America Calling

A small town girl’s month long American tour changed her idea of education and life completely. Saima Rashid narrates her experience

Afeefa and other students who studied Robotic Engineering in US.
Afeefa and other students who studied Robotic Engineering in US.

The  moment Afeefa Farooq, an 11 standard student from Pulwama district, stepped inside Harvard University in USA, her eyes sparkled in amazement. It was a dream journey. After every step she was promising herself that she will be part of this University, no matter what.

Afeefa was not the only one who was thinking on those lines. Her group mates from Pakistan, and different parts of mainland India were lost in the same thoughts. After sometime everyone started giving voice to their thoughts and unanimously spoke. “We promise to meet at this place after two years. Not as foreign students on a month long trip but as Harvard students. We will be back.”

Afeefa was among eight students selected from across India to study Robotic Engineering from University of Rhode Island’s (URI’s). Every year URI conducts a month long Building Bridges programme for students from across the world. This programme is conducted entirely on scholarship basis.  In 2015 eight students each from Pakistan, Turkey, India and the Province were part of this programme.

“I was the only student from Kashmir in the Indian group,” says Afeefa.  “I was very excited about this trip. Not because I was going to America, rather studying in any foreign land from any foreign University excites me.”

Afeefa did her initial schooling from Delhi Public School Srinagar then joined Dolphin International School Pulwama till 10th. Both of her parents are into academics.

“I am never pressurised to study hard or get good grades. My parents always advice me to study for the sake of learning and implementing rather than getting higher grades,” says Afeefa.

Maths is Afeefa’s favourite subject.  With a headphone in her ears she spends entire day solving numerical problems. “Music sharpens my mind rather than creating disturbance,” says Afeefa proudly.

Back in America, URI Building Bridges 2015 had made two more groups to participate from SEA (Summer Engineering Academy), but with a paid participation. “We had four counsellors, two from SEA and two from Building Bridges. Entire month was so productive that we learned to move and program robots in the direction we wished.”

Afeefa recalls that one of her projects was ‘Egg Drop Challenge’. “The aim was to drop an egg from the roof and not let it break,” says Afeefa.

A month’s stay taught Afeefa that ‘America lives in practicality’. American students don’t just read books but practice them, she says. “In Kashmir we are made to blindly follow whatever is written in our textbooks. Unless we don’t introduce a bit of Americanism in our education system we cannot grow,” says Afeefa.

The other projects she worked on along with her group mates were Trebuchet Contest, Propeller Car Challenge and Propeller Car Race. “We were given a motor to make a car propeller.”

Afeefa was part of a group of three students. “My other two mates were from Pakistan and the Province itself,” says Afeefa. “The aim was to see whose car is the fastest and I won the competition. That was the proud moment for me. Appreciation from professors followed,” Afeefa adds.

Afeefa credits her success to her school where she overcame her shy nature and gained confidence. “I still remember the moment when I learnt that my Visa was approved. It was a big moment for a small town girl like me,” recalls Afeefa.

At the end of her month long stay in America Afeefa recalls how everybody was in tears. “I felt terrible when I was about to leave America. But then the hope of coming back helped me smile,” says Afeefa confidently.

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