Current Students

Saira: Never Lose Hope

One of the most powerful outcomes of participating in the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program is a new found independence and confidence in participants.  For many, it is the first time they have left their home, or even been able to make decisions for themselves. Saira Raza from Pakistan shares one such story. Saira is studying Business Management at Edmonds Community College and explains how perseverance and the opportunity to participate in the Community College Initiative program has reminded her to always be brave, and never accept less than she knows she is capable of. 


Every situation we are given in life provides an opportunity for us to learn something. Some situations take a lot of time to accomplish, and no situation will remain the same throughout one’s life. When there is a large disappointment, we shouldn’t think of it as the end of our journey because it might be the beginning of a great adventure.

I come from a village in northern Pakistan which is barely connected to the Karakorum Highway and far away from any city. As a female there, it’s very hard to achieve something valuable in life as there are no opportunities or rights for girls. Through the following difficult experiences, I have learned many important lessons. These are three which I would like to share with other females:

  • grab opportunities

  • take risks
  • and keep hope alive

Take Risks

My father passed away when I was five years old. My siblings were little, and there was no one in my family to support us financially. My mother was a housewife. It was hard for her to meet our school expenses.

I was naturally interested in getting an education from any school, so I became very happy when I received a scholarship from Aga Khan Education Service Pakistan to continue my studies. It was a hard time for my mother, though, because she hadn’t any money to support me financially. However, she always supported me morally.

After completing my high school program in pre-engineering, I faced a lot of challenges in continuing my studies. It was my childhood wish to study science but the degrees in science were too expensive.

There were two options ahead of me: either I could stay at home and do domestic work or I could struggle to achieve something.

There is a well-known proverb in my country, “God helps those who help themselves,” which helped keep me determined and so I decided to take attend college, and switch my field from science to commerce. I used to think that commerce education had no importance, but I was wrong. When I began, it was obvious the major was not of my interest, but despite this, I worked hard so that I could at least make something of my life.

Sometimes taking risks in life helps you to find new opportunities. Now I can easily say, if something of your interest is not happening, no need to be disappointed, just move forward; a good thing is waiting for you around the corner.

Being a female, my advice for any woman or girl is that we have to be strong in any kind of situation. I took risks in my life to fulfill my goals, starting with this small step.


Grab Opportunities

During college, I taught in the morning and took classes in the evening to cover my educational and other expenses. Initially it was hard for me to manage this balance. After completing my Bachelor’s degree, I was enthusiastic about completing a Master’s degree from a good university in Islamabad. I was selected for a graduate program at GC University in Faisalabad. Unfortunately, my brothers and relatives didn’t allow me to go. They said the city was too far from home and it would be unsafe for me. At that time, I was not very confident, so I could not convince my family to let me go. I lost that opportunity and then felt there were no other options or hope to continue my studies. I was crying in my heart, so depressed that there was no one in my family to guide me.

But I was not satisfied with giving up, so I decided to engage myself in community activities. I volunteered in a school near my house. Soon, I heard about a bank near my village. I approached them and became an intern there. After completing their internship program, I became interested in the banking sector. I went to Islamabad City for another internship program in the banking sector. However, I was not satisfied with my package. It was difficult for me to cover my personal and other expenses in the city without my parents. I also could not afford to continue my studies while working.

It was then that I learned about the Community College Initiative scholarship program funded by the US Department of State. I applied, and was accepted. Now I am studying project management at Edmonds Community College, and learning many things about American culture, government, and business.

Before applying to this opportunity, I thought that there were no opportunities for girls to move forward and that I would have to work all my life in a bank.

I have since learned that I have the right to study, to speak up and be more involved in the community than I could back home.

I created opportunities for myself and I learned from each opportunity that we have to be flexible. I changed my field and this option gave me a new way to create myself and my future. We have to explore opportunities because doors will not open automatically for every one; we have to knock at those doors.


Keep Hope Alive

After being selected for the NWCCI scholarship, I was given new hope to go forward. I had a hard time convincing my brothers because they had no idea about the scholarship, but I used the confidence gained from being selected to help me convince them. The key thing is to never lose confidence or hope.

We should believe in ourselves, and say to ourselves, “I can try this” and “I can do it.”

In Pakistan, there are no opportunities for girls to flourish in sports or other activities. After coming to the U.S., I have gotten the chance to participate in so many different activities and experienced many unexpected things. I got the chance to attend different conferences, such as the Students of Color Conference and Northwest Model United Nations, and those events have inspired me and increased my leadership and communication skills. Now I can think of different ways to accomplish my life goals. I feel proud of myself because I made myself and my future.

The NWCCI program has highly encouraged me, changed my mentality, strengthened me, and fully supported me. This opportunity has ended my weaknesses and ended my fears. I am now self-determined and independent. I believe I can do everything for myself and my family. My struggles have made me brave forever.

Wherever you are, girls, help each other and always guide one another. I got my childhood dreams, wishes and more than I ever expected. Once upon a time I was dreaming of flying and today I am flying in my real world.


US Dept of StateThe 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, or the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the student bloggers. Student bloggers and photographers have granted us permission to publish their articles and images but they remain the copyright holders.

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