First Person The Alumni Corner

The Alumni Corner: Lessons Learned from Civic Education Week

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By Saif Ur Rehman, YES 2014-2015, Pakistan, hosted by YFU in Ann Harbor, MI

I am Saif Ur Rehman, an exchange student from Pakistan. I have been meeting wonderful people and learning a lot about America since the day I arrived. YES has given me so much to be grateful for, and Civic Education Week is one of the things I am most grateful for this year because it brought 100 amazing people from 33 different countries to Washington D.C. to learn about the American government system and to explore American history.

This workshop gave me incredible opportunities, like meeting Senators Debie Dingell and Gary Peters, and talking to them about my exchange experience; listening to the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan, and asking her questions; and discussing what life after the program is like with YES and YES-Abroad alumni. Not only that, but this workshop also allowed me to see the beautiful museums and memorials in D.C., and learn more about American history.

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Fostering Harmony through Culture, Art and Dialogue

Fostering Harmony

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

Asmat Jogezia had found his experience in the journalistic world to be an eye-opener to the realities of the world before him.  This time around, when he was joining a diverse group of participants for an interfaith harmony seminar, he was not too sure what to expect.

Music diplomacy building bridges of harmony

Music diplomacy building bridges of harmony

The two-day seminar titled “Peace through Interfaith Dialogues and Culture Harmony” was organized by Emerging Leaders of Pakistan fellow and leading human rights lawyer from Baluchistan, Jalila Haider.  Over 100 participants, including ethnic and religious minorities, civil society leaders, social workers, youth activists and media personnel participated in the program, which was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  All alumni of various U.S. government sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to 5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.

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First Person The Alumni Corner

Alumni Corner: Going to the US of A on a Training Program for Journalists Changed My Life Forever

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By Aimen Tahir

When I was sent to the United States of America for the IVLP Program 2015, I went with many expectations, both good and bad – but I was surprised to find out how wrong I was about the country.

To be nominated by the U.S. Embassy for the IVLP Program 2015 on “Journalism and Security” was an honor for me. I was excited to participate in the program but was also concerned about the possible mistreatment, being a Pakistani in America.

Finally the day arrived: on 16th of May, 2015, I took my flight to Washington, D.C. from Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore. After a long and tiring flight, I landed in the land of opportunities. To my surprise I wasn’t discriminated against at all at the airport, as I had expected given my nationality.

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Inclusive Education: Project Prompts Discussion on Disability Inclusivity in Higher Education

Disability Leadership

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“Would you call a person disabled if they are unable to read in a room that is pitch black?”

Or would that be an external limitation?

Can we define what is “normal”?

If not, how can we define “disability”?

Atif Sheikh, founder of Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP) and an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) on Disability Leadership, provoked the audience of education officials to reflect on what actually constitutes disability with his compelling questions.  The education management professionals were gathered at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Islamabad to discuss disability inclusivity at higher education institutes across Pakistan.  Participants hailed from the top universities of Pakistan, including Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Iqra University, Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), National University of Modern Languages (NUML), and other leading universities.

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Alumni News Reunions

Lahore Hosts Over 400 Alumni from Punjab for Sangat 2016

Sangat

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“Lahore, Lahore, Ae!” (Lahore is Lahore) sums up the colorful cultural vistas of this historic city.  Lahore, also known as the “Walled City,” holds vestiges from the Mughal Era, including 6 of the original 13 gates, historic mosques, and magnificent forts.  The city’s rich cultural heritage has earned Lahore the title of the “heart of Pakistan.”  On May 22, 2016 this incredible city hosted alumni from across Punjab for the first-ever reunion of Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) – Punjab Chapter.  Aptly called “Sangat” or “companionship,” the two-day reunion provided over 400 alumni of various U.S. State Department exchange programs the environment to connect, explore, and celebrate the cultural diversity this city holds through breakout sessions, dialogues, networking activities, and a city tour.

To nurture this companionship, U.S. Consulate General Lahore Public Affairs Officer Rachael Chen, encouraged all alumni to connect with at least 10 new alumni. “Access students, this is a great opportunity for you to learn how to apply for exchange programs like Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES), Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD), Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) and Fulbright, straight from the exchange alumni themselves,” she added.  

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First Person The Alumni Corner

Alumni Corner: District Convention

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By Mashal Akram.

Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.

When I came to the United States as a participant of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), I learned first-hand the true essence of community service.  While we had to complete 100 hours of community service as part of our exchange program, my interest was more in engaging with people and serving a community completely different from Pakistan.

Joining the “Key Club” at school gave me the opportunity to sign up for different projects.  These projects were not only a way to serve the community, but also a way to learn about the different festivals, like Christmas and Halloween, that I had read or heard about.  On Halloween, I was blessed to serve small kids and at the same time get to know what the festival actually is.

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Bold and Brave: Workshop Unlocks Key Survival Tips for Women with Disabilities

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By Rimsha Ali Shah

“For the first five years after my accident, I was bedridden and oblivious; there was no guidance available for a person like me with such a severe disability because of my spinal cord injury.”

Fast forward to the present.  An independent and self-assured Maria Qureshi was now mentoring a group of 30 women on how to improve their lives on their own.  Her personal struggle is what prompted Qureshi, an alumna of the International Visitors Leadership Program on Disability Exchange, to design and execute a specialized training workshop for women with spinal cord injuries.

Recalling how she overcame the obstacles she faced by sheer willpower and motivation stemming from meeting like-minded people, she said:

“There are some things you only learn through life experiences.  Through this project my purpose is to give hope to the women present here that life has not ended for any one of us.  This disability is not a hurdle – it is an opportunity.”

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Alumni News

In Conversation with Afzal Khan

Afzal Khan, IVLP alumnus.

By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“Even as a student of business administration, I was aware of what I wanted to do in life: change lives – and not in the cliché term, but with actionable change through policy and legislation.”

In this month’s spotlight profile, we document the journey of Afzal Khan, an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP).  Having worked with corporate giants like Mobilink and Relacom, Khan switched spheres and ventured in to the political arena in 2010.  He talked to us about his exchange experience in the U.S. as a participant of the 2013 IVLP on “U.S. Political Process”, a cultural exchange with participants from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Afghanistan learning about governmental processes and the role of non-profits during a six-week exchange in January 2013. 

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Alumni News Reunions

Sinder Alumni Reunion: Exchange Alumni from Sindh and Gwadar Convene

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By Rimsha Ali Shah

Decorated with smiles, chatter, and giggles, the Pakistan-American Cultural Center was alive and full of pleasant nostalgia on the evening of April 16, 2016.  Despite the humidity encapsulating Karachi that evening, alumni from across Sindh and Gwadar decided that “the show must go on!”  The Sinder (Sindh – Gwadar) Reunion brought together over 500 alumni from Jamshoro, Karachi, Gwadar and Sukkur.

Faisal Malik, Country President of the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) applauded his team of volunteer alumni who had tirelessly worked to make the reunion happen.  From success stories of alumni who had commendably completed their alumni small grants supported projects, to unearthing the hidden talent through a game of tongue twisters, to a super energetic musical performance by renowned pop musician Salim Javed, Sinder enabled reconnections and new connections to form amongst the alumni present.

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21st Century Learning: Empowering Educators through Innovations in Learning

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By Rimsha Ali Shah.

“As an educator from Pakistan’s higher education sector, this symposium has helped me learn the cutting-edge technologies and pedagogies that are out there,” said Tanzeel, an attendee of the first ever international conference for educators in Pakistan.  Addressing these key developments in an age of education revolution was the primary theme of the 21st Century Learning Symposium, held on March 19, 2016 at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST).  The symposium was organized by Youth Impact to empower local educators with 21st century learning methodologies and technologies through a day of interactive, focused, and targeted workshops with local and international trainers.  The man behind this vision is International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) alumnus, Abdul Samad Khan.  The symposium was made possible with the help of the alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN).  All alumni of various U.S. government sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to $5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.

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