“You’re going to Pakistan.” My dad had declared it.
2016 was definitely the most difficult year of my life. It was the year I transitioned from a kid into an adult. My entire life, all I had ever known, was life in America. It had never once occurred to me that I would ever be living in a third world country.
I was born and raised in New Jersey, but brought up in a Pakistani household. To me, being Pakistani was just something my parents were. My mom cooked Pakistani food and I wore the cultural clothes but that was about as far as it went. As a kid I never really had that connection with the motherland as most of the children my age did. I’d see my friends and classmates go back and forth, spending summers overseas with their relatives and coming back with the coolest stories. My parents both left Pakistan at a very early age and spent almost all of their life in the States. I don’t really have any family overseas so there was never a reason to go and visit — everything I knew was here, in the US.
When the decision of going to Pakistan for medical school was finalized, I thought my dad had actually lost it. I didn’t know anything. I couldn’t properly speak the language, I had never been there before, I had no family, and I just could not grasp the concept of living alone in a foreign third world country.
Adjusting to my new life was excruciatingly painful and difficult. I had to leave behind my friends, my family, and my luxuries that I took for granted. For 6 months I was in denial, thinking it was temporary and I would go back home and it would all be over soon. This mentality affected everything- I became this horrible, angry, and a very unhappy person. I complained about everything 24/7, I was constantly on my phone attached to my life at home. Everything that went wrong in my life, I would blame on the people here, thinking I was superior to them, when in reality the only thing that stood between me and the others was the color of my passport.
Not only was it a huge lifestyle change, it was also a complete 180 on the education system. I came from a place where you go to college for 4 years before committing to a professional school, allowing a student time to transition from his or her high school study habits/mentality to the real world. Being 18 and thrown into medical school studies was extremely challenging because I was trying to make all these new subjects work with my high school study techniques. I had to learn to adjust to the written exams, having mistakes in them, and the fate of my oral exam being in the hands of my professor and his mood.
I am a huge believer in everything happening for a reason and I know this entire experience for me happened for several of them. The most important one being able to look back and appreciate the small things in life that I took for granted. Things so minute none of us even think to give it a second thought- such as drinking from the tap without fearing for your life and running electricity. Once I had settled into it and accepted the reality of my situation things ended up getting a lot easier. I had gotten the hang of school and studying, I met great people and the most rewarding of them all, I get to look back and see my personal growth.
Even though everything happens according to God’s plan that is written for you, if I could go back, I would tell myself the sooner I accept my situation the better it is going to be for my own personal and professional growth. I hope at the end of my 5 years here, I come out being the best version of myself, and the best doctor to help my future patients. Don’ t get me wrong, home will always be home to me, and I can not wait to go back for good, but until then the only way to succeed is to make the most out of every situation that you’re put into. – Hajrah
Hajrah Farooqi is 20 years old and currently a third year student at Dow International Medical College. She has a love for fashion and all things makeup and just being a girl. She aspires to one day be an amazing doctor and help make people’s lives better. Hajrah hopes that writing this will motivate someone else who is thrown into a situation they think is impossible.