ISLAMABAD, July 6: The Public Affairs section of the US embassy screened Dawn TVs Documentary “Pakistani Students: Learning/Sharing in the USAin Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) on Friday.
The aim of the documentary was to showcase the experiences of Pakistan students in the US, and illustrate the useful impact such experiences have on reshaping the images of the two countries among their people.
Focusing on around five Pakistanis studying in the US, the documentary captured similar stories from students of diverse backgrounds, coming from areas like FATA, Hyderabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Light in tone, it first captured the awkward questions Pakistani students had to face. “Are there roads in Pakistan,” “Are the coffee shops there similar to here,” and in a more serious vein, “Why don’t you cover your face?” and so on.
One American lady revealed that she honestly thought the Pakistani student might bomb the classroom, but that impression changed over time.
Similarly, touching on political overtones, a student, Hammad Ali Khan, said he was worried that once he landed at an airport in US, his green passport would get him harassed by the airport security. But some of the adjustment was culture related. An American teacher stated that students from Pakistan treat professors like god and hesitate to ask questions, but with time they learn that discussion with teachers is encouraged in the American context and open up with time.
Finding halal food can become problematic for students in the US, hence converting them into vegetarians. A student suggested that with tomatoes, chick peas and other ingredients, if one is innovative, an improvised “channa chat” can be made. “Spoken like a true Pakistani,” commented one audience member.The students also acknowledged the strengths of both countries. Kiran Rajput from Hyderabad appreciated the respect and freedom given to the minorities to practise their religion in Pakistan and in US.
And Irfan Ullah, a student struggling with polio, shared that there are many opportunities there for the disabled and he is empowered in an environment where he is not treated any less than others. The documentary displayed that students are ambassadors of their respective countries, families and cultures. Some residents of the US realised that not everything their media showed was true as they were confronted only to negativities in the case of Pakistan - drone attacks, suicide bombings - and all the cultural, educational and development aspects were not showered any light on.