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It's Time to Fly

By Aftab Tabasum


These words adorned my friend's WhatsApp status on January 2, 2019, signaling the beginning of my own story. Throughout my life, I have held on to the belief that with strong determination, I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Studying abroad had always been a cherished dream of mine, and the opportunity came, when I applied for the Global UGRAD Exchange Program.

During my fifth semester at university, I prepared my statement of purpose with eagerness, hoping to impress the selection committee. However, my friend reviewed it and pointed out that it lacked the strength needed for a compelling statement. Despite the disappointment, I remained resilient and confident that I would be selected as a Cultural Ambassador. Unfortunately, my first application was rejected due to the pandemic, leaving me heartbroken but not disheartened.

Embracing the belief that "despair is disbelief," I held on to the hope that another chance would come my way. That chance came when I saw a Facebook post by USEFP, announcing the selection of 100 more students. I instinctively knew I would be among them. After months of waiting anxiously, my belief was validated with a congratulatory email in January 2021. The feeling of happiness and disbelief overwhelmed me, and I excitedly shared the news with friends and family. Being the first person from my family and village to study abroad filled me with immense pride.

As I prepared to leave, my university offered me a choice between a gold medal for my GPA and studying abroad. Opting for the latter, I embarked on my journey to Chatham University on August 10, 2021, proclaiming on WhatsApp, "It's time to fly. Thank you, GLOBAL UGRAD PAKISTAN."

Studying abroad has undoubtedly been a life-changing experience for me. Enrolled in Chatham University's English Language Program, I have not only gained knowledge but also honed critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. The opportunity to interact with people from diverse backgrounds has been the most inspiring aspect of my journey. Meeting students from various countries has expanded my perspective and enriched my understanding of different cultures.

My time in the US has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, embracing Western dresses and conversing in English with confidence. While there have been moments of joy and exploration, I have also experienced moments of homesickness and tears while missing my dear family and friends. Nevertheless, the struggles have shaped me into a better speaker, writer, and community leader.

Looking ahead, I am determined to give back to my community and help guide future students in applying for the Global UGRAD Exchange Program, inspiring them never to give up on their dreams. Just as Winston Churchill famously said, "Never give up, never up, never give up." Achieving one's dreams is a taste of unparalleled delight, and I aim to be a leader who guides others towards their aspirations.

As I approach the end of this incredible journey, I know that this is just the beginning. I have gained valuable experiences and skills that will propel me forward as a leader, communicator, and mentor. I will cherish the memories of my time in the US and draw strength from the challenges I faced. With gratitude in my heart, I look forward to sharing my learned experiences and fulfilling my dreams, one step at a time.

Introduction from the author: I'm Aftab Tabasum, hailing from the captivating region of Chitral, Pakistan. As an alumnus of the esteemed Global UGRAD Undergraduate Exchange Program, Fall 2021, I embarked on an educational journey that led me to Chatham University. There, I attended the English Language Program, honing my linguistic skills and engaging in cultural exchange. Upon completing my tenure at Chatham, I pursued my passion at the Agriculture University Peshawar, where I graduated in Soil and Environmental Sciences. My dedication goes beyond academics – I am deeply committed to the cause of empowering girls through education. My recent project focused on combatting early marriages and dismantling the chains of gender inequality within communities. Join me in my mission to create a brighter future for girls, where education reigns supreme and the shackles of inequality are forever broken.

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