LAHORE: “Studying in the United States [US] opened up a different way of thinking and the trajectory of my life changed because of the exposure, diversity of people, exploring new ideas, conducting business and the methods of research,” says Muhammad Shehryar, a Fulbright scholarship alumnus.
Talking to The Express Tribune Shehryar, a graduate from the Duke University in North Carolina mentions there is a stark difference between the education system in Pakistan and US. “Our system confines us to a specific discipline early on, whereas the American system lets you choose your majors very late,” he opines. Initially, Shehryar was interested in Physics but because of the present system in Pakistan he had to choose economics and finance.
Upon his return in 2012, Shehryar started his own business under the name of Harness Energy. The company is a renewable energy start-up focused on improving access of energy to rural communities. “I might not have been doing what I am doing today had I not been to the scholarship, my stay in US taught me about taking risks,” he says.
In US despite the availability of comparatively cheaper electricity residents were switching to renewable sources of energy, informs Shehryar. This gravely inspired him and after a short research he found renewable energy sources cheaper alternative in the long-run. “I got the idea that this was the ideal solution for Pakistan, which was suffering from electricity shortage,” he shares.
Moreover, acceptance of diverse viewpoints in US also helped the Managing Director of Harness Energy achieve his goals. Currently, he is working on a project titled ‘Lighting Pakistan’ aiming to bring micro-level solar products such as lanterns, phone charges, LED lights and fans to rural Punjab and interior Sindh.
The goal of the company is to provide clean, renewable, affordable and durable lighting to poor families in remote areas. His journey towards achieving it, however, had many bumps among which one of the biggest challenges was convincing people about the benefit of renewable energy products. But through his experience in the US, he had learnt to communicate with people belonging to diverse cultural backgrounds.
Shehryar is also of the view that American society is very tolerant and different worldviews are accepted, if backed by solid arguments. He recalls one of his disagreements with a professor’s opinion which was later acknowledged after he proved it through logic and examples.
He advises students to seek education abroad and especially apply for the Fulbright scholarship. A programme he terms is the most generous for Pakistan as it provides full scholarship to more than 100 Pakistanis annually. In fact, during his education, Shehryar’s laptop and some other valuables were stolen which were later reimbursed by Fulbright.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2016.
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