How not to run a Pakistani Students Association at an American college

Published: June 13, 2013

Bringing out your inner desi is key to handling a PSA. Eventually, you’ll find that it is no different than being a part of a large joint family system. DESIGN: IMAAN SHEIKH

Thanks to globalisation and a constant influx of immigrants and international students, all major colleges in America now have a Pakistani Student Association (PSA).

Running a PSA is a unique, enthralling experience and is known to be a great remedy for a drama-free college life. Whether you are in Pakistan wondering what life is like abroad, or a Pakistani about to attend an American college, here is your short guide on how NOT to run a PSA at an American college.

1. Do not ignore the rishta prospects

Most of the people in your organisation are not in for the love of Pakistan or its culture. All they really want is to have a good time with people who they think have the potential of moving beyond the ‘friend zone’. This is your biggest demographic. Do not make the fatal mistake of ignoring this group! Make sure you have enough social events planned out so that everyone in the organisation has a fair shot at everyone else.

2. Do not ignore the religion

If you think you can run a Pakistani student organisation by ignoring religion, boy, are you mistaken. Make sure you plan around all the ‘religious’ activities going on around you. In fact, as often as you can, incorporate small words such as ‘Mashallah’ and ‘Alhamdulillah’ at the end of your sentences so people make no assumptions about your religiosity. Also, try never to apply some eccentric secularist theory to your organisation; chances are you will turn away another key demographic.

3. Do not ignore the uncles

The uncles and aunties are among your organisation’s greatest assets. They may not be the most ideal members and would most definitely scare people off, but these are the people you will turn to when you need those clothes for fashion shows, that food for your major event or all those decoction items no one seems to have. Make sure not to ignore them and, ideally every once in a while, plan a chai night with some poetry for a nice, warm desi touch.

4. Do not ignore controversy

Contrary to what you may think, controversy attracts. After a long hard day of classes most people just want a nice place where they can come and gossip about people they know. Your organisation can serve as a perfect platform for this expression.

Do not shy away from controversy; in fact, embrace it and wear it like a guard of honour. Remember, in your organisation ignoring the controversy is the only true controversy and make sure you never ever fall for it.

5. Try not to be politically correct

To successfully run your organisation, it’s important to take stances that will attract people. Don’t get fixated on some antiquated moral argument and say what you have to say to whomever you have to say.

Don’t be afraid to overstate facts about yourself, your organisation or your country. It’s okay to claim that Pakistan is better off than India in almost all disciplines. You may want to, every once in a while, reiterate that T20 cricket is the only cricket that matters and India’s World Cup win means nothing. Remember, it’s all about marketing.

6. Delegate duties

Your twenty-old-year experience with your culture should teach you that Pakistanis haven’t gotten their heads around the concept of division of labour and delegation of duties. In your organisation, these words are used to describe the minimum amount of effort needed to get by without being yelled at, so be sure to avoid them altogether. In contrast, make sure when you hand out responsibilities, you do so in the most general terms, so you have all your bases covered should a dispute (which it still most definitely will) arise.

7. Do not invest personal money

Since most of the people in your organisation are going to be pre-med or engineering students, you, like most people, would have no idea how to manage your organisation’s finances. So remember, no matter what happens, do not put your personal money into the organisation in the hopes that it will repay you. It will almost never happen and will only result in inaccurate monthly budgets for the rest of your semester.

Bringing out your inner desi is key to handling a PSA.

Eventually, you’ll find that it is no different than being a part of a large joint family system.

Best of luck with it!

Follow Nabeel on Twitter @nabeel_chohan


Nabeel Chohan

The author is a young urban professional based out of Washington DC who likes to read, write and talk about politics, religion and the intersection of the two. He tweets @nabeel_chohan (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    I tried, then tried again ……..but got all confused. So I let it go, hopefully some of the comments (at present zero) later on may help.

  • Anon

    Is that satire? If yes, then a pretty lame attempt at humour. Recommend

  • Clarus

    GUIDE SHOULD START AND END at NO. 1 – as this is the only mission of every Desi’s life.Recommend

  • A

    I graduated from a US university in 2005 and would not recommend anyone joining any desi student organization, its a waste of time! Try to concentrate on your studies, mix with the American people, get to know American families and not stick with the usual desi crowd. At the end of the day, you are better off thinking about your own future rather then some social gathering that’s got no benefit to anyone anyways. Recommend

  • Mehdi


    Very much agree with you. College is a place to study not a place to waste time on trivial cultural pursuit.Recommend

  • Shah (Berlin)

    I was a Director of Public Relations in PSA in our university in Germany.
    Nice to read your point of few. Will add some points in our organization as well…Best of luck…Recommend

  • Bilal

    American Universities have had PSAs for donkey’s years, its nothing new and it is all part of the setup at universities abroad, all that has been written pertains to human nature so not sure how relevant it is to relate all the above to PSAs. I think the gentleman needs to have more exposure to american life, he seems too caught up with pakistani events which is a waste of his time.Recommend

  • Singh

    @Shah (Berlin):
    I was a Director of Public Relations in PSA *in our university in* Germany.
    Your comment explain how well educated you are.Recommend

  • Aisha

    Haha. I can totally relate to this. Nice jobRecommend

  • Naila

    HILARIOUS!! You should write more :)Recommend

  • Dr Dang

    Does the word ‘Desi’ apply to Pakistanis ?
    Do you not have a Urdu word for Desi ?
    Admit it, Indians dominate Pakistani culture.Recommend

  • hamid siddiqui

    I tried to understand what is this all about, but failed to get. Recommend

  • Usman786

    @A: Why donot you get an american father to get US citizenshipRecommend

  • Raza

    Made me smile. Liked the rishta part; it is so most definitely true. Recommend

  • sterry

    I went to University in North Amereica and I had a great time with the Pakistani Students Association. Yes there were difficulties in personality clashes and agendas but that’s part of life. At the end of the day, it gives you an understanding into your own people. After all, we spend 24/7 with the greater American society so it provides a necessary balance to spend time with folks of your own background – warts and all. I would say that all North American students of Pakistani heritage should be part of the local Pakistani Univeristy College group; In my time, we are all born or brought up in America but nowadays, you see a lot of recent immigrants but that is part of the charm. It’s important o understand your background. In fact my Dad was part of his American Pakistani Stiudents Association back in the 1960s at his American University so you shouldn’t think this is something new.Recommend

  • AA

    Haha really enjoyed Recommend

  • Insaan

    Author: “All they really want is to have a good time with people who they think have the potential of moving beyond the ‘friend zone’.”

    Having “good time” and rishta are 2 different things? Recommend

  • Muhammad

    I’ll be joining a PSA in 2 months. Let’s see how that goes!Recommend

  • PSA Guru

    Wow, what am amazing display of journalism. The Express Tribute must really be short on articles to all college freshman to send in their PSA for dummies checklist! Seriously, this was a waste of space and time… nuff said!Recommend

  • 357

    Just great. Coming up soon from the same author: My Family Picnic.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @sterry: Dad was part of his American Pakistani Stiudents Association back in the 1960s at his American University so you shouldn’t think this is something new.

    Really, how many Pakistanis were studying in that University in 1960s.Recommend

  • john

    i dont get the point of the article. so ure saying once a pakistani moves to america, he/she should stop saying mashAllah and become pretentious? okay.Recommend

  • observer

    How do you get 1, 4 AND 5 under the same roof.

    Let us say , You invite Anyone and Everyone looking for a Rishta,

    And let us say you invite ‘Controversy’. Say the fate of Ahmadis or Shias.

    The moment you mix ‘Religion’ with this, i.e. One correct and then rest Blasphemers. Phut goes the Rishta.

    So, How do you combine these? Recommend

  • bangash

    These PSA’s are good for nothing. Be friends with Pakistanis in campus but avoid the PSA and do mix with Americans so you can learn the culture.Recommend

  • AOD

    @Dr Dang:
    Don’t be stupid, ‘Desi’ is a word that ALL South Asians use in the present and is a word that exists in multiple languages including Urdu.Recommend

  • Dr Dang

    The word ‘desi’ evolved from the Sanskrit
    term ‘desha’, which stands for country.
    With time its usage shifted more towards
    referring to people, cultures, and
    products of a specific region.After 1965 as increasing
    number of Indian students arrived in the
    US and UK, India was colloquially
    referred to as deś . Thus, all things Indian
    including Indian expatriates were referred
    to as “desi”.
    pakistan does not recognize hindi or can pakistanis be called desi.
    will u cheer for Israel when u dont recognize it ?
    now whos stupid ?Recommend

  • Y

    Don’t join the psa. Join the red cross group. Or amnesty international. These options are open to you. These groups will invite you in and you will get to actually help people and make a difference. mix with people. All too often people don’t mix and then complain that they are treated as foreignersRecommend

  • Nasir Hamid

    I ran a PSA or Paksoc as it is called in the UK and to be honest it was one of the best things about my college life. I loved bringing all the Pakistanis together on a single platform to have fun. I think its important to create a balance between socialising with Pakistanis and with Americans/British people wherever you are staying. However to be honest in most cases I have seen most nationalities whether they are Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, Russian. Most of them end up hanging out with people from their own nationality. Its all about comfort level I guess but as I said its important to find tht balance.Recommend