“I always wanted to pursue engineering studies,” said Munir, a junior at the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad. “I’ve always liked math, so for my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to go into something more general. That’s why I specialize in mechanical engineering, to learn the basics of the mechanics of everything. And then I want to go into a major aerospace field, with the ultimate goal of getting a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.
This summer, she took a virtual introductory aerospace engineering course taught by Gary Seidel, associate professor at the College of Engineering. She also took an in-person course on Global Ethics taught by Jay Burkette, PhD student at ASPECT.
“He keeps the class so energetic,” Munir said, “and tries to keep everyone’s point of view in mind. Most of the people there are from America, but I’m from Pakistan and he prompts me to talk about my experiences as a Pakistani to help the other 12 students understand my culture and my way of thinking.
Urooj, a major in computer engineering at Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi, is also planning to earn his master’s degree. She took an in-person software design course from Mark Manuel, a graduate researcher from the Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science, and an online public speaking course. She said this latest class helped her learn how to present her ideas to others, an important skill for those working in STEM fields.
She noted several differences in the education systems of the two universities.
“Here, the education system is more automated,” she said. “We have Canvas online and we upload all of our assignments there. Back at my school, we do most of the physical things. For example, you write the assignment on paper and then submit it. Here it is easier because you do the homework on the computer and just click the button to submit it. It makes a big difference. The education here is very good, but the educational experience that I get from my university is also very good.
For the two Sister 2 Sister exchange students who first met while traveling to Blacksburg together, they both agree that an important part of the study abroad program is l networking opportunity.
One of the most memorable moments for Munir was when she had an informal conversation about women in science, technology, engineering, and math with the University’s program administrator. American, Mahveen Azam.
“I was looking forward to being excited about the aerospace program,” said Munir, “and Mahveen said,“ Oh, I know Sarah Quraishi. And I say, ‘I love Dr Sarah Quraishi.’ She’s a big name in the aerospace industry at home and she’s the first person to develop drag-free airplanes. Mahveen said she could put me in touch with Dr Quraishi, and that’s when I felt that connection.
“This is when you get to know other amazing women who have worked so hard in all of their fields. And I think that’s what it is. I’m going to take these classes. , and I’m going to learn so much from my different friends that I make myself here. But when I get home, it doesn’t end there. Instead, you stay connected to these people, you get help. from them and you try to use these networks to achieve your goals.
For Urooj, the networking experience is also personal and she sees it as an opportunity to grow.
“I always wanted to be part of a bigger network so that I could have more confidence in myself, to express myself,” she said. “After being part of such an important program like Sister 2 Sister, I feel more confident. I can talk more about gender equality because I am more exposed to the world. So I can speak from a broader perspective. And while I travel to the United States, I can explore and experience the sheer beauty of diversity. I meet people of different nationalities, religions, beliefs and races.
For both, this study abroad program was their first time in the United States. They plan to take back the many important lessons they learned in class and from their new circle of friends. When they return to Pakistan, they both want to help other young women find their place in STEM fields.
“What I want to do in my life is learn a lot, pass this knowledge on and contribute to society,” Urooj said. “This is the meaning of learning – if you learn something and you are not able to contribute, it is wasted. If you learn anything, contribute to society so that you can have a good impact. I want to settle down and become an entrepreneur, so I can help my community by creating a startup. Because if you are an entrepreneur, you can create opportunities for others.
Written by Leslie King