September 25, 2019
Las Vegas, N.M. – When Mariam Naseer, a Highlands University international exchange student from Pakistan, returns home she will tell people about the kindness of Americans.
“I’m in awe of the generosity and kindness American people show,” Naseer said. “I wear hijab, a traditional scarf Muslim women wear, and was concerned I’d be the only one wearing it. All the people I’ve met in Las Vegas, from my Highlands professors to strangers, made me feel comfortable in my own skin, always asking if I was ok. So many people have said, ‘we have your back.’”
The 24-year-old from Pakistan is participating in the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, or UGRAD.
Naseer said she came to the United States for both the once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunities and the cultural experience.
“From childhood in Pakistan, we have the dream of coming to the U.S. to study. In the U.S., we have more of an opportunity to explore our capabilities because the education system is so much better,” Naseer said.
Naseer has never traveled outside of Pakistan and is the first in her family to come to the U.S.
“When you travel alone for the first time you grow so much. It’s like I was living inside a bubble of my comfort zone in Pakistan. It’s a beautiful thing to be on your own. Every day you learn something new. So far, it’s been all positives at Highlands and Las Vegas,” Naseer said.
Naseer is in the final year of a five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree at Bohlan Medical College in Quetta, the capital city of Baloshistan province and her home. Quetta is also her home. Naseer also earned a degree from the Islamia Girls College of Quetta.
“I will complete my last year of my medical school when I’m back home. Then I’ll study to take the USMLE – the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam – so I can hopefully pursue further medical studies in America. I aim to be a surgeon in the future and am also interested in the Doctors Without Borders program because it would allow me to work in conflict zones,” Naseer said.
At Highlands, Naseer is taking courses such as biology, nutrition and sociology.
“All my professors at Highlands teach with so much passion and are super nice. For example, my sociology professor Dr. Monica Rossetti, biology professor Dr. Ben Nelson, and biology instructor Will Jaremko-Wright are so interested in their students,” Naseer said.
Naseer said the exchange program she works with placed her at Highlands University.
“The only thing I knew about New Mexico is that it has a big balloon fiesta, which I hope to attend,” Naseer said.
She said it surprised her that she hasn’t experienced culture shock or homesickness.
“I think I didn’t get culture shock because everyone has been so good to me. For instance, I’ll always be grateful to Chef Dean West and his team at the Sodexo dorm cafeteria because when I asked, he helped arrange food my religion allows, like halal chicken that has been slaughtered a specific way,” Naseer said.
Naseer has befriended several other students from Pakistan at Highlands.
“These students from Pakistan encourage me to try new things, from rock climbing to eating green chili,” Naseer said.
As part of the U.S. Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, Naseer is doing community service. She selected the soup kitchen at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church for her service.
“It’s really inspiring to see the women who volunteer there, cooking from scratch for the homeless. It’s such a good cause, and also a nice way to meet different people in the community,” Naseer said.