Oxford College sophomore Falak Mawani is a hardworking student who is very involved on campus and highly respected among students, faculty and staff. One has to wonder what made her who she is today.
Mawani was born in Karachi, Pakistan, where her parents are originally from. When she was only 2, her father moved the whole family to Uganda, Africa to take on a new job. According to Mawani, "Life was easy in Uganda. You did not need much to live off of there." Mawani would spend the next five years of her life in Uganda before her father looked ahead to the United States for a new start.
"My parents kept hearing about opportunities to go to the U.S.," Mawani said. Her parents really wanted her and her sister to have the opportunity to receive a good education in the U.S.
Unfortunately, getting a visa to come to the U.S. was not easy. Mawani’s father was denied a visa six times, but he remained adamant.
"He took it in his heart that he wanted us to come to the United States and get the best education possible. He wanted us to attend the colleges here because he heard they were very prestigious and rigorous."
In 1996, Mawani’s family was granted visas to come to the U.S. However, it took a lot to leave Uganda. In Uganda, Mawani’s family was considered in the upper-middle class, but that status would not hold true upon arrival to America.
Mawani’s family came to the land of the free with only suitcases full of clothes. Moving was very expensive and they had to leave everything behind in order to do so.
The transition proved to be very difficult for Mawani’s family. Her parents were both jobless when the family arrived in Chicago. Her father did not know where to find work and, although he previously worked at a bank in both Uganda and Pakistan, the credentials to do so here were not the same. He ended up finding work in a gas station while the family had to squeeze into an already full relative’s house.
Their first few years would involve moving between different cities such as Atlanta, Dalton and then finally, Memphis. Times were tough in the Mawani household, but her parents never let her and her siblings know that.
"I don’t think my parents ever let us get hold of how hard it was. There were times when my mother wanted to go back to Pakistan, but my father refused and said that we’ve made it this far, we can’t go back now."
Mawani said that it is that very thought that keeps her motivated to excel in school and busy with all of her activities.
Mawani, a political science major and education minor, became interested in education in high school when she started comparing the world’s different school systems for a project. She wanted to find out what was so special about America and why her father so urgently wanted her and her sisters to receive an education here.
Mawani chose to compare the world’s best education system, Finland, with a 100 percent literacy rate, to America. From this, she wondered why her father chose America over Europe. What she soon learned was that there was more to her father’s decision than just ratings and numbers.
"I think the whole aspect of diversity that America has is not in any other country. If you try to work your way up, you can do it. That is why he chose America out of all places."
Mawani’s father did not simply want his daughters to receive a good education, but he also wanted them to have the opportunity to live the American dream and become anything they wanted.
At Emory, this idea inspired Mawani to take the route she is taking. She hopes to go into public policy to help rally more attention towards education in the country.
"I want the American education system to be one of the best ones. I want everyone to have the opportunity to come out from where they are and move up in society. Learn all that they can and learn the value of education."
Because of the values and lessons instilled in her by her parents, Mawani’s future looks very bright.