Dadajee, my grandfather, migrated from India to Pakistan when it gained independence in 1947. He was a sailor, so during my childhood each night before going to bed, he would tell me stories about the different people he met during his adventures at sea.
“The sound of the tides made my thoughts disappear; the ocean made me realize the power of God,” he would say.
Dadajee always used to start his stories by describing his love for the ocean.
His stories not only inspired me to travel the world, but they helped me better understand diverse beliefs, cultures and global practices.
Now, when I return home after traveling to a new country, I mark each visited country with a thumbtack on a map that takes up my entire bedroom wall.
Even though I got to visit many different places from a young age, my parents made sure that I earned each holiday we went on and instilled in me the value of education. As I child, I attended one of the most prestigious institutions in Lahore, called Aitchison College.
However, as time progressed, the state of Pakistan worsened. There was violence and constant threats of terror attacks. In 7th grade, a car bomb exploded right across the street from my school. I saw shattered glass everywhere, teary-eyed students, panicking teachers and a cloud of smoke looming over the lawns of my school’s picturesque campus.
The situation in Pakistan worsened, and there were several days where my mom didn’t feel safe allowing my twin sister and me to go to school. Days turned into weeks, and I was forced to spend most of my time as a prisoner in my house. Even on the days I went to school, I had to come back home right after it ended.
I always felt confined. I wasn’t allowed to go to crowded places or go out with friends at night. In 11th grade, I missed school for a month because of the constant threat surrounding us.
This was the last straw for my parents. Because of the never-ending safety concerns, in 2013 my family and I moved to Dubai: the city where I was born.
My move to Dubai could not have come at a better time. I could finally live like a typical teenager — gone were the restrictions on visiting crowded places or spending time with friends at night. My newfound freedom allowed me to interact with people from various beliefs and cultures, enabling me to better understand different perspectives.
These interactions helped me recognize the brutality that was exhibited during the India and Pakistan partition. This brutality caused permanent damage to Dadajee’s knee after the train that he was on was burned down. This brutality was due to a lack of tolerance between people from both sides.
When applying to colleges, I considered going to either the U.K. or the U.S., but ultimately decided to study in America because of the flexible curriculums and free opportunity to pick my studies.
I specifically chose Lehigh because of its stellar academic reputation and location.
My experience at Lehigh has been life-changing, and I have learned more about myself in three semesters than I could have ever imagined. I love Lehigh and the kind of person it is molding me into. I have made lifelong friendships with people from all over the world.
However, most of those friends are either international students or people who are unaffiliated with a Greek chapter. I can’t help but notice a divide between the three factions of Lehigh: Greek life, student-athletes, and everyone else.
I find that most of my friends from my first semester are now unrecognizable and, at times, unapproachable because of Greek life. That’s just how it is.
This divide exists due to preexisting stereotypes that have been permanently embedded into Lehigh’s culture. Every student has a label attached to them, so the majority of them feel comfortable spending their time with people in the same bubble.
In all honesty, I haven’t put in enough effort to reconnect with some of my first-semester freshman year friends. But neither have they.
At the end of the day we need to realize that we all represent something much bigger: we are all Lehigh students.
I urge everyone to step out of their comfort zones and try to connect with someone outside of their social circle. I am setting a goal for myself to reconnect with at least five of my freshmen year friends.
You can meet so many amazing people, you just have to make an effort.
I want to reach out to every student on campus through my column this semester. I aim to use my culture and upbringing to promote inclusivity and unity on campus.
Saad Mansoor, ’19, is an assistant lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]