Future minds of Pakistan
Meet the young generation of a vibrant Pakistan community who have adopted Dubai as their home
Dubai has a unique quality of embracing foreigners. No matter where one is from, it becomes a home for expats within a very short time. One of the easiest and most tolerant cities in the world, Dubai is home for diverse nationalities.
In recent years, there has been an influx of second-generation Pakistanis who were either born here or came to Dubai when they were very young. To these Pakistani, Dubai is their home and this is where they want to be.
In the past few years, the number of Pakistani graduates coming back after graduation has increased. We often hear the term "Dubai kids." These are the expat kids who grew up in Dubai.
The Dubai kids are undoubtedly fortunate to have grown in a near perfect society, rich in culture and diversity. The exposure to various nationalities, languages, cuisine and culture makes them learn so much about the world without having to travel to many places.
On average, a Pakistani child growing up in Dubai will have friends from at least five different nationalities and exposure to three different languages. These children grow up in a clean safe environment, where they can stay out till late without parents worrying about them.
They have the privilege of first-class education in schools, monitored by KHDA. If we look at the statistics, the number of Pakistani children going to top universities like Stanford, Cambridge, New York University Princeton have risen dramatically. What is interesting is that when they graduate, most of them return to Dubai to start their lives all over again in their much-loved Dubai.
We find many such young talents now amongst the Pakistani community who are contributing towards making Dubai go forward. The future belongs to the young and the future is bright.
Being an expat feels very normal as Dubai is an extremely multi-cultural city. My school life in Dubai has been a memorable experience. I have made lots of friends from various backgrounds and nationalities.
I am leaving for university with mixed feelings of joy and sadness as I will not only miss home but this wonderful city where I grew up, without feeling like an expat. I am going to Atlanta to Emory and I am excited at my new beginning there. I don't feel any different being from Pakistan.
Dubai has made me feel comfortable around everyone and had taught me about the places without having to travel far.
I love cricket and have enjoyed many matches played by Pakistan in Dubai, including PSL.
Surely Dubai is my home and I will miss it; wherever I go, I will carry a piece of it with me.
I feel incredibly privileged to have been raised in such a multi-cultural city, with people of all kinds of ethnicities and religions growing up with me. It has allowed me to gain a bigger understanding of the world without even needing me to travel.
I had fun, went out, spent time with my friends without issues of safety or being scared of getting into a taxi or Uber.
I am going to University of Massachusetts.
The culture shock of being away from my perfect Dubai will be overwhelming.
However, I have grown with so many cultures that I am sure I will be comfortable with my new peers.
Love you Dubai and as I leave for my new venture, thank you for being my home and always welcoming me as your own.
I was fortunate to have completed my schooling in Dubai as the opportunities I was awarded here were endless. From tournaments in Bahrain to conferences in Poland and beyond, I was able to apply my learning in the classroom to real world scenarios with peers from around the world.
I have chosen to study Neuroscience, stems from an internship I completed at Tuft medical centre, where I was able to evaluate the clinical management of neurological disorders. I will be soon leaving for Atlanta, a very different place from Dubai.
When I got into Georgia tech it was like a dream come true.
I will surely miss Dubai, especially it's safety element. Given that the population is hugely of expats, there is a real sense of global community that cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. This is something I will miss surely. Dubai will always be my home outside Pakistan.
I have spent most of my teenage years in Dubai. I consider Dubai my home and always appreciate it when I am away, anywhere in the world. I have recently graduated from New York University with a bachelors in Economics and Finance. I am currently working at a venture capital fund in London.
I miss Dubai ever since I left it. I remember the stunning infrastructure of the malls' buildings and beautiful beaches. There are not many places that offer so many wonderful things in one place.
I often miss burgers from salt lotus drama from Parker's and BBQ wraps from Zaatar W Zeit - and want to come back to Dubai to have my favourite food.
Growing up in Dubai is indeed an incredible experience for any Pakistani.
I was born and raised in Dubai, so I was able to see it develop from a small city to one of the biggest business hubs in the world. As a child, I attended Jumeirah Primary School and after leaving Dubai for Toronto for six years, I returned and attended the American School of Dubai. At both the American School of Dubai and Jumeirah Primary School, I met people from all over the world with all kinds of views and opinions.
I believe getting to know a diverse group of people broadens one's horizons and helps shape an individual, and this is true not just of students at the schools I attended, but practically any school in Dubai. This city is filled with people from all walks of life and you can see that whether you're walking through the streets, in the mall, in the workplace or in the classroom. I could be sitting in math class and have people with ten different nationalities sitting all around me, and this can only be experienced in culturally diverse cities like Dubai.
Even though people in Dubai may have their differences, they have many similar aspects as well. I've noticed this in a few schools, and it is that most people strive to succeed. When I lived in the suburbs of Toronto, I saw that a smaller percentage of people really took their grades and extracurriculars seriously, while in Dubai, it was the majority of the grade. Being around this kind of atmosphere made me motivated to work as hard as I could in my last two years of high school.
As I think about moving to Boston and reflect on my time in Dubai, I know I will miss the comforts of this atmosphere. Not only is Dubai a place where people work hard, but it is a safe city as well. As a young girl, something I realised I took for granted is the safety of Dubai. I can easily walk through the city at night alone, and I don't have to worry about getting hurt which is extremely rare. Since I am now moving to Boston it's something I have to think about, and I will definitely cherish this when I visit.
Even though I'm going abroad for my college education, if I happen to end up in Dubai in the future, I will be happy to live here. There are so many opportunities here that I am sure the rest of my generation and I will take advantage of.
The number of comforts in Dubai that I have been accustomed to will certainly keep me coming back. Even though I am excited about what Boston will bring me, I urge other students in Dubai who are in their last few years of high school to appreciate the city they live in and to take advantage of the many opportunities they have around them.
Sehr Amjad Ismail
I had a dream that was fulfilled in Dubai. I was an enthusiastic student of international relations at Tufts who came back to Dubai with a degree in Middle East and South Asian studies. My thesis was published in the Tuft Journal of International Affairs, a comparative study of women in Muslim family law in India and Pakistan.
I epitomise a global international Pakistan British UN child having lived in eight countries, studied in four international schools and then graduating from a top American university before moving to Geneva, Lahore and then Dubai.
Though I spent many years away from Dubai while at university, I am now an active member of the community.
My life in Dubai has been busy with many endeavours.
A very caring person with love for humanity that runs in the family I go out of my way to help people around the world including my own much-loved country, Pakistan.
I am a young enthusiast who has a love for life and is always seeking to help those in need.
I have devoted myself to the field of education and am determined to carry my family values and enthusiasm to dedicate myself to education and helping humanity.
Dubai is my second home and I hold it very close to my heart. I embrace Dubai like my own and though my heart will always be devoted to home country Pakistan, I will continue to contribute to the communities in Dubai with my knowledge, education and charitable disposition.
Simply love Dubai. Great cultural diversity in general, and although in schools we see children from different walks of life, everyone is respectful to each other.
There is a Dubai student culture in general to do our best. Perhaps it's because we are surrounded by hardworking parents or the glamorous life that motivates us to do our best.
In terms of academic atmosphere, Dubai is highly conducive to high achievers. I want to have a successful life like my parents and have the lifestyle I have had in Dubai. I love traveling and would love to have a profession where I would get to travel. My dream school is UCL, where I want to be for my under graduation. I have a love of languages - not a surprise coming from Dubai, where so many languages are spoken. I want to master five languages. When I leave for university, I think I will miss food and safety of Dubai.
I would feel uncomfortable walking by myself to anywhere else, other than Dubai. I am used to Dubai, where I can hop into a taxi any time of the day without having to worry about safety.
Dubai is my second home away from Pakistan, and my love for Dubai only grows each year.
Narmeen Zia Islam
My least favorite question - one I get asked constantly - is: where are you from? It's innocuous, often just an innocent inquiry, but one that unleashes a flood of anxiety within me. I always pause and wonder how to answer. My family is Pakistani. I currently live and study in Toronto. I was born in the UAE. I spent most of my adolescence split between Dubai and Canada. It's difficult to convey this, all my mixed, swirling identities and allegiances into one tidy sentence, but I do my best. Still, the follow-up question, after all this, is usually - so, where do you call home then?
This, perhaps, is even more difficult to answer. Growing up, I was certain that I'd feel as though Canada was my permanent home once I came here for university. It was a nation filled with people like me, and families like mine, who'd immigrated for a better life and it welcomed us all with open arms and allowed us to put down roots. In the middle of Dubai's searing summer heat, I'd dream of Canadian weather. The scent of the earth after rain. Clear, blue skies. The crunch of autumn leaves. Snow, a blanket of glitter, that would drift down and settle on everything. These were things I'd only read about, before living in Canada.
And yet - the word home now most vividly conjures images and memories of the place I left behind. I think of Dubai, just a tiny pinprick of a city of a map, but one that has etched itself irrevocably onto me. People make a lot of assumptions about Dubai, especially here in the West, assumptions that reveal themselves in a raised eyebrow or a half-formed question like, "but isn't the Middle East - ?"
I try not to engage with stereotypes but if I have time, I'll explain, as best as I can, what growing up in Dubai was like. I will tell them about afternoons on Jumeriah beach, on a stretch of golden sand.
Of people wearing burqas and bikinis both and no one batting an eye. I'll tell of sweet, milky tea from the little corner shop outside the mosque, tea that I can't find anywhere here in Toronto, and of evening walks in Barsha park, surrounded by date palms.
Or, barbeques with my family in the wintertime, a string of fairy lights keeping the backyard lit well into the night, when no one wanted to party to end, barbeques we still have when we go home for winter break but that no longer feel as though they can stretch endlessly because we're on borrowed time.
Or, Ramadan, my favorite time of the year, when the entire city would shift and days would turn upside down. I tell them about what it's like to hear the call to prayer everywhere, for my mom to be able to go out in her hijab without any fear, and what it feels like not to feel my difference so strongly.
I want people to understand Dubai the way I do. I want them to see beyond the glitz and glamour that is often projected, and to know the immense beauty of the city that I still call home.