A small town girl with big dreams

From a small town in Balochistan, I landed up in America to pursue my dream: getting an education.

Sonam Chawla May 22, 2012
I am a small town girl from Balochistan, Pakistan. Six years ago, I moved to Karachi in order to achieve a better education, and a year ago I got a scholarship as an exchange student to represent Pakistan in the US.

I was obviously ecstatic when I got selected. I know that everyone feels happy when they get a scholarship, but for me it was a little different. I was not just an ordinary teenager living in the big city; my life was more of a continuous battle.

Against whom, you might ask?

It was against my own family.

So, here is my story:

My arrival in the US was an eye-opening experience for me. Having come from the small town that I belong to - where people opposed education - the change was unexpected.

My own father believed that I could never be successful.

My father is well-educated, but ever since he started living around narrow-minded people from town, he began to think like them. My mother was slightly more educated than my father and she had great aspirations for me. She wanted me to become a doctor, which was not possible - not where I came from.

I, on the other hand, being totally against the mentality of the small town folk, worked very hard at school. Realising my passion for education, my mother decided to migrate to a metropolitan city; a city with good schools, colleges, malls and beaches; a city which encapsulated the luxuries of life. We, thus, moved to Karachi.

We were all deeply excited about this decision - all of us except my father.

He was never against me receiving a good education. He always did whatever he could do to pay all of my educational expenses, but he just didn't expect anything from me. He didn’t expect anything was ever going to come out of this ‘educational excerise.' This disappointed me thoroughly, but also gave me determination to prove him wrong. I was determined to make him proud. This became my life’s mission.

Our move to Karachi was met by strong condemnation from people back home. They turned against my mother because she was the one who made the decision.

They would pass sarcastic comments and spread vicious rumours about her. I knew she had to suffer this slander because of me. She felt she had no choice and I felt terrible that I couldn’t do anything to help her.

I decided to throw myself into concentrating on my future and the obstacles I knew were lurking ahead. I got a form for a scholarship for the Youth Exchange and Study program to the US. I had to prove to everybody how fruitful and necessary education is for us.

As if He understood my struggles, God gifted me with a life full of surprises. I got selected for the YES program - this was how I knew I could rescue my mother from all those who taunted her.

Upon my selection into the program, we saw a drastic change in the minds of those who had gone against us. The children who used to study with me or were my friends started blaming their parents for not permitting them to study further, for curtailing their opportunities for success.

Their parents slowly began to realise the advantages of education. Recognising the importance, they started sending their children to colleges, encouraging them to join English language centres and spreading awareness.

It is not like I have a PhD or anything that great, but I now have a clear path to my goal.

My family is supporting me and thankfully, there are no more accusations against my mother. I just wanted to prove the benefits of education and getting the scholarship was my gateway.

The reason I had to go through all these social challenges was primarily because of lack of education in our society. The problems that I faced made me think of all the other girls in many other small towns of Pakistan like me who cannot do anything because they do not have anybody to support them.

I know how the YES program changes lives; I know this because it changed mine.

Today, I have written this piece to spread awareness, because I highly support the program and want everyone in Pakistan to know about it. I want everyone to know and encourage it so that it can change more lives.

I am also very thankful to iEARN Pakistan for organising the YES program in Pakistan.

I have developed leadership qualities, became more patriotic and now have a clear perspective of what I want to pursue as a career in my life. I intend to work for the welfare of education for women in the small towns of Pakistan. I hope that one day; everybody will have access to quality education and that everyone will have a success story of their own.

Follow Sonam on Twitter @SonamChawla1
Sonam Chawla A Youth Ambassador at the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program and doing pre-medical at The Aga Khan Higher Secondary School. She tweets @SonamChawla1
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


aizaz bokhari | 11 years ago | Reply very inspirational
irfan | 11 years ago | Reply this is a good read. you remind me myself few years ago when i went to iEARN interview because i was bored at school, and now few days ago I graduated from college here in US. I was the only one who came back to states following the exchange year. Are you coming to states this Year? Keep it up. there is nothing that can't be accomplished and here it's pretty easy if you really want to do sth and i guess that's why they call it the land of opportunity. good luck and have fun
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