Is there place for a Pakistani girl applying to universities in Trump’s America?

Published: January 12, 2017
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Republican U.S. Presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio August 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

This election has been unprecedented and historic on all accounts, and I’m not talking about the obvious surface-level facts – Hillary Clinton being the first ever female nominee of a major party, or Donald Trump ascending to the office of the presidency with no political experience whatsoever. No, I’m talking about the rhetoric that has fuelled this campaign – the personal attacks, the hatred, the misogyny, the sexism, the lies, the scandal – which both, the right and left, agree on. 

I could go into all the reasons – and there are many – of why this election turned out the way it did: Clinton’s “unlikeability” and public image of corruption, Bernie’s Sander’s movement of change, Trump tapping into angers of the “forgotten” man and woman. But for better or for worse, Trump is the new president of the United States; which begs the question: what does all this have to with me – a Pakistani girl applying to universities in the US this year?

My part to play in all of this was somewhat of a latent realisation, a rude awakening. Somewhere in the flood of 24/7 news coverage on what would be the most impactful event of the year, I got hooked to a new kind of media – political satire. The Daily Show with John Stewart, The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert (though these two ended soon after my political awakening), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Front with Samantha Bee, and Real Time with Bill Maher were incorporated into my everyday life.

It was amusing to watch the election cycle unravel from halfway around the world, something I was not invested in and so could enjoy without the baggage that came with it. I laughed when jabs were taken at Republican candidates like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson and when jokes were made at Clinton and Trump’s expense. Till post-primary season, things were breezy; my subconscious said “Hillary’s got this in the bag” because that’s what the “general” opinion was. But as November 8th drew nearer, and the race grew tighter, people questioned that certainty. Even my beloved political satire shows were still funny but I could no longer ignore the message behind their blunt talk. The jokes didn’t make me laugh anymore; they made me contemplate: was a Trump presidency really possible?

Needless to say, I now have my answer. One may ask: but what’s the point in applying abroad? With established universities like LUMS and up-and-coming ones like Habib University, why shouldn’t I consider staying in Pakistan after A’Levels? I have nothing against these venerated institutions, which create new opportunities for so many my age, and it’s not what you’re thinking – that a good university abroad looks better on a CV and improves job prospects, or that the quality of education is better. My reasons are more personal – the nuances, the subtleties, the little things that can’t be quantified.

Like the chance to be around people from all over the world, interact with them, understand their point of views, their cultures, and their backgrounds. While 99.9% of my school is made up of people who look alike, and speak similarly, what about the globalised world outside of Pakistan, made up of motley of cultures, races and ethnicities? Is it wrong to want a taste of the international atmosphere I can get abroad? And it’s not just about other people; I will learn new things about myself while steering myself in this unfamiliar environment – both good and bad – qualities that are right now unknown to me.

Another reason – a big one – is distance from my parents. I don’t mean this in a bad way: for lack of better phrasing, what I mean is that my inherent dependency on my parents to solve every little problem that comes my way needs to end. Growing up was long overdue for me and a dose of life abroad, where I will have to fend for myself might actually be good for me.

Then there’s the central question: what do I want to do in life that I think an education abroad is the right fit? The troubling answer to that question is “I don’t know”. Here, with the burden of my parents’ and society’s expectations, I fear that I will be boxed into becoming a doctor or an engineer. If I were sure about the former or latter, then my situation would be very different, but I’m actually excited about the opportunity to explore my options to my heart’s content in America, to fully take advantage of the broad-based undergraduate education they provide.

And don’t think I’m not entering this with my eyes open to the reality: I’ll be the girl from Pakistan coming into majority-white America at its most divisive time. We’ve all heard the stories of racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia being on the rise in America and with a Trump presidency, it’ll probably spike even more.

Will there be some unpleasant incidents that I will go through? Yes. Will there be a few nasty comments? Sure. But that’s not the takeaway from this because will it be worth it in the end? I have to believe that there’s something better out there waiting for me, that people who I’m going to be living with and seeing everyday won’t be like the ones I see on TV, that the perception does not meet reality.

My future is hanging in the balance, in the hands of a man I have only seen to be mean, racist, ignorant and plain obnoxious. And truth is, I still don’t know where I stand in all of this and I’m scared. The cloud of uncertainty that constantly follows me isn’t helping as I click the “submit” on my college applications but I won’t give Trump the satisfaction of getting what he wants. I will try and while I’m prepared for rejections, I’m not ready for him to influence my life and future, because, hasn’t he won then?

All I can say is that if there ever was a time to hope and pray, it’s now.

Areesha Saif

Areesha Saif

A 17-year-old A'level student at KGS, who has applied to the US for Chemistry and has a keen interest in US politics and current affairs. She tweets @areeshasaif (twitter.com/areeshasaif?lang=en)

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

  • Yogi Berra

    It used to be easy for Muslim girls in the past but no more. Many Muslims participated in terror attacks in US and Europe. Now you are not the same but now you will be tagged too. That is issue with humans. They will generalize and punish the whole community for the acts of few. Cannot help. Take it in a stride.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    No. Stay home.Recommend

  • cautious

    I suspect most people who visit the USA are surprised to find that the USA is far more diverse than the image they had before arriving. Statistically 40 percent of the people aren’t white and when you visit a shopping mall you will see people from every country on the planet. The colleges are popular with foreigners and most college campuses have plenty of foreign students and every college campus I have visited has a Muslim society/prayer rooms etc.
    .
    Trump isn’t going to stop Muslim’s from visiting – he doesn’t have the authority to do that – at best he might require additional vetting as part of the VISA process for certain countries associated with terrorist. Unfortunately Pakistan might be included on that list. My guess is that female graduating high school isn’t going to have a tough time being vetted.Recommend

  • Vaibhav Bhau

    Yes you will get admission if you have great score in SAT,GMAT and TOFELRecommend

  • Athiest

    Why don’t you go to your all weather friend China?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Here come the poison pen hindu comments.Recommend

  • shiva the destroyer

    I have a counter question

    Is there a place for a non-muslim to avoid being forcibly convert in Pakistan?

    I find it amusing that muslims deny equal rights to non muslims at their homez but demand the same in foreign landsRecommend

  • Cynic

    Well how many Muslims have left USA after Trump got elected? Are the US embassies in Muslim countries seeing a sudden drop in the application of visas after Trump got elected?

    How many Muslims were attacked after Trump got elected? Yeah,you can point out 2 incidents where a hijabi girl was attacked by “White men wearing MAGA hats” but both of them turned out to be false complaints and those complained are now being pursued for fraud.

    Almost all of American muslims know that its safer to live as a Muslim in Trump ruled USA than being a “wrong kind” of Muslim in an Islamic country.

    Stop crying wolf and then one day noone will come to rescue.Recommend

  • gp65

    Good luck Areesha. Don’t be scared. Most people (including many that voted Trump) are not racist. So keep your dreams alive.
    Want to let you know that some focus is needed in terms of your goals. This is because even though you can explore to your heart’s content in USA, that will come at a very steep cost to your parents.Recommend

  • Concard_007

    It is quite amusing when Pakistanis fear about being a minority in another country, if only they would have thought about minorities in their own country who live in fear where their daughters might be kidnapped and converted to Islam and never see their parents again.Recommend

  • Guy

    Good luck Lady!!!!! You will overcome your fears once you land in the US. Be open minded & leave the native baggage at the immigration check in your country. Carry your values, beliefs, appetite for achievement. Hard workers make their ways in foreign lands “irrespective” of their color, faith, beliefs. There are plenty of examples.Recommend

  • wb

    There is place for any girl/boy in any university in any country provided he/she says that his/her islam, Quran is subservient to the constitution of that particular country. Constitution of the country is sacrosanct and anything else is always subservient to it. This is also applicable to Pakistan.

    Simple, isn’t it?Recommend

  • Tom

    Well you may require an quick reality check ..Whether trump is in power or Not,Pakistanis are Not welcome in any country..better try your luck at local university..

    Another fact is No matter who rules USA even any person far worse then then trump if you get any chance you will lineup for USA visa..

    Pakistanis better check their passport it is i think second worst passport in world with all kind of terror organisations having base in pakistan ,Force conversion of Minorties,Serious HRW violations in Baluchistan.I Will be surprised if any country will ever pakistanisRecommend

  • ShockandHorror

    I suggest you also look at your own society in which Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus are treated as worse than second class citizen Shias!!!Recommend

  • Saadi

    For most, America is a welcoming place, Trump notwithstanding. Beyond the media frenzy, when you interface with people and they get to know you as something other than a baying-for-blood Muslim (smh), it actually allows for opportunities to build friendships.

    Despite all the issues, American University system is the best in the world, bar none! The experience is one that you will enjoy and it will help you grow as an individual. Lastly, you always have the option of returning which is great. So go for it.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Being a Pakistani why you want to go to USA? What about TNT? Your future depends on Allah not on a non-Muslims whom you hate.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Great comment. A positive attitude is needed too. Which Areesha
    seems to have.
    Respectfully, must diverge from the ‘who’ voted for Trump. Trump is
    a racist, a bigot, a misogynist, an Alt Right, Klan condoning human
    being who thinks women are chattels. [ You being a woman ]
    LGBT, minorities, Native Americans will now have their rights curtailed.
    On a windy day, pray that you are not downwind from him. You
    may have to breath through your mouth. The miasma will choke you.
    The good folks stayed away in droves. The camouflage/fatigues wearers,
    with a backward baseball cap, a beer gut, displaying a Confederate flag
    are the ones who voted for him. And of course all the hindus in the
    US came out in full force to vote for Sri Trump. Since Trump has declared himself a blood brother of Modi Sarkar. The same man who claimed that
    Hindustanis invented plastic surgery 5000 years ago.Recommend

  • BANA POST

    Pakistan ‘s awkward international reputation spoils everything. Pakistan should blame herself rather than othersRecommend

  • Vaibhav Bhau

    why they need USA passport or want to immigrate ti usa if you hate USA.go to your all whether friend chin .Recommend

  • Parvez

    Don’t get paranoid ……. go about the process, step-by-step, as you normally would and have faith that those in America with whom you will be dealing with are intelligent, fair minded and will look at merit and capability. Best of luck.Recommend

  • mohinder

    Problem is not Islam,people from egypt or serbia or lebnon or syria even iraq and afganistan live in USA without much issues.Problem is PAKISTAN.Recommend

  • Saadi

    Tom, get over yourself. Pakistanis are traveling by the hundreds of thousands every day on the very same passport that you are talking about.

    The Indian in you is just sticking out all over the place.

    You bias towards all things Pakistan. Americans are nothing like the Indians who lurk here with deep rooted hate for Pakistanis and as such are much more open in dealing with people of other origins including Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    My future is hanging in the balance, in the hands of a man
    I have only seen to be mean, racist, ignorant and plain obnoxious. And
    truth is, I still don’t know where I stand in all of this and I’m
    scared.

    If you are interested to widen your knowledge through higher studies, should also know that there are limitless chances for those who venture on this course. America does not belong to one man nor is it unique to accept students from abroad. If you want to actualise your dream to learn then have patience and endurance which you will need and prrerequisite for your success. While there is turmoil among the leaders of the free world, its people are more or less kind and generus and very friendly. Be good and people will be good to you. Donals Trump is nothing more than a loud mouth old show man who is simply learning to surf in politics..

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • wb

    Patwari, Patwari, Patwari…worry about the Islamic Sharia Republic of Pakistan where all non-Sunni-Punjabis are 3rd class citizens.

    One fact correction: Hindus invented plastic surgery about 3000 years ago, not 5000.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Seems like the Banarsi Mulla reared up on his hind legs again.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    As someone who has studied in the west, I can assure you that the majority is not racist. As for those who are racist, their anger and hatred is usually directed towards young men coming into their countries. They have absolutely no problem with women coming there to study or settle down.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    Saadi, you are right. Pakistanis are traveling in thousands as illegal immigrants.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    Its pretty ironic that u call every Indian a Hindu. Your narrow mindedness even evades the basic common sense that there are many non Hindus (including
    Indian muslims) in India who what hates Pakistani Muslims, simply because Pakistani muslims are the most bigot and ignorant people in world.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    As long as you do not bring your medieval standards of living and force Islam on your flatmates and class mates, you are invited. Also as long as you do not demand special treatment for being a muslim, cause we in USA do not care what religious background you are from until you start rubbing it on our facesRecommend

  • Daviduke

    You seems to have graduated from same university.Recommend

  • Daviduke

    Look who is talking !!!!Recommend

  • LS

    Humans walk on their legs… not sure about pakistanis..Recommend

  • Patwari

    You wonder how a hindu like you manage to live with
    so much hate bottled up inside.. Hindus are tolerated everywhere
    Recommend

  • LS

    Awww.. the patwari should have stuck to his village. The actual “miasma” from that locality made you go out of it.

    If protecting your country from “miasma” of terror, then so be it. You don’t have a say in it beyond your vote. Which of course did not matter in this case.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/13/upshot/the-geography-of-trumpism.html?_r=0

    The people who voted were mostly those who did not care about education or live paycheck to paycheck and felt they don’t have any voice. There were Indians who were in Hillary camp too.. Millions of them.Recommend

  • Sane

    None of non Muslim ever converted forcibly in Pakistan. You Indians have agenda of maligning Pakistan and Muslims. Probably you are paid. Anyways, it is not working. Pakistan is getting strong being at a strategic geographical position. We are improving and you are declining. See the problems India has: Soldiers at border are hungry, people are short of money, killing on beef eating, You have a long list of problems to solve. First, sort these out.Recommend

  • Sane

    Illegal immigrants do not travel on passport. Pakistan is getting strong and you are declining. Recommend

  • Sane

    You can go USA. Trump is not an illiterate. Muslims are much safe in USA than India. Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    If “none” then why was “forced conversion bill” voted on by Pakistani government???
    BTW, Pakistanis do a great job of smearing Pakistan’s “good name” in the news with outrages, so no foreign hand required! Recommend

  • shiva the destroyer

    I just googled worst countries to live in and Pakistan poped on the screen
    I googled the most dangerous nations to live in and Pakistan poped up on the screen
    I googled the most hated nations on earth and Pakistan poped on the screen

    No pakistani takes pride in holding their passport since you are double checked at the airports

    Pakistan is getting strong? Well call me when you solve the Polio epidemic. Recommend

  • http://solomon2.blogspot.com/ Solomon2

    The media is scared of Trump because he doesn’t owe them anything so they have no assurance of access: consequently, they must either work harder for quality stories or else choose baseless sensationalism to keep up their audience. So there would be no extra problems at U.S. universities for you on the account you’re from Pakistani.

    (That said, while may U.S. schools are fine, my impression is that LUMS is nothing to sneeze at.)Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    Says what ? The movie `Waar` ?Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    Your worst nightmare sire.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    Says someone who never got visa to USA ?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Modi Sarkar has the same problem. That’s why you will not
    see his minions walking behind him. They tend to stay in
    front or abreast of Modi Sarkar.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Exactly!! Humans only have legs!! No forelegs or
    hind legs!! Recommend

  • LS

    Oh.. changing topic when you have nothing to say eh? Modi Sarkar has plenty of support. He does not want minions walking behind him.. He wants them working on their desks and doing something productive. Minions and hungry jialas are hallmark of paki politics.Recommend

  • Reddy

    oh,this lady never set a foot in US,but already become a clan member while sitting in pakistan,just watching olivers ,stewerts and colberts on her tv…all of those idiots combined cudn’t stop trump from being the president of US …what does that say about them,america doesn’t live in ur TV box …real america is fed up with ur ilk,wretched with ur nonsense,well most of the world had enough of islam..you can call it Islamophobia,xenophobia but ppl are beyond ur name calling…until the day ur ilk learns to respect other religions and cultures,these phobias only gonna aggravate and you wanna study there cuz u want to experience different cultures,that’s just wow…ur ilk killed the diversity where ever they are in majority including in pakistan …ya u like diversity,i can call BS on entire article but u are just 17Recommend