buy Outfits For Each Other! Shopping Challenge 2017.”

“I wasn’t surprised upon hearing about her YouTube channel because she was always creative and outgoing,” Rehman said. “I was more surprised that she didn’t start making videos sooner.”

Before she started classes at UCLA, Binisha Dahal’s videos ranged from beauty and fashion to vlog-style videos. She made a video titled “Back To School High School Advice,” which includes her tips on how to succeed in high school.

However, when trying to find guidance for filling out financial aid documents and college applications, Dahal said it was difficult because she is a first-generation college student without access to helpful resources. In her video “First Gen UCLA Student Reacts to Olivia Jade College Scandal,” Dahal touches on the difficulty of navigating through the college application without the guidance of hired counselors and tutors.

Similar to her creating an advice video on entering high school, Dahal said she started to make videos regarding her college admissions experience. Her video “How I Got Into UC Berkeley!” includes insight into her grades, standardized test scores and tips on how to stand out as an applicant. Dahal said grades and test scores do matter, but without personality, an applicant may be grouped with all other applicants that have the same outstanding scores.

“Not everyone has an older sibling that has already gone through college,” Babin Dahal said. “Her videos can help first-generation college students like us, or students who don’t have the resources.”

After choosing UCLA over UC Berkeley, Binisha Dahal began her college life and found that life as a first-year college student was not always as encouraging as she originally imagined. Her second most popular video, with over 150,000 views, “A Day in the Life of a UCLA College Student,” includes footage capturing scenes on campus, such as students climbing up Bruin Walk, professors teaching in lecture halls and dining hall food.

Dahal said it is important for students to see a holistic perspective of the college lifestyle.

“I realized that thinking back to when we were applying to UCLA, we would’ve loved to see those type of videos showing what it’s actually like to be a student there,” Dahal said. “If you go on the website, or on UCLA’s YouTube page, there is this optimal view of the college life, and it doesn’t feature negative aspects, like the mental breakdowns.”

[RELATED: Students express artistry with original makeup looks on social media platforms]

Dahal said she wanted to give her audience a realistic view of college, incorporating experiences such as going to college parties and comparing oneself to other students, as college encompasses more than academics alone. She said she wants to make sure that her audience can see what the life of a Bruin is truly like.

Her video “A Week In the Life of a UCLA College Student” includes clips of her venting to the camera about her midterm grades. In another video titled “College Q&A: UCLA Edition,” Dahal discusses how difficult it is to avoid comparing her skills and intelligence to the students around her.

“I don’t want to script my videos, or make them too planned out,” Dahal said. “I’d rather make it as real as possible so people actually get a realistic look into college and everything that comes with it.”

Dahal said the most important aspect of her work is the impact that she can make on others through her YouTube channel. Because she has already gone through the transition from high school to college, Dahal said she wants to motivate and inspire younger students who are currently working to get into their dream colleges.

“Now that college decisions are out, people have reached out saying that they’ve watched my videos since they were in high school, and now they’re going to be attending UCLA in the fall,” Dahal said. “People thank me for inspiring them to work hard and for showing them what’s on the other side because they used that as motivation.”

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Julie Lee
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