Life and opportunity for undergraduates in Pakistan

The excellent Faiza Samad (@Fizzles__) has written about her experiences as an undergraduate in Pakistan and the dilemmas facing her and her friends.

Humans can adapt.

We have this inborn trait which enables us to change according to our environment. We mold ourselves, to fit in, to blend. An outsider may know all the superficial facts of the matter but they may never understand them in their entirety, unless they live through them. You read your newspapers and you watch the hourly headlines, build an opinion, based on those stories and move on.

So what if the country that I live in is deemed the most dangerous by some analyst who’s never set foot here. Do they really know what they’re talking about, I ask?

Living in Pakistan, for me, is like living anywhere else. I haven’t known a life outside of its boundaries and grown accustomed to all the ups and downs. What would you say if I asked what it is like living in your home? It is your home after all. It is all that you’ve known. It is your whole life.

You become conditioned to your surroundings with time. You are comfortable there. It is where your heart truly dwells.

Of course there is political instability, the threat of militancy, of terrorist activities. Of course I’ve heard bomb blasts go off and felt the windows of my house shake due to the intensity of it.  But in the midst of the uncertainty, life goes on.

I should add that I am privileged enough to live in a part of the country where life is supposed to be normal, where terror threats are minimal. The case I talked of earlier was an isolated one that took place about three years ago. I live in Lahore, the cultural capital, which is fairly peaceful. The hub of terrorist activities, I should add, is only a small part of the country. I live away from it and quite frankly, try to ignore it now.

I’m not insensitive to the dilemmas of my people, but after hearing of death and misery by everyone around me, I try to not think about it too much.

I go to a university, have friends, tweet regularly, use Facebook, in short and do all the mundane things that a normal twenty one year old would do.

Being an undergrad in Pakistan is gruesome, for reasons other than the state of affairs of the troubled country. The difficulties that arise in the process of achieving a Bachelor’s degree have nothing to do with our perpetually unstable country. There are problems, of course, but of a slightly smaller scale. I’ll state them briefly, if I may.

The task of choosing a major is difficult, the options available to you, limiting. I myself am an economics major, not due to my interest in the field but due to the lack of options provided to me. We have a multitude of doctors and engineers whereas the arts are largely ignored. Gender too, comes into play and you have to consider the suitability of your chosen profession with regards to your gender.

The Malala debacle is but one extreme and unfortunate aspect to it. Generally, girls do get education, quite freely and enthusiastically.  Of course, not everyone is the same, but attitudes are changing with time. However I must add that the society’s perception regarding your chosen field does influence your decision. Youth is constantly in a limbo, of going with their instincts or choosing what is deemed appropriate by the people around them. There is also dearth of proper higher educational institutes, they exist but fail to cater to everyone’s needs.

There are many national and multinational firms that offer well-paid jobs to graduates.  However this is where a major dilemma comes up. Our country’s economy is declining; the value of its currency has reached its lowest in the 66 years of its existence. A US dollar is now worth a hundred Rupees whereas it used to be worth five in the sixties. Rising prices, declining purchasing power, financial instability are only some of the problems that a common man faces, in Pakistan.

The dilemma for us under grads is this; should we stay in the country out of duty or should we go towards greener pastures.  Is security worth more than patriotism? Is material advancement more valuable than the feeling of being at home?

This is the question that I, along with many of my friends, am hoping to answer, the dilemma that we’re hoping to overcome.

You can follow Faiza on Twitter.

Further reading

India calling… by Moumita Acharya

The Spanish black hole we are living in by Paula Goberna

My life on benefits (England) by Fantastical Dom


1 Comment

  1. I must say that your post (albeit well written) represents quite a limited view of the reality in Pakistan. Feeling bad if our country is deemed by others, to be one of the most dangerous places to live in, doesn’t change the fact that it actually is. If Lahore isn’t racked by terror activities on almost daily basis, it doesn’t change the fact that almost every day, one Pakistani city is hit by a monstrous wave of terrorism. If we live far away from it and choose to ignore it, doesn’t mean we can tell the world that it’s not a problem at all. It is a huge problem!
    As to the aspect of the education of girls, you have again presented that in very limited scope. Just because most girls in big cities get an education doesn’t mean it’s the same in the rest of the country as well.
    Moving on to choice of university major; don’t worry about getting into a field that wasn’t your first choice. I did my Bachelor’s in Computer Science and trust me, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into. I struggled really hard through my 4 years in college (ended up hating programming :)), but eventually landed in a Multi-National Company (on my own i.e. without any influence/references) at a very good post. So there are opportunities out there still.
    I do agree that there aren’t enough opportunities in terms of choosing your field, etc. But we could try and change that by giving feedback to our universities/colleges. We can also try offering mentoring and counseling to young undergrads. I did that by participating in mock interviews at my university.
    Lastly, choosing to move to greener pastures is ultimately up to you. In my opinion, family is more important than patriotism nowadays. However, this is just my opinion and others have all the right to differ 🙂

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