Since establishing herself as a volleyball player at a tender age of thirteen, there really has been no turning back for Sipora Gurung. Born into a military family, Gurung describes her childhood as an active one and she comfortably states that she was physically fit from a young age. The recent #10YearChallenge also gave us a glimpse of Sipora when she was a child decked out in Manchester United football kit gifted by her father. The very photo also appeared on BBC Nepali’s coverage of the social media trend.
As a sportsperson, Sipora won many medals with her team and received recognition from Nepali volleyball fans from a young age. She became the youngest player at the 10th South Asian Games in Sri Lanka, playing for Nepal at the age of 13. After an unfortunate knee injury during a volleyball match when she was eighteen, the trajectory of Sipora’s life and long-term career started to change. During the downtime away from volleyball, Sipora participated at Nepal’s biggest beauty pageant Miss Nepal in 2013. Gurung shares how her supporters were apprehensive in learning about her participation at Miss Nepal. She also went onto do a Gurung film Ghalek followed by Yamphawati and Bhui Manchhe. Whether it be sports or cinema, Sipora has a “star” written all over her life.
Though far away in USA, her photos continue to be liked and discussed by many and even featured on BBC Nepali so while she’s comfortably tucked away from Nepal, I virtually sit down for an Ek Chin With… to find out what exactly is keeping Sipora Gurung busy.
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Disclaimer- Not really a #10yearschallenge 😜 It was almost 14 years ago when I was first introduced to #Volleyball . Instead of buying me Barbie and snoopy, my baba used to buy me volleyballs, footballs and badminton . When I asked my baba about this, baba always replied to me ‘ I wanted to raise you like a “𝓢𝓸𝓷”Baba used to love @davidbeckham and @manchesterunited then as much as I do now. Maybe I am influenced by him or may be not. He used to buy me Manchester United’s jersey while I was training for Volleyball. Coming back home from School at 4 pm and getting ready for the training by 430 was my daily schedule. @goldstar_shoes shoes has always been my best companion ever since I was introduced to sports in my early childhood. My school had a strict rule ‘ Goldstar in every Sports activities’ but We were never sponsored by Goldstar 😜 What a pleasant flash back. Situations are definitely different now but #DREAMS are still the same. #volleyballdreams
LEX: Sipora! It has been such a long time. How has your US stay been so far?
SIPORA: Hey Lex! I know it has right. I am learning a lot inside the class and outside in the real world too. Encountering with completely different situations and learning new things every day. I have always stayed far from home ever since I was a child from boarding schools to volleyball tournaments…always travelling around but I have never been far from home for this long. I miss home, food cooked by my baba and miss my family but other than that life is good. 😉
LEX: Ah!! Nothing like home comforts. So what takes you to America if I may ask?
SIPORA: I am doing nutrition science as my major & taking exercise physiology courses as well. So mostly taking science classes and you know how that goes, that is also the sole reason I have been using social media very less these days. I am working on my dreams.
LEX: That’s superb! It must be a huge change for you as well. What are few things you really enjoy about being there?
SIPORA: First thing I would say are the highways here. I love driving and for me whenever I am happy or sad hitting the road is one of the best therapies there is. Second would be travelling. America is very big and diverse. I really enjoy visiting different states and experiencing diversity. I have already been to fourteen states and excited to experience more. America is the world. You can find little Asia and Europe inside here. A third has to be that nobody recognizes me here, so I can get ready in ten minutes, put on the moisturiser and sunscreen and am able to walk confidently without makeup everyday which is a rare case if I am in Nepal.
LEX: Interesting! Does that mean you are different when you are in a place where people recognise you compared to when you are somewhere where no one recognises you?
SIPORA: Though I am not a huge make up person, it does take time to get ready… having to think what I want to wear when I am going to large functions where people would recognize me. Having said that it doesn’t mean I wear whatever to places where people would not recognize me. Of course I can easily wear joggers and polos to classes as many don’t recognize me here but when I do go to large Nepali functions I do keep in mind about what I wear and how I look 😉
LEX: Cool! I can make sense of that. You already talked about missing home food and when you do miss Nepal, is there anything that you do?
SIPORA: My mom calls me every day. We talk for hours and she teaches me how to cook Nepali ghar ko khana. I think once you start living abroad you miss Nepali food the most. Lex I am sure you agree with me on this one. Simple things like beautiful sunset and a moon in the sky changes my mood. I glaze into sky for hours. But when I need a kick off, I put my headphones on and listen to ‘Thunder’, ‘Radioactive’, and ‘Believer’ by Imagine Dragon.
LEX: I definitely hear you there! Many people follow you and for those that are looking to move overseas what advice would you give to someone who is leaving Nepal and moving to USA?
SIPORA: Come with a willingness to learn and explore. Make your heart and mind strong. Be ready to face many surprises. Most of the things that you are going to experience will be for the very first time. Be ready to enjoy the power of freedom but don’t get carried away.
LEX: We’ve read and heard so much about your journey as a volleyball player! You’re a star in that arena but please share with our readers when you started learning the sport?
SIPORA: I am one of the privileged Nepali athletes who got an opportunity to train volleyball professionally at the age of eight. Even before that my baba, who is not a professional coach started playing and teaching various outdoor sports to me. I don’t remember but I was probably around 3 or 4 years when we started our daily morning jog. I was always a sporty girl from childhood.
LEX: You are away from volleyball and Nepal, what do you do now during your free time?
SIPORA: I am far from Nepal but definitely not far from volleyball. I think volleyball is not limited inside the court. I am working on something bigger behind the scene. Lex, you’ll be the first one to know. Every time I get a chance, I go see new places, visit a new restaurant and explore new things. America is a huge open book and I am experiencing each page slowly and I am loving it. Just enjoying the mid-twenties of my life 100%.
LEX: Where do you see yourself five years later?
SIPORA: Haha! Interesting question. I don’t have a long-term plan. I mean I do have it but currently I am super focused on my short-term goals which will eventually lead me to my long-term goals. For now, I want to say I will have at least 2 degrees on my hand and working in the field I love.
LEX: Your use of social media has gone down since you left Nepal, why do you think that is?
SIPORA: The one and only reason is my studies. I entirely changed the field of my education from business to science. So, it is pretty tough for me. I spend a large hour of my day for research and revise which directly affects my social media use. Maintaining good grades is a pressure too. I was always good in my studies and I don’t want to disappoint my family and myself too. I have taken large credit classes to finish my course as soon as possible which takes extra hours of study every day.
LEX: When you introduce yourself to someone in US for the first time, what do you say?
SIPORA: I always say, Hi I am Sipora and I am from Nepal. And I always question them on whether they know Nepal? Where it is and I start googling pictures of Pokhara and show the best picture of Lakeside with Fewa Lake and Mt. Macchapuchre in the background and say that I was born and raised here, I grew up running there every day and tell them about all the mountains we have, not just the Everest. Lex, you have no idea how many people that I have already invited to Nepal.
LEX: That’s super sweet! You definitely are an ambassador of Nepal. As a visible figure in Nepal and on social media, how did you find adjusting to life in US?
SIPORA: Adjusting to life in the States was pretty difficult in the beginning but it is falling into its right place now. From my early age, I was an outgoing person. I used to travel a lot for tournaments and such so, I kind of knew the lifestyle abroad and was prepared but didn’t have first-hand experience. Of course, nothing beats home and my heart is always in Nepal. Things are tough, but comfort and growth are antonyms.