Pakistan to Paxton: international student helps students as a residential specialist

Originally from Pakistan and now living on the Anna Maria College campus in Paxton, Aisha Lakhani has made some huge life changes in the past few months. While the road to change can be daunting, Lakhani is incredibly excited to see where this new journey will take her. Not only is Lakhani a graduate student in Anna Maria’s Counseling Psychology program, but she is also helping students in her new role as Residential Specialist on campus.

Lakhani has always been fascinated by psychology and the “why” behind what influences human behavior. She was working as a full-time clinical psychologist in Pakistan but believed that an American degree and license would further elevate her career options back home.

“I am an international student, so I know that a degree from the United States has a much higher value, and it will give me more learning opportunities when I return home to Pakistan,” Lakhani said.

Lakhani first heard about the college from a friend who graduated and had enjoyed his experience at Anna Maria. From the moment that Lakhani contacted the Admission Department, she was impressed with the extra mile they would go to help her attend Anna Maria College and make her feel safe and settled in a place that was so far from home.

“The international staff and faculty were so welcoming. They helped me through the enrollment process which included obtaining my visa. Even my professor, Dr. John Pratico, helped me every step of the way and inspired me to pursue my counseling license,” Lakhani explained, “So I chose this state and chose this college because I love to be around good people who make a difference.”

Lakhani has big dreams and is willing to give it all to achieve them. She explained that in Pakistan the cultural norm is to have generations of families living in the same household. Dorm living was something she only saw in movies. Her father wanted that experience for her and encouraged her to study abroad.

“Being in the United States makes me happy. It gives me a sparkle in my head and in my stomach that I want to live this life. This is not just my dream that I’m fulfilling, but I am also fulfilling my father’s dream,” Lakhani said.

Lakhani’s experience and education in psychology are also helping her in her new role as Residential Specialist (RS). As an RS, Lakhani oversees Residential Assistants, creates engaging events, and supports resident students. Her understanding of human behavior allows her to help students solve problems and mediate situations in the dorms.

The culture shock of being from Pakistan and now living in the United States is something that thrills Lakhani but is also challenging at times. Transportation, cuisine, and habits are all differences that Lakhani is navigating. She views these experiences as a once in a lifetime opportunity and her role in the dorms allows her to fully immerse herself in this new environment.

“I would love to get into the Massachusetts accent more and learn more about the language and culture of the United States. My job in residence life and my counseling degree helps me explore this new culture even more. I want to experience all the events, religious happenings, lifestyles, and holidays. I am so excited to learn about the country’s culture,” Lakhani said.

At times, Lakhani misses her family, her traditional clothes, and the comforts from home. However, her view as an international student allows her to empathize and support other international students on campus. She encourages fellow international students to attend events, make friends, and try to explore the surrounding areas on the weekends. According to Lakhani, the staff at Anna Maria are willing to help anyway they can, so she suggests that international students be engaged on campus and have fun discovering a new place and culture.

“If we don’t have challenges in life, we don’t learn things,” she said.

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