What I’ve Learned at UT: ‘We’re All Human’

What I've Learned at UT: 'We're All Human'

For commencement week 2014, we asked graduating students to share one thing they’ve learned from their time at UT. Below, graduate student Umul Awan writes about what she learned from the university’s diversity and the professional opportunities she seized on the Forty Acres.

My name is Umul Awan and I am completing my master’s degree in Energy & Earth Resources at UT-Austin. I am from Pakistan and was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship  to pursue graduate school in the United States. I chose UT since it’s one of the best schools in the nation for studying energy.

The Fulbright is a cultural exchange program, and before I came to the U.S., it was emphasized that cultural exchange is one of the major goals of our study abroad term. However, it was not until I started my degree that I realized the depth of the cultural exchange experience I was going to undergo here.

UT is one of the most diverse schools in the country. Interacting with people from different cultures, races, and religions has changed my view of the world, and I have come to the conclusion that the fact that we are all human is above all these differences. No matter what culture, race, or religion one is from, we all experience sad and happy times, we all face challenges and obstacles in life, and we all love to bask in the glory of our successes.

I have also enjoyed being an ambassador for Pakistan, and breaking the image of a stereotypical woman from my country—I have met several people who perceive Pakistani women to be suppressed. Previously, I was working as a stocks and bonds trader in one of Pakistan’s leading banks and I majored in mathematics in my undergrad degree. Initially I loved to see the surprised reactions that I got when I discussed my background. Gradually, I got used to it. I have also attended several interfaith events, representing myself as a tolerant and a moderate Muslim.

Studying energy at UT has been a great experience. I was lucky to be enrolled in an interdisciplinary program, and took energy-related courses with different schools at UT, such as the business school, law, geosciences, public policy, and engineering. Interacting with students and professors from different schools at UT gave me a well-rounded perspective about my field. I was also fortunate to be able to attend various conferences during my graduate school. These conferences provided several networking opportunities and perspectives from the academia and the industry. I was also a part of the organization team of the UT Energy Forum, which is an interdisciplinary student-run energy conference at UT. Hosting such a conference at UT that furthers the energy dialogue was a great experience.

I have also traveled across various U.S. states during my two-year stay here, from major cities to national parks. The U.S. has been blessed with all kinds of natural beauty, from mountains to beaches, from desserts to clear and pristine lakes. It is interesting to note how the geography of the states changes as one moves from south to north and from east to west. I also had the privilege of visiting Alaska, one of the world’s untouched wonders, for a conference. My stay in the U.S.  has been great from an academic, professional, and personal development point of view, and I am thankful for this opportunity.

Artwork by Melissa Reese. 


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