20 Things Every Pakistani-American Knows

20 Things Every Pakistani-American Knows

About the Author: Maya is a proud Pakistani American attending The Westminster Schools. She has interned with Welcoming Atlanta, and loves speaking about issues involving refugees and immigrants. Anyone growing up in the United States with immigrant parents will tell you the same thing- growing up with two cultures is HARD. Forming my Pakistani-American identity has been very difficult, because it means I have to adopt two different cultural and belief systems at the same time, even if they directly contradict each other. At school I resented my “Pakistani-ness” because I just wanted to like every other kid at school. When I go to Pakistan I find myself trying to hide my “Americaness” feeling ashamed that I’m not a “real” Pakistani. Eventually I realized the benefit of my situation, and I’m still learning to love BOTH of my cultural identities. But in the mean time I’ve created a list embracing 20 things every Pakistani American has definitely experienced. 1. Thinking your parents are having a fight on the phone when really they’re just calling Mona Auntie in Karachi. How are you going to explain to them that just because Auntie lives thousands of miles away, it doesn’t mean she will hear you better! Sheesh, I thought south Asians were supposed to be good with technology. 2. When you’re parents say, “you can be whatever you want when you grow up” they really mean you can be a “Doctor, Lawyer, or both.” Other possible meanings: You better marry a Pakistani male with a respectable career, and good muslim values… or be Prince William’s second wife. 3. When your Grandmother explains how...
Caught Between

Caught Between

My life as a first generation American has been challenging rollercoaster of emotions. I had to endure being left alone for certain periods of time and having to move on from grief. My parents traveled a dangerous route, crossing the dry and empty desert, just to come to the USA so they could provide for our family and give me a better future. They wanted our family, including my extended family, to finish their high school education and needed money for that to happen. My parents didn’t know any English when they arrived in the USA but my father learned to speak a bit of English from his co-workers. They taught him by pointing at things and saying what they were. These lessons helped because now he is even able to help me with my homework sometimes. When I was 4 years old I went to visit Acapulco, Mexico, my mom’s hometown for the first time.  When I was there my family members would tease me for the way I spoke Spanish because I had an accent but strangely once I learned English, my accent in Spanish slowly faded away. My family in Mexico didn’t  know I was a Mexican-American. They just found it weird how easy it was for me and my mom to go back to USA. They were surprised and even shocked when they found out that their little niece was a Mexican- American and even more surprised when my mom told them she had a visa to travel. They all longed to live in the USA but what they didn’t know that living in the USA is also hard.They would hear rumors  about how easy it is to become wealthy in the U.S.A....
My Story

My Story

The fall of Saigon– April 30th, 1975, this date marked the changing of my parents’ lives forever. My dad would often share with me the vivid stories of his escape from Vietnam. He was forced to leave everything behind, including my grandmother and aunt. He had it the hard way, escaping on foot then evading from the Viet Cong on boat. (Keep in mind that he was only about six years old at the time.)  People like my dad would later on be called “boat people” by many authors who wrote about the Vietnam War. His excursion took him to the Philippines where he would stay for about four years learning English and praying that someone in America would basically “adopt” him. My mom on the other hand, had it easier. She was in Vietnam for the fall of Saigon but was “withdrawn” with my grandfather who served in the South Vietnamese Army as a Lt. Colonel in the joint task force alongside the American soldiers. Her whole side of the family flew to America and received citizenship very quickly. Being born into a Vietnamese/French family, I learned many languages when I was a toddler. I was taught to speak Vietnamese, Cantonese, and French at a very young age. English was never a priority because my parents and grandparents wanted to instill the Vietnamese culture in me. Because English was not my first language, I did not do well in school. I had a very hard time understanding and learning English. I was often teased because of my poor English, and I remember coming home from school day after...
My Life After Coming To The U.S.

My Life After Coming To The U.S.

In 1997 my father came to America in hopes of a better future. He had spent 3 years in the U.S. trying to settle down before going back to Bangladesh to marry my mom. My dad came back to America just months after he got married to my mom. I was born the following year in 2001 and my younger brother Imon was born in 2003. We eventually moved to America permanently in 2006. When we arrived my mom realized that my dad was in a huge debt. He previously owned 2 stores, but later sold them due to unknown reasons. He wasn’t able to pay off his bills which started piling up and caused him to go into debt. In 2009 my youngest brother Irfan was born and the expenses started to raise a lot more. For 5 years my mom helped my dad to pay off his debt and stopped him from giving away all his money. My dad loved to give people anything they asked for, doesn’t matter who or what they asked for. He was so kind hearted that if you had asked for his most valuable possession; he’d still give it to you without any hesitation. Finally by 2012 we were able to get out of debt and my dad decided to start up a business again. Unfortunately, my dad’s dream of running a business came to a stop after finding out that he had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. After being diagnosed my dad was still strong and went to take care of his business a couple more times before he fell completely...
My Internship Experience at Welcoming Atlanta

My Internship Experience at Welcoming Atlanta

              As an intern for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs – Welcoming Atlanta, I had the edifying opportunity to contribute and play a part in Welcoming Atlanta’s mission of inclusion and civic integration. Living in the metro-Atlanta area for about 15 years, I thought I knew my city and my community. However, it didn’t hit me until this past fall that the outlook I had of my city was a naive and uninformed one. And with this epiphany, I realized that I couldn’t change my city or my communities unless I took responsibility for it and unless I saw myself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it. Through this internship, I viscerally felt the change I sought to see in my city and in my community. By directly engaging with the immigrant and foreign-born community and listening to their stories, concerns, and wishes, I allowed myself to take responsibility. By attending several multicultural events and absorbing a better understanding of what makes a cultural event so significant and personal to its people, I allowed myself to take responsibility. By providing information and resources to those who needed it and receiving appreciation for it, I allowed myself to take responsibility. The change I envisioned could only be brought if an inner sense of rapport and accountability was established. With the guidance, support, and camaraderie of the Welcoming Atlanta staff and fellow interns, I was able to grow and thrive in a fast-paced and collaborative environment. While the load of work in the office was arduous during Welcoming Month, the high levels...
Salma’s Journey

Salma’s Journey

My mom and dad have five kids: two born in Mexico, one in California, and two in Georgia. I grew up learning Spanish and English while my sisters were raised speaking only Spanish. Many people ask, “Where are you from?” My usual answer is: “My parents were born in Mexico, but I was born here.” I am Mexican American, which means my heart, soul, and culture is Mexico. Though at the same time, my home and my future are all in America. Growing up in two cultures and speaking two languages is hard. I had to learn how to speak English at the same time as my parents, while my uncles constantly tease me because I’m not a fluent Spanish speaker. School has always been a challenge for me. Neither my parents nor older sisters could help me with my homework because they were not familiar with the language or the subjects taught at school. No one was tutoring me at home, so getting ahead was not easy. I could have stayed afterschool, but I did not have any transportation because my parents didn’t have a driver’s license. I had to repeat the first grade because my Math and English scores were too low. Therefore, I am currently supposed to be an upcoming junior but I am an upcoming sophomore since I was held back. Being held back made me feel as if my entire life was being held back. I felt physically and mentally restrained to one place. As I grew older, I began to understand why I got held back. I now know that it was done to...