Each year, Team EducationUSA Pakistan revels in the acceptances that roll in for our Opportunity Fund (OF) cohort – a batch of exceptional, driven students who are likely to be awarded full financial aid from U.S. colleges but lack the financial resources to cover upfront costs of obtaining admission. These hand-picked high schoolers work closely with EducationUSA advisers for two years, forming close relationships, and their successes make us very proud.
For this issue, we caught up with four of our stellar OF students who are now studying in the USA. In their own words, here is how their time in the United States has panned out so far:
Freshman at Pomona College
It didn’t hit me that I was finally in the United States until long after college started; it was something I had been working towards for years. I arrived in California in August 2021, standing before the gates of Pomona College with two broken suitcases (courtesy of the airlines), a throbbing migraine (courtesy of the 30-hour travel time with no sleep), and a heart full of disbelief.
Coincidentally, right as I was about to disembark the plane, I found out that the guy who had sat next to me for 16 hours was a Pomona alumnus. “Welcome to America,” he had said, “I don’t know much else, but I know it’ll be a ride.”
This is what I was thinking about as I entered the campus. And, as corny as it sounds, I realized how funny life can be sometimes. I had spent 18 years of my life not really stepping outside my hometown, and suddenly, my 19th year found me at the opposite end of the world.
It was a tumultuous transition. Throughout high school, I had been an overachiever and a perfectionist (the two perfect ingredients for an untimely burnout). I wanted to do everything in the best possible manner and do it better than anyone else. That mindset had followed me to college but, soon enough, I was nonplussed. Every single person I met seemed incredibly smart, talented, and confident in themselves. I didn’t feel special; on the contrary, I was overcome by imposter syndrome.
Over time, I’ve realized how unhealthy it is for me to compare myself to others because that way, there will always be someone to compete against, someone smarter, more talented, and more accomplished. I’m still figuring out how to be comfortable with who I am and not being so hard on myself when it comes to my shortcomings. Yet, there’s still a long way to go.
Muhammad Saad Asad
Freshman at Minerva University
As I finish my classes, I get ready to begin a new day of learning. I walk out of my dorm and onto San Francisco’s Market Street, the path that runs straight down to the city’s legendary bay. To my right, history intersects with the future in real time as cable cars run up and down Chinatown.
I am a student at Minerva University, an institution formed in 2012 as a response to 21st century requirements of education that traditional colleges were perhaps not fulfilling completely. The university began using its online learning model well before the pandemic, before a need for it was even felt. For us, learning happens outside the classroom during pre-class work as we discuss and try to apply the knowledge during group sessions. The emphasis is on cultivating habits of mind, learning frameworks of analysis, and the far transfer of concepts in the first year. During the four years at Minerva, students spend a semester in San Francisco, Seoul, Taipei, Hyderabad, Beunes Aereos, Berlin, and London as part of their global rotation.
My first semester in San Francisco has been an extraordinary experience. The city is stunning and diverse. It is also in the heart of the Bay Area, the origin place of many major companies like Apple and Google that continues to be a global hub for tech startups. Studying here provides students with many opportunities to network and learn from industry professionals. I’ve met entrepreneurs working on exciting Web3 related technologies and attended seminars about blockchain technology. I’m learning about potential careers in the field and what working in Silicon Valley is really like.
With all this said, I must admit that packing up all your belongings and memories and moving to the next city every six months isn’t easy. Yet, I know that each city will come with a unique set of experiences: new places to discover, new ideas to explore, and new people to meet. This system produces global citizens in a true sense of the word, students who can think beyond the frame of view they began with.
We at Minerva truly believe that the city is your campus, the world is your university.
Syeda Mahnoor Raza
Sophomore at the University of Rochester
Looking back on the past two years – and especially my sophomore year, which was actually my first time on campus – I realize how far I have come since I enrolled at the University of Rochester. The independence that has accompanied this experience has given me the space to explore both personal and academic goals, make mistakes, and grow into an adult. As I approach my junior year, I am grateful for all the lessons I have learned and excited to see what comes next.
As an English Literature and Political Science double major, classes and assignments take up most of my time. All these courses have challenged me and have helped me expand my academic horizons. I have also enjoyed finding ways to get involved in the Rochester community. For example, this semester, I am volunteering with the Inspiration Project, a program that connects college students with adults with special needs to help them develop a creative writing project. I am also an intern at the Mayor’s Office with the Office of Energy and Sustainability (OES) and have been examining existing policies, models and research to help City Hall draft an equitable energy transition policy for Rochester. This is helping me understand how to translate my passion for climate action and justice into the real world.
Another extremely fulfilling experience has been my involvement with on-campus student organizations. In addition to being a member of various student groups, I am the culture editor for the Campus Times, the social media and publicity manager for our on-campus art and literature journal LOGOS, and the elected vice president of the Writing Fellows. Collaborating with these groups of talented students has enriched my college experience in numerous ways.
And yet, perhaps my favorite aspect of the past year has been living on campus. I completed my freshman year remotely, so being in a dorm is super exciting. Having a support system of peers that I can turn to at any hour of the day has made my friends feel like family. Exploring the city, traveling together, inspiring and motivating each other, and learning to navigate this confusing rollercoaster of a time continues to be an adventure. I am so glad to have found my people.
Sophomore at Drexel University
I recently changed my major to Computer Science, so you will probably find me glued to my computer screen, trying to figure out the minutest of errors I made while writing code. Let me tell you: programming isn’t easy!
When I am not studying, I am at Drexel’s dining hall where I work with Aramark’s marketing team. Aramark is a food service company that provides catering services at Drexel and other universities. At my job, no two days are the same. We plan and organize events, such as carnivals and smoothie days, stand behind stalls, conduct surveys, and so much more. One time, I had to man an ice cream station and make ice cream cones. That was fun – let’s just say I ate more than one cone myself!
I’ve also started tutoring at the Drexel Academic Center for Engineers. I help students with their calculus and physics courses. Maintaining a work-life balance is a bit difficult, but I have started to enjoy my busy routine. I get to meet new people and learn new things every single day. It took a little time to adjust to this environment but now I feel like I’m truly thriving.