A journey of discovery: from a small town in Pakistan to the heart of America

In life, we often find ourselves on journeys we never expected, guided by twists and turns that shape our stories in unforeseen ways.  

It was amidst one such journey that I received news that felt like uncovering a rare gem during life’s everyday hustle. Selected as a cultural ambassador of Pakistan through the GLOBAL UGRAD program, it was as if I stumbled upon a fully bloomed flower in autumn’s fading colors—a moment of unexpected beauty and significance during a time of hard work and determination. 

So, the story began when I wanted to meet my friends in my Alma Mater, a planned get together. My parents gave me permission because I also wanted to take my official transcript to apply for a scholarship. Those days, United States Education Foundation of Pakistan (USEFP) announced a cultural exchange program. And that was the point from where the journey started.  

I applied for the scholarship and got an interview call. I wanted to surprise my father on his birthday, but he was the first person who came to know about it (even before me). I never expected to be chosen because this scholarship is super competitive (only a 0.02% success rate!). But surprisingly, the interview went well. Deep down, I knew I did my best and enjoyed the experience. Even if they said no, I was okay with it. 

Life carried on in its usual whirlwind, with classes and exams occupying my days. Then, one random day, while scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post announcing the candidates for the program. My email notifications were off. I rushed to my inbox and BOOM – the awaited email.  

It was 11:15pm, Wednesday night, Feb. 16, 2023. Everyone except my brother was sleeping. I whispered in his ear to come inside the room. I hugged him while sharing this news, tears rolling down. It was hard not to wake up my parents and share this news with them.  

The next morning, I struggled to contain my excitement as I awaited the perfect moment to share the news with my parents. And their reaction, OMG, was way more emotional than expected. It surpassed my expectations, overflowing with pride and emotion. 

Amina Mishkat is proud to have represented her home country of Pakistan and study at VTSU-Castleton through the GLOBAL UGRAD program.

I was an alternate candidate for the Fall semester and principal for the Spring. A lot of processing, documents, and a long wait. I got finalized for the spring semester, got my visa, then bid farewell to home on Jan 1, 2024 and reached Washington D.C. for a welcome workshop. Thus began one of the most beautiful times of my life.  

A girl who once wandered like a cloud only in her dreams was now set free to explore herself and the wondrous beauty of the world around her. And Vermont, you stole my heart with your breathtaking beauty. Each day, you unveiled new wonders that left me spellbound, painting a picture of serenity and charm unlike any other.  

Here in Castleton, I was fortunate to experience the warmth and assistance of the students, teachers and staff, local community, my host and friendship family who supported me in various ways throughout my time here. 

On campus, I thoroughly enjoyed the classes, the interactions with other international students, and actively participated in community service and campus activities. I’m proud to be part of the student support network, the multicultural club, and food committee. Besides that, I also served as a member of the campus activities board.  

I got a chance to be part of Model United Nations team from all VTSU campuses to represent Zambia in an international conference held in Boston by Harvard University. Another highlight of my experience has been teaching a lesson titled ‘A Cultural Voyage to Pakistan’ for the local community, college students, and Castleton Rotary club fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. 

As I am writing this today, on the brink of bidding farewell to this extraordinary journey, my heart is filled with a blend of emotions—gratitude, nostalgia, and a bit nervous about what comes next. This chapter of my life, as an exchange student, has been nothing short of transformative. 

Throughout my time here I’ve been lucky to be around lots of different cultures, embracing individuals from diverse backgrounds with open arms. In dealing with the different cultures and their differences, I have learned that beneath the surface, we are all bound by the same universal truths—love, compassion, and the innate desire for connection. 

Amina on a trip to NYC

Moreover, this journey has been a masterclass in professionalism. From figuring out how to travel to different states to getting better at talking with people, I’ve learned lots of important skills that will help me in the future.  

The airplane became not just a mode of transportation but a symbol of independence and self-discovery— Like a road that helped me go to different places, learn new things, and understand myself better. 

Besides, in all the busy times of studying and meeting new people, I’ve discovered the importance of taking time alone. These times alone have been like a safe place for my feelings—a chance to think, rest, and learn more about myself. Also, feeling homesick sometimes has helped me realize the value of home and family even more. 

Furthermore, this journey has underscored the significance of sharing and caring. Whether it was lending a helping hand to a fellow student, sharing a meal with a stranger, or simply offering a listening ear, I’ve realized that the essence of humanity lies in our ability to connect, to empathize, and to uplift one another. 

I feel incredibly proud and thankful for the friends I’ve made, the things I’ve learned, and the memories I’ll always treasure. Most of all I learnt Gratitude. 

In closing, I am eager to carry forward the invaluable lessons and experiences gained here, to continue my journey with purpose and passion, and to make a positive impact on the world around me. Though our paths may diverge, the bonds forged, and the memories shared will forever remain embedded in my heart.  

As Hellen Keller once said “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  

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