Not having a lot of choices at home for attending college, Hasnain Zaidi knew coming to the United States to study would afford him an opportunity both academically as well as so socially. “Well I’m actually pretty international as far as backgrounds go. My family is originally Pakistani, but I was born and raised in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates over in the Middle East,” he says.
“I spent middle school in Toronto Canada, but for the most part lived the bulk of my seventeen years before college in Abu Dhabi. I choose to attend college in the U-S, primarily because there weren’t a whole lot of options close to home. I was looking to study either in the United Kingdom, Canada or the United States just because the quality of higher education there is really top notch and its very hard to match the quality of the liberal arts education both academically, extra curricular wise and socially that you can get in the U-S and that is sort of why I started focusing on colleges in the states.”
So, after a bit of Internet research and personal gut instinct, Hasnain is attending Duke University. He says, it is only by luck that he ended up there. “I’m currently at Duke University. I’m a senior over here and I got lucky is all I can say far as why I chose to come to Duke. Most international students do not have extensive experience with American colleges and so what I did was I went online and pulled the U-S news top ten rankings, top twenty rankings and requested view books from the schools that seemed interesting and the ones that I had heard of and looked into which ones seemed interesting and when I say looked into I mean I visited the website and looked at pictures. I read brochures and articles online and that was really the extinct to which I knew about Duke,” he says.
“I never knew anybody that had visited here, hadn’t even actually heard about the basketball team before I got here and so it really was a shot in the dark,” he says.
“I found that I really liked the way the campus projected itself. I liked the image that they showed of themselves. Sort of the image that I got of Duke was a place where you could work hard, but also be part of a community and that was important to me was to be in a place where I would be welcomed and a place where I could make a contribution. So I got that sense from Duke and of course this could have been completely incorrect, but luckily it was spot on exactly what I found on during my time here, but really in the end it was by chance that I wind up at Duke.”
Hasnain is studying Public Policy. He says that wasn't his initial choice, but after giving it some thought, he is able to take some of his other interests and unify them into this one area. “I chose to major in Public Policy studies and it has been a bit of a journey getting here,” he says.
“I started off my career as a pre-med student. I was pre-med for two and a half to three years of my four here and so it was an interesting transition. I had always looked at doing something non-traditional sciences, I never intended to be a Biology or a Physics major per se, but I wanted to do something that would meld all of my interests and so Public Policy is one of the stronger programs here at Duke it has a huge focus on engagement and really making a difference within my community and that is a message that resonated with me a lot,” he says.
“It is also one of the more international programs with a very global focus and so that is important to me to be able to take those interests and unify them together.”
For Hasnain being able to study in the United States has been vital to him. He tells us why. “I think it has been vital. I think just from the perspective of receiving a college education has been huge, but the particular brand of college education that you get here its so fundamental to the development of young adults and I am a firm believer in that I could have studied in the United Kingdom, but in the UK what they have is you need to decide your program upon entry, so I would currently be enrolled in a pre-medical program. I would be on my way to being a doctor which would not have been the right choice for me because after having getting to Duke I decided that is not what I want to do with my life,” he says.
“So to have the flexibility, you know to come into college undecided and say ‘look I’m just going to see where the world takes me has been huge, but then also just from a personal growth stand point. The kind of things I have leaned both inside the class, but especially outside of class and being able to interact with such a diverse set of intelligence and articulate peers it just help me grow to another level that I don’t think would have been possible.”
After graduation this month, Hasnain already has future plans. “Currently the plan is to stay in the United States for a little bit. I have a job working for a major consulting company and I would like to gain some experience. I guess in my perspective a lot of what is going on in this world, is really driven by what is going to the United. It’s the center of innovation, the center of excellence and so to be able to be in that atmosphere and the work atmosphere here is really exciting,” he says. “So I am going to do that for a few years and then potentially live somewhere abroad.”