“The American dream” looks different for everyone. For one very ambitious Pakistani native, the “American dream” looked like a doctorate degree, luxury cars, a big house and a big reputation of success in the community.
However, after three years of applying for scholarship programs and being turned down—over and over—22-year-old Naveed Ahmed would finally catch his big break.
Ahmed was standing at the window in his dorm room, with phone in hand, searching for Wifi signal when it happened.
“So… I received an email and the email said that—uh ‘congratulations we are delighted to inform you that you have been selected as a principal candidate for Global UGRAD of 18.’ So, that was one of the most exciting moments for me because it was my third time that I applied for this program and this was my only and last chance that I could apply for the program,” Ahmed said.
Additionally, Ahmed placed in the top 480 of 33,000 applicants in the Global UGRAD program.
After being shortlisted, he would undergo the rigorous interviewing process and place in the 108 students who were accepted into the program.
However, even after receiving the news that would change his life forever, Ahmed couldn’t help but feel a sense of what he described as “uncertainty” looming above the idea of the adventure he was preparing to embark on.
He couldn’t believe he would actually make it to America and get to fulfill his dreams.
Ahmed—a Pakistani native from a poorly educated area that lacked road access and opportunities for children to thrive, the eldest son of two illiterate parents and the first of his immediate family to attend school and one of 33,000 others to apply for the program— admitted that a part of him was uncertain that the opportunity would abandon him and leave him in the very same place that he started.
But, a glimmer of hope came for him at the sight of Washington, D.C.
“It was uh—I guess—uh— 9 p.m. at night when we were about to land I could see bright D.C. so this was one of the moments where I thought ‘finally, I’m here,’” he said.
The lights that beckoned him closer in the airline, felt like the long-awaited welcome to America that the very weary air traveler had dreamt of.
After a six hour flight from Pakistan to Turkey, a three hour flight from Turkey to Frankfurt, Germany, and a nine hour flight from Frankfurt to Washington, D.C., Ahmed was finally about to begin his adventure, until he was asked to go through a secondary security check at the airport in D.C.
Once again, his heart pounded in his chest as he endured several questions from customs workers, facing what he called ‘yet another uncertainty.’
“And when I could hear the sound of the stamp ‘ca-check’ so I thought, yeah, now I’m in the United States,” Ahmed said.
“That was a relief for me,” he added.
Ahmed admits that his outlook has changed substantially since his starry-eyed kid phase, citing that journalism both “found him” and provided a quicker and easier path to his dreams than medical school could have.
In addition, the Global UGRAD program will conclude soon, and Ahmed plans to return to Pakistan early to mid-December to finish his final years of undergraduate studies at the University of Islamabad.
From there, he plans to contribute to his community in positive ways and to inspire others before returning to America for his master’s degree in the future.
Being the first of the 80,000 members of his town to travel to the U.S. on a scholarship, there is no doubt that Ahmed’s story will inspire other Pakistani children to reach for their dreams, especially the big American ones.