Interview by Layla Abdulla ’19. Photographs by Victor Alvarez ’19.
Ali, an international student from Pakistan, is an extremely talented senior who has lived life to the fullest during his four years here at Brown. Speaking almost five languages, Ali is without a doubt a truly diverse individual who enjoys exposing himself to different cultures and isn’t afraid to step outside his comfort zone. His global and distinctive experiences have given him a unique outlook on life which can be seen through his involvement with various groups on campus, his wide range of interests, and his strong friendships with people from all over the world.
Where are you from?
What is your major?
Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations.
What languages do you speak?
Urdu, Gujarati, English, Spanish, and Bosnian (elementary).
Which clubs have you been involved in at Brown?
Freshman year, I was mainly involved in the Brown Debate team. Sophomore year, I became a Meiklejohn and an RPL, while working part-time for BUDS and as a TA. This past year, I became more involved in my concentration DUG and in the Pakistani community at Brown. For fun, I try to join the Brown Outing Club on their weekend trips and give free back and neck massages for BURP (Brown University Relaxation Project).
Why did you decide to study in the US?
I had never envisioned the United States as part of my academic journey. However, my trajectory changed when I was accepted to United World Colleges (UWC), a high school program which encouraged me to apply to US colleges.
How have your four years here been different from what you expected?
I did not have any expectations coming into Brown as I did not know what a US university experience comprised of. These past four years, I have grown to love this place and share my experiences with others. Similar to my community back home, the community and culture at Brown harbors a superb balance between focus on self and support for others.
What did you find most difficult to get used to?
I try to immerse myself in every environment that surrounds me. While the move here was not difficult, the most challenging aspect was getting accustomed to the portion sizes. How do you honestly expect someone to eat that much? My eating habits have definitely changed since.
What is the food/dish that you miss from home?
What I miss the most is barbeque! Pakistani barbeque: there is simply nothing like it!
What is an Americanism you have picked up in the last four years?
As a regular cook, I have noticed cups are better measurements than milliliters and liters, due to their practicality. However, I still have yet to understand Fahrenheit, it doesn’t make any sense to me no matter how much I try (laughs). I will stay loyal to Celsius!
What do you wish you knew as an incoming freshman?
Having recently found out about RISD’s winter session, I wish I knew about it before. There are many interesting classes offered during the winter session that you could take without having prior prerequisites such as VISA.
How has living here changed how you act/interact at home?
In the past four years, I have only visited home twice for short visits. Each visit, my parents definitely notice small changes in my mannerisms: I went from sleeping in past noon to becoming a morning person. Due to my time at Brown, I have become a more extroverted and confident person. Because of the fact that I have not been home often, it feels like I am a tourist in my own country. However, when I go back home, I make sure to revisit my favorite points of interest in the city and old friends.
What is one thing that you’re going to miss about Brown? What’s your strongest or best memory?
One of my strongest memories is Spring Weekend, as Brown truly gets together and shares a sense of community. Cooked meals with my friends will be one of my most cherished memories at Brown. Organizing a dinner will not be the same after Brown.
What is your favorite spring break memory?
I am grateful for the one week we get to escape the cold weather. It marks a shift for me from the chilly Providence winter to the blooming spring. While each break has its remarkable memories, I am especially excited for the upcoming one. I am headed to Southern California with a large group of friends including some who live in LA.
Anything else you want to talk about?
My last piece of advice to international students would be to branch out. At Brown, international students tend to cluster together due to their shared experiences. However, Brown is a more rewarding experience when you step out of your comfort zone. You learn as much outside of the classroom, as you do inside it. You will end up learning a lot from the people you surround yourself with during your time here.