Student from Pakistan attends UHV as part of federal exchange program

Kulsoom Masood can remember every detail about the day she found out she was approved to take part in an exchange program to study in the U.S.

Kulsoom Masood

“I was so nervous because it had been three days since other students began to get their acceptance calls,” Masood said. “Then, at 11 a.m., when I was making tea, I started wondering if I had left my phone on silent. I went to the other room to check my phone, and it was on silent, and someone from the education bureau was calling me right then.”

Masood, a third-year student at Habib University in Karachi, Pakistan, came to the University of Houston-Victoria as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan. Global UGRAD-Pakistan uses U.S.-based training and practical experience in leadership positions, community engagement and professional fields to help undergraduate students gain the skills needed to implement long-term civic and economic changes in their communities.

Through semester-long programs of study, exploration of U.S. culture, leadership development and integration into U.S. communities, Global UGRAD-Pakistan students develop a broad understanding of U.S. values and become citizen ambassadors who support expanded diplomatic and development partnerships, said Ludmi Herath, UHV International Programs director.

Ludmi Herath

“The Global UGRAD-Pakistan program is an exciting opportunity for the university to take part in promoting a more global perspective,” Herath said. “Masood is our second student to attend UHV through the program, and she has brought some outstanding contributions to UHV’s community.”

In addition to taking academic courses at UHV, Masood will participate in community service opportunities, explore U.S. culture and share presentations about her home country with UHV and the community.

Studying in the U.S. is a trailblazing experience for Masood and her family, she said. Although many women in her family have come to the U.S. and other countries as part of vacations or honeymoons, Masood is the first to study in the U.S.

“It was an intimidating prospect because I didn’t have that example to follow,” Masood said. “In my family, there was a certain expectation about what a woman could or couldn’t do, and I think God chose me to be the one to take this step and break that expectation. Now, my mother goes to weddings and events, and brags about her daughter who is studying in the U.S.”

Before she left for the U.S., Masood’s mother told her she should make the most of this opportunity.

“She told me, that when she was my age, she was already married with children, so she didn’t get to experience the things I will,” Masood said. “She told me she was going to live this time through me, and I am doing my best to make her proud.”

During one of her presentations about Pakistan, Masood included some pictures of her family to offer a more personal perspective about her culture. She’s also answered many questions from U.S. students about how people in Pakistan dress and behave.

Before coming to the U.S., much of Masood’s impressions and expectations came from Hollywood movies. Instead, she found a society that was surprisingly diverse, especially at the university.

“You can have students from India, Sri Lanka, England, Mexico and Nigeria all at the same table,” she said. “And because there are so many cultural differences, people constantly are changing how they communicate with each other to incorporate those variations and respect each other.”

She also was amazed to see how many responsibilities U.S. students take on at a young age. Many students have a more individualistic, independent attitude than is common in Pakistan. Students at UHV also do a lot of community service projects in addition to their studies and jobs.

“Back home, we had maids who would come and do a lot of cleaning for us,” Masood said. “Here, students keep their living spaces tidy on their own, and at the same time, they balance studying, work, dealing with tests and anxiety. And they still find time at the end of the week to do volunteer work and have some fun.”

As she nears the end of the semester, Masood is excited to return home and share her experiences with others. Although her initial decision to apply was spontaneous, the result has been an amazing opportunity and experience.

“Sometimes you have to take a risk and make a choice that could make or break you,” she said. “Now that I’ve taken this step, everyone at home is talking about me and what I’m doing. I’ve even received job offers, and it’s all because of a split-second decision to apply and do something different.” 

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.