NWCCI alumnus Haris Chaudhry, from Pakistan, studied hospitality and tourism at Whatcom Community College in 2014 and 2015. In honor of Earth Day this Friday, April 22, we’d like to share a story by Haris, who is passionate about conservation and sustainable practices. He discusses in this post how he enacts change back home in his community, even when that change is gradual. You can read more about about Haris’ first experience and surprise at recycling in the U.S. on his previous blog post here, and again in his observations about sustainability in the U.S. in a blog post on water conservation in the post,”Every Drop Counts.”
Coming back home is always fascinating. It was even more enthralling for individuals like me living here in this part of the world, as we love being pampered right from childhood. Unfortunately, except for a few days, coming back home from the U.S. wasn’t that exciting. As soon as the ‘honeymoon period’ ended and I resumed the routine life, I started missing the U.S. After a few days of being around loved ones, my struggle started, not only to find a career but also to settle down and accept the change.
Firstly, I had to deal with my worst nightmare: finding an appropriate job. Leaving a job to pursue further studies, graduating and then starting again from a scratch is not as easy as it may sound. It was a crucial time, not only because I wasn’t getting a suitable job but because of the sarcastic remarks of extended family members. They would’ve thought that the employers would open doors for me but this was not the case. Here, let me proclaim that I can’t blame those people as I was also confident to get a great opportunity to start my career, forgetting that I belong to a country where bribes and nepotism are valued more than merit.
Secondly, I was bothered by my own expectations. I had come back from a country where people have a great civic sense. But here, I was disturbed as I observed people littering on the roads and sidewalks, breaking traffic rules, not queuing up for public transit and having egotistical attitudes.
I saw people using excessive plastic bags, purchasing bottled water, throwing away stuff and wasting resources. I wasn’t able to express what I felt or guide them because they might think that I’m trying to act like an American! It was hard for me to understand the fact that not everyone has the great exposure that I recently had in the U.S. so, as I tried to set things right, I grew more and more despondent. When I tried to lead by example, I got weird looks from everyone as if I was an alien from another planet; people were simply not interested in change because changing is out of one’s comfort zone.
I read this quote somewhere: ‘the size of your audience doesn’t matter, keep up the good work’ that motivated me not to quit trying. So, to create awareness about climate change and conservation; I came up with an idea of observing ‘Green Week’ at my workplace.
Although it was difficult to make the associates realize that our actions and lifestyle does impact the environment but short presentations, handouts and simple reminders to prevent energy and water wastage and reckless printing helped them a lot in better understanding of the same.
I now believe that all it takes to initiate change is a baby-step taken in the right direction.
I knew dealing with reverse cultural shock wouldn’t be easy but I didn’t realize it would be this difficult. I believe what I’ve learned and comprehended from my days in U.S. will always be with me. I may not change the established set of attitude of the people but I will always remember the values the U.S. offered me.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.