Zainab Shoeb Samad

My dream is to work with the underprivileged, where the focus is not simply on their education but on holistic growth as well. By identifying future career options, and working on improving their living conditions, I want to make a deep, qualitative difference to their lives. At the moment, it may seem like an idea but it is a serious intention and I am in the process of taking it forward. Currently, I am volunteering with an NGO and getting to understand my surroundings better and knowing people around before I take the plunge. My understanding of social settings and cultures, and the role of women in them was particularly informed during my participation in the Study of the United States Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders at the Kansas Women's Leadership Institute in 2014. To know that every woman, no matter what part of the world she is from, is struggling to make an identity for herself has been phenomenal to my growth.

Similarly, the I Have A Dream Program helped me take my exchange program experience to a whole new level by acquainting me with other young men and women of good understanding and knowledge, and the struggles they face. While several activities during the workshop stayed with me, it was Trust-fall that had a deep impact. There, we were made to stand on top of a chair that was further placed on top of a table, and with our backs facing everyone else we had to fall backwards. I truly understood the fear of the unknown during this exercise and how there are times when one just needs to let go. Normally, we ensure our own safety, but in this case, there were people to hold you as you fall and one just had to let go. Apart from this, the Empathy, Searching, Carefrontation and CoAdvising (ESCA) approach helped me gain balance while interacting with peers, where I understood the ability of striking meaningful conversations, something that I have always strived for.

My mentor, Vaishali, helped me through various difficulties. She always kept her hopes high and never faltered to advice and guided me at every step irrespective of whether it was my personal goal or social dream. She went through a major accident recently, and yet took the time out to mentor. She has counseled me not only through words but also has instilled values of perseverance and dedication through her actions. From her, I have learned to be balanced when it comes to expressing views, and stating ideas and suggestions. Once I was supposed to take children from the NGO for a historical tour, and was obsessing over collecting study material and preparing teaching aids. Here, my mentor encouraged me but also suggested I first understand the children I am working with. Seeing me tax myself over this, she also said I must attempt to make this endeavor a seamless part of my life, so that it does not feel burdensome.

This program has helped me let go of my fears and I learned there are many more people who are passionate about working towards community welfare just like me. Through the I Have a Dream program I also connected with other people and their dreams. A strong cohort of passionate individuals, particularly other female mentees, striving to make a difference and working together was one of the most empowering outcomes of this process. Knowing and understanding that there is a strong support system when you need it was also another reassuring part. At a personal level, this has made me a stronger person willing to take that leap of faith and act.

Zainab Samad is currently pursuing an MBA from Amjad Ali Khan College of Business Administration. She participated in the USG-sponsored Study of the United States Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders on Women's Leadership exchange program in 2014. She was mentored by Vaishali Neotia, CEO Merxius, through the USG-sponsored I Have a Dream leadership and mentoring program for International Exchange Alumni.

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