Traveling to a foreign country for a unique learning experience can come with a range of emotions from excitement to nervousness. For two students from Karachi, Pakistan, the possibilities far outweighed the risks as they embarked on the more than 16 hour journey to Los Angeles to participate in the Sister2Sister exchange program which took place at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering from June 13th to August 5th.
The goal of the program is to give young women who are college students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Pakistan the opportunity to rise above cultural limitations that hinder their participation in pursuing competitive and lucrative careers. Previous Sister2Sister scholars have visited institutions like Georgetown, the University of Chicago, Emory University, and the University of Michigan.
Upon arriving in Los Angeles, the students, Bariya Khan and Sadaf Farooqui, worked with USC Viterbi professors on various projects. Farooqui worked on software engineering with a focus in machine learning. Khan, on the other hand, worked on a project related to geology and geophysics. Khan says she noticed an uptick in interest for STEM, especially computer science, among women back home in Pakistan. “Girls in Pakistan nowadays are more passionate about engineering, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence,” she said.
The unfamiliar environment presented several challenges to the new students. Both said they felt a difference in the academic culture of their home country. “In Karachi [Pakistan] women typically get better grades. However, many people are scared to take a leap of faith to come to the United States to pursue their education,” said Farooqui. However, both adjusted well with the help of professors.
The students had unprecedented access to USC’s facilities in order to advance their studies. Participants of Sister2Sister come to the program to further their future career and academic plans. “Many of the exchange students who spend time with me usually apply for a master’s degree,” said Iraj Ershaghi, the Omar B. Milligan Professor of Petroleum Engineering, who advised the students.
While USC Viterbi has a long history of welcoming students from around the world to participate in exchange programs, this is the first year participating in The Sister2Sister program. Over the course of the summer, USC Viterbi also welcomed students from China, India, and Saudi Arabia (both online and on-campus). In the past, the school has also worked with students from Mexico and South Korea.
Cauligi Raghavendra, USC Viterbi vice dean for global academic initiatives, emphasized how the program will have a big impact on the lives of the students, given the vast access to research opportunities at USC Viterbi. Raghavendra hopes the program has a lasting impression on the students participating.
“I hope the students tell their friends and professors back home about how wonderful USC Viterbi really is.”
According to Raghavendra, the students will also play an important role in helping to solve the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering, a new education model to prepare engineers to be world changers. USC Viterbi emphasizes this model in its curriculum. When discussing the importance of studying the grand challenges, he said, “getting people from all parts of the world to work on these challenges can make big progress.” Surely, the Sister2Sister students left their mark on the university by solving the challenges ahead of them while taking part in a successful inaugural year.
Published on July 27th, 2022
Last updated on August 12th, 2022