The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
When I was given the chance to write about #HigheredDesi, I jumped at the opportunity! Fast forward two weeks and I realize how much of a struggle it has been to write about my experience. Through reflection I asked myself, what do I focus on? Should it be about my experiences as an American Pakistani Muslim who has experienced and is continuing to experience Islamophobia? Should I talk about my struggle as being labeled as an ABCD “American Born Confused Desi,” someone who is not Desi enough? Or should I discuss my challenges of finding a group of individual who are similar to me in the field of Student Affairs? Eventually, I decided what the hell, I’m going to just tell you my story.
Being a Desi minority in student affairs really sucked in the beginning, especially since I did not know of any other Desi individuals in Student Affairs at the time. When I started graduate school, I hated being the token Asian American that my cohort members would look at for answers. I was envious of other student affairs professionals who always had a group they could turn to that had similar cultures, backgrounds, and general experiences as a support system. I was so upset that I did not have the support system that I started job searching outside of higher education. Finally, at the verge of leaving the field forever, I by chance connected with Hamza Khan at ACPA in Tampa. The conversation I had with this dude was the realest, most eye opening ever. He was of similar age as me, was Pakistani Desi, and had dealt with the same cultural, religious, and American struggles I was dealing with. We were the support system we each needed. To this day that was the single most important experience I have had. Eventually through conversations with him, I ended up staying in the field. And before you know it, I was introduced to the HigherEdDesi Student Affairs group a few weeks later at NASPA.
Looking back to that moment of my life there are a couple of pieces of advice I wish would have told my younger self during the moment of struggling.
- You are not alone—You are surrounded by people who love you such as family, friends, and colleagues. When you are struggling reach out to your mentors and friends.
- Take pride in being Desi—Embrace your culture, background and your “Desi-ness.” You bring a different perspective, ideas, and experiences that most wish they had.
- You aren’t just one identity—You have multiple identities. You are not just Desi. You are Muslim and you are American. Each has its own meaning. You never have to be defined by just one identity.
Now as a full-time professional in student affairs, I have a strong group of people who have similar backgrounds and stories as me. I have a group that has become my second family, who I can turn to in a time of need. Thank you to the Higher Ed Desi individuals who I have connected with over the years, without you I would not be here.
This post is part of our #HigherEdDesi series, which aims to share the stories of what it means to identify as “Desi” and working in higher ed. We hope to provide a context of how we came into Higher Education and what that journey looked like for each one of us. For more information, please see Juhi Bhatt’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!