Lillian: Okay, so we'll get started! I don't know, would we like to start from your childhood or your family?
Sheraz: Sure, whatever you like. Do you want me to talk about this from the beginning?
S: Yeah, so I was born in Pakistan in a city, Sialkot. My dad and the kids were born in that city, and my mom was born in another city called Lahore, and they had an arranged marriage. And my dad had a business, to my understanding, in America. I think it was importing medical supplies to hospitals from Pakistan and it was a really successful business that my grandfather started, and then my dad and some brothers kind of picked up after he passed away. He was doing that before the kids were born, so he was already in America doing that with his brothers and stuff like that.
And then once I was born, my brother and I were twins—fraternal twins, we were the last of five kids, my dad decided to move us all to the U.S. when I was, I think, about seven months old. So not much time I spent in Pakistan. But my older siblings had some times and experiences there. I grew up in Long Island. People say I don't have much of a Long Island accent, I was like, I don't know—
L: What does that even—
S: Right, what does that even mean? I grew up in Long Island, and we grew up together, five kids and Mom and Dad in our house, and it was fun to have so many siblings. It was just great to have them because I had so many great experiences, so many childhood memories. Some cousins came over too, we'd have sleepovers too. I always look back and think—like my mom raised… my mom and dad raised five kids, my mom stayed at home for pretty much until we got a little—until my twin and I got a little older, because just taking care of the kids took a lot out of her and so my dad was working and I look at that and it really… inspired what I do. I always think about how hard my mom works raising the kids, I always find her to be a role model and mentor of working hard and there's so many ways you can work hard and show that and not show that. I think it goes without saying that she's an amazing woman. She's my person that I talk to if I have anything that's on my mind or just talk about life. So that's it. Just a little snapshot about my childhood growing up.
L: What were, like, the family dynamics? Um, like relationships or—because I’m thinking, you said your parents had an arranged marriage and then moved to Long Island, which seems like predominantly like, white, suburban-ish with maybe a different family structure. Like—I don't know. So was there a contrast in what you saw around you versus what you experienced at home?
S: Yeah, from my perspective... it depends on where you live in Long Island. My town, Bay Shore, where I grew up, was, I would say, very diverse. However, Long Island’s unique in that the next town over was not diverse, like there was a line between this and the next town, which was not very diverse. And I only knew this, really, I found that about that in high school because I was in a peer support program which was led by our social worker. Really, really cool opportunity and program to hear stories from students and build kind of… support for one another.
We did this, this trip, this shadowing kind of opportunity where we would send students from our school to be paired up with a student from another school. And we got to see what the experience was like to be in a different school. Not just to see the perspective of the resources our school has and the opportunities that they have and the differences but also the diversity of the school and we went to a school that was—I guess one could say is more diverse, even though our school was diverse—more diverse in terms of the breakdown of race and ethnicity, and then we had a school that was like, they even told us that they can count how many folks are minoritized students, like wow, that's interesting. But definitely great perspectives to see that and gave me a lens of what Long Island really is like, at least when I was there. So….
L: So what was Long Island really like?
S: I love Long Island. I feel like you go from one city to another and you get so many cool, different experiences. You know, you have Jones Beach and Robert Moses, which was amazing because that's a really well-known beach in Long Island that folks go to when it's nice out. You go from one town to another, you can see Tanger Outlet Malls, or you could go to Dix Hills or Deer Park and—for my mom and dad, go grocery shopping for South Asian food. You can go from town to town, have such a different experience. You go all the way down, you pass the Hamptons, you can go to Montauk and go to the end of the Long Island, see the lighthouse there. And the nice thing is there's so many ways to get across Long Island. There's three main highways that I’m familiar with and then there's Long Island Railroad too. So if you’re trapped, you just go on the other highway and, you know, you can get around.
L: One of three.
S: Yeah, no, Long Island was awesome. It was really cool. I think there's still a lot to be explored because I was there until I was 22, because my parents finally left. And so it's changed a lot, because I went back a year ago and it's changed, at least the town I grew up in, in terms of like what they have there now. But I wish I could, you know, spend more time there to see what Long Island fully is like, you know, to really enjoy.
L: So moving on from that to like…childhood education, or like middle school education. So you said that was a really diverse school. Could you elaborate on that?
S: Yeah, sure.
L: Maybe how it formed how you approached… I don't know, the community, or your identity even, or even your educational decisions.
S: Oh, I see. Yeah. So, for me, my experience growing up—I guess I should share this first—that my parents, you know, prefer for us to stay at home and hang out with cousins. I think it was this perspective that they had like—just stay with your cousins, you'd be safer and things like that, not knowing the unknown, whereas I grew up and I had friends who would do the travel soccer team, the Little League ones, and then grow up and do other things. Up until middle school, I had this perspective of, like, I wish I could do those things, but I can't and so I'll just hang out with cousins and we'll play our own pickup soccer or pickup baseball and things like that.
I had four siblings, but then it really came out to like ten because of my cousins. And so we were able to have this kind of, our own friend group right there, hanging out and things like that. With siblings that already keeps you busy right there, like spending time with them. But when I got to middle school, it was a little different because seventh grade is when you get to do sports. And for me, that was an opportunity to actually have a school-related—and I say this because when you say school-related, for me, it was a reason to not be confined at home, like you're going to something related to school—and so I did.
I did football, my first sport ever, which is interesting. They put me on the offensive line. I was like, hi! I am not built for this! But I'll do it. I think there's—I was also just nervous a lot, like getting hurt. So I was like, well, it's not like you're going to get tackled out of nowhere, you just get pushed to the ground, is what the offensive line was to me, but I did that. For me it was a big transformation too, because I also wasn't very, like, a person that was in shape. Football, with all the heat and all these pads and stuff, you've lost a lot of weight doing that. But my coach which—one of the coaches was also a track coach. He saw my potential in running and suggested that I run track in the spring, which I did, and I ended up doing track and that was a sport I ended up staying with all the rest of my five years in school. And I say all that to say it was an opportunity for me to explore life outside of school, even though it’s school, but it's still life outside of academic school, and see what it's like to hang out with friends outside of school. It's not just about academics and classes. I got to go to meets and travel out of Long Island. Yeah. Yeah, so that was pretty cool. I'd say that was a different perspective for me.
L: Mm, so how was high school then? That segues?
S: Yeah, I think doing track and doing sports in middle school transitioned me pretty well to high school. Because I was comfortable doing extracurriculars now and getting my feet wet and getting involved right away, so high school for me was pretty good because I think the track team for me was like a form of support.
For me, it was interesting because I was in the honors programs. I was taking accelerated courses. I don't know if that was by choice. My parents had the say in either having me go a year ahead or take honors courses and I think my mom wanted me to stay with my brother, so we could stay in the same classes—not same classes, the same grade—and be together, support one another. I don't think I had, I had one class with him for 12 years in school, which is interesting. I got to that point, for me, I think, being involved—not just track, but other things—that helped me to really get a good understanding of culture and life and high school and be a good leader there and have a really good, you know, be a really good role model for folks.
L: What else did you get into in high school?
L: Activities-wise or even like, did you figure out what kind of subject you like?
S: Oh, yeah, I found math to be easy. So subject-wise, I was really… I was really—I really enjoyed my time doing math, you know, algebra, geometry, calc AB, and things like that.
And then extracurricular-wise, I… track was the main one. Track is interesting in that once you do track, especially for distance runners, you can't really do any other sports ’cause you have cross-country, winter track, spring track, and then back to this, so I was like, alright. Well, that's unfortunate.
And then other things, I did that peer support group, which was really cool. One of the highlights for that one, in addition to that shadowing thing that I was talking about, was that we did this event called Awareness Weekend, I think it was called. And so you spend the night in the school, sleeping in school overnight, and you—it's like you build a community, you talk about your experiences, anything that's affected you, essentially. And you say it in front of a group to finally let something that's on your chest, to let it off, to finally have a support group. And then you also get to do fun activities and we had these, like, they had this yarn tied with a rubber band that also looked like a ball, and you gave it to someone if you thought that they really said something that's meaningful to you. And then you give them a hug after you give it to them, like, it's so cool. It was just very well organized, very well facilitated, everything like that. So I was very involved with that, helping facilitate that, making that essentially happen, leading small group activities, and stuff like that.
And then I was also involved with the National Honor Society in the community service group. And so it was cool to see—to do the, you know, Relay for Life and we had this one called Judy Shesh Memorial, like the 5K run. So that was really cool to build awareness around cancer—cancer research. Things like that. So yeah, I got to do a couple different things like that.
L: Some things never change.
L: So it sounds like to me that the peer activities you did—about the peer support group—sounds a lot like student life and, like, activities, and maybe inspired a lot of what you chose to pursue later on in college and, like, after college too?
S: Yeah, the thing is—I think a lot of people have this experience, that I didn't know what student affairs in higher education was, going into undergrad. I only knew, like, I knew I wanted to work with students. So I thought I was going to be a math teacher eventually. I majored in—after switching majors a couple times—I ended up majoring in Math Education. I was like, well, I loved my teachers in high school because they were so cool in that… they just taught the class so—they would have so much fun doing it and they would just talk to [students] after—you have that kind of relationship built then. I was like, I want that, this is the only way I feel like I can work with students and support them and be, like, essentially be that person to help them through a struggle or what have you.
And it wasn't until like… end of sophomore year, junior year, that one of my supervisors, when I was an RA [resident assistant], told me that, Sheraz, student affairs, this—this is a career that you can get paid to do. Like—wait, what? I get to work in a college setting and work, and the reason why I was so excited about this was because I was… I was thinking about math and being a teacher to be a similar curriculum every year, just being repetitive in that sense. And so for me, the switch was really because I was, like, college, every year’s gonna be different because you have different students, and when you work in an office like this.
So I was like, okay, let's finish it up. What do I have to do? And they're like, well, there's no undergrad degree really for student affairs. I mean, maybe a close one would be like psychology, maybe sociology. I was like, okay, so I guess I can just do—can I just stay in my program right now, just finish it? And yeah, really, the requirement is having a degree, a bachelor's degree, the undergrad experience. And so I was like, okay, so I'll just finish out with math. And then I finished out and then I was like, this is the career I'll go into and that's—that's what happened.
L: So…did you have to do like master’s work too for that then?
S: Yes, it's a—it's a catch, like it's not like you have to do master’s work, but it definitely gives a lot of foundational experience, theories, understanding theories, understanding the structure of college and universities and policies and things like that.
My first job out of undergrad wasn't—I didn't go straight into a master's degree. I actually went and worked full-time, which I found was tricky because a lot of schools and requirements tend to be a master's degree as well, in addition to having a bachelor's degree or substituted with, like, some years of experience. I didn't have either so I applied to, like—I think I applied to, like, 25, 26 schools when I finally got an offer. My criteria was just—I wanted to work in housing and supervise RAs, so being a hall director. But I really got to—it got to a point where I was like, I'll take anything, and so I got an offer from a small school in New Hampshire that said that they really enjoyed my application, reading up my application, wanted me to go for an interview, and how soon can I come there? I was like, I could come over tomorrow, if you want. I can just take off of work and just go there because this is the summertime, right, after I graduated. I was like, I'll go straight to… New Hampshire the next day, drive six hours up. And I did. Two days later, though. And I did the interview and a week later, they gave me a call and I was like, yes, I'll take it! It was—it was really, just happened so fast, and then two weeks later, I was in New Hampshire and working.
I worked there for three years. I thought it was gonna be one year, but I just had so many things, ideas, and issues that I wanted to bring there, I was like, let's really make a big impact here. So I stayed for three years, and then I decided to pursue my master's degree and that really was because I was like, I had all this, you know, at first I had this level of education that was pretty high up now, having a bachelor's degree, but my experience wasn't as high yet. So I was like, okay, let's get some experience to kind of match or maybe do a little bit more to my education and then once I got that, which is my three years of New Hampshire, then I was like, okay now I'm ready to get a master’s degree and apply what I've learned into my degree as well, which is what I did in my two years at the University of Florida and it’s a very, very great program. I loved it. It's very hands-on, you know, I'm a big fan of like hours and getting work hours in practicum, internship, what have you. So I was just, like, you know, folks are like, oh man this is 400 hours. I was like, 400? That's it? Can I do more, you know, like a thousand?
L: Nice. So after that—after that did you apply around more and that's how you ended up at the AACC [Asian American Cultural Center]?
S: Yeah, so at the end of my program at the University of Florida, usually like the fourth semester of the two years, you start to apply to jobs. There's different ways to do that. There's—there's, you know, online looking. There's—they have a job placement event that hundreds of schools go to and thousands of people interview [at], so you can have—and I did this, too—and I had, I think 15 interviews in four days. So it was pretty cool to have that experience even.
So yeah, then I just—I was looking for a good fit. I knew I didn't want to work in housing anymore because I had that experience after I did my master’s. I really like multicultural affairs, which is what we’re working in now, I really like that experience. I was like, I want to work with, you know, a cultural center or something like that. So I applied to jobs specific to that. My area wasn't really specific. I wanted just to work somewhere that I would really enjoy.
My other criteria was I wanted to work at a school [where] I haven't had that kind of experience, and in this context… I mean like, my undergrad at Ithaca was a medium-sized liberal arts school. New Hampshire was a small liberal arts school but a small school, right, private. And then University of Florida was a large, public university, like large, over 50,000 students, public university. So, you know, going from New Hampshire to Florida was, like, going from 1,200 to 50,000, was a very different perspective, and also being public. So it's like, what else do I not have? I don't have West Coast school experience, that’d be pretty cool. So I applied to schools there. But I also don't have, you know, when Yale came out, I was like, wait, I also don't have the Ivy League experience, the kind of, you know, just to see the perspective of how it’s like similar and how it differs. And yeah, I've really loved it. I like that there's so many unique… traits here in terms of a small and a private and a public. It's kind of like a culmination of that in this setting. I love it.
L: Yeah, so what are some of those differences then, like, institutionally?
S: Um, it depends on the school, you know, being in an Ivy League, you have—you have the Ivy, plus a group of schools that work and do events and things like that. So that's a unique thing you have. I think... in similar contrast, you have public schools, when they’re working or doing things, you see them reaching out to public schools. Same thing with benchmarking—that public schools benchmark—essentially, the large schools benchmark other large schools. So with Ivy Leagues I'm learning about, what it's like to know about the traits of the school. What kind of benchmark is being done here and things like that.
One of the big differences is that Yale’s a very big research school. You know, University of Florida is too, but I mean, Yale is a whole ’nother level, and so I think that's pretty cool. Florida definitely got me set up for this kind of experience, but this is a whole different experience because you really get to see… in addition, you get to see a lot of great work here, a lot of great research being done, publications being done, students that are interested in doing that kind of stuff too, which is kind of cool… and that's—it’s not that you can't find that at other schools, but you see it very well here, for sure, which I love.
L: I just wanted to go back to the multicultural point a little bit more. I guess, get a little bit more into the Asian American—
S: Mhm, yeah.
L: —part of it. So. I was wondering were there moments growing up or even later on where you had…like a realization of racialization somehow, or like how were you implicated differently or maybe not differently and like how things just fit or didn't fit?
S: Yeah. I would say elementary school not so much, but in some contexts, yeah, like for instance, I vaguely remember we did a Halloween day in—I think it was third or second grade— we grew up, I grew up being raised Muslim and so my parents were like, we don't celebrate Christmas or these holidays. So in my mind, I was like, well, I don't really celebrate Halloween, to which [my teacher] was like, well, you can celebrate Halloween now, right? And I was like, I don't really do those things. So she was like, well, would you like to be excused from class or do you want to do something else? I was like, I mean, I'm happy to stay. I just vaguely remember this but I just didn't do the activities that they were doing and people dressed up, I didn't do that kind of thing. Christmas, that was just—I didn't really do any of those things either. That's also because I didn't know what was done during these holidays. I could only watch shows at my house and a lot of the shows were like… the cartoon shows, but also like Bollywood movies and things like that. Right?
And so for me, that was the first—I remember we did like a share, show-and-tell share kind of experience, and I think I was reading a poem or something in Urdu, which is our—my native language from Pakistan, and I just read that to the class and so they would just like—it was just so unique that they had never heard that kind of thing. And I think no one shared something that unique. They shared, like, this is my—a picture of my dog. And I just—this is a poem, and I think I just took it to another deep level, which I think was awesome, that I did that too. I love that I did that… it wasn’t like as an awareness kind of thing, like a big awareness, it was just a, oh, I’d love to.
But I think the cognizance, kind of, was greater after 9/11. Because I was in sixth grade when it happened and I think that's where I really realized the difference of my identity, my specific Asian identity compared to other students. Because I did say our school was diverse, but in terms of Asian students, it wasn't—there [weren’t] many. We had—I think it was four students, I think, that were South Asian, my brother and I included. And so I think that was already unique as it is, so there [weren’t] many people that I got to see experiences of—
L: Like four people in the whole school?
S: Yeah, I think the whole school at least—or at least in my grade, I think. But there was, I mean, also in the school, I just didn't see any. And so yeah, I think that was a real eye-opener in itself because I had some experiences with folks, and I didn't know what the impact was because I was too young to understand. Folks talking about their perspective, like, this is horrible what they're doing there and seeing people's experiences being called something and not realizing the implication of that, right? And so, as I grew older, I realize how much of an impact it had, right, because I had that experience in college and I was like, that's…that wasn't cool, like that kind of thing. But I can imagine how different it would have been for me if I had that happen in a different time of my life.
L: So on that note, you mentioned that you'd been raised Muslim. Do you still practice and, if so, what, I suppose, how has your faith, like, shaped the way you approach the world or the way you approach yourself, even?
S: Yeah, I would say I'm practicing. I would say I could practice more, but I do miss, sometimes, a prayer or something. But I would say what I do really take and bring in life is those kinds of morals and values that I've gotten from my being raised and going to Sunday school—about treating elders with respect, not talking behind people, different things like that that really have shaped my morals, my values, and things like that, that I really do appreciate because I think there universally are—universal standards that are there, like treat people with respect, treat people the way you want to, the way they want to be treated, that kind of thing, right? So I do say that that's one thing that I've really valued being raised Muslim.
L: Mm. Um, so going back to family a little bit, I feel like I don't hear very much about your twin brother. I always forget you have a twin brother. So what is that—what has that been like? And I suppose in general with your siblings, was there…rivalry, competition, in addition to sleepovers. Where are they now?
S: Yeah, I could talk about my twin brother first, so… we grew up, not to say so much competitive, like we're always comparing, but… I think in high school, it’s—I mean, in middle school and high school, it’s more of, like, what our interests were in terms of academics. I was just in a different—I was in the honors courses. He did well in his classes, but I did well in my honors courses. Athletics-wise, I was really, really involved and love doing athletics—just because he didn't really do it as much doesn't mean he wasn't as athletic. He just had his own interests when it came towards junior, senior year, like, he would—the computer side and the automotive tech side, and I was still doing my involvement with peer support and community service and things like that. So I'd say in terms of rivalry, it was our level how we felt accomplished and successful, and I think we both did a great job finding our own kind of calling.
With my other siblings—so my oldest brother, he's…he is seven years older than us, much older than I. It was kind of like, it was him, and then there were the other four siblings. Because he was just so much older and the four of us were kind of our group, and then he had his—he did his own thing. Not that we didn't like him or anything, he was just, you just have different experiences.
But when he graduated, he went straight to the Navy, and so that was a big change because I was talking about my experience growing up and even just getting out of the house to go to track practice. And he went all the way to the Navy—like, just left, and that was a big change for all of us. I think that had a lot of implications and impact on my decision, at least I could say, of what I ended up doing. I don't know if I would have—because what ended up happening for me was, I don't know if I would have ended up leaving home to go and live away in college. I don't know if that would have been even possible, right, or how much I would have to go back and forth with my parents to convince them that I’d actually be going. I want to leave, right? I think that had a little bit of a, “Well, he got to leave!” kind of—but not so—I think it kind of left that precedent, and he did—he was so successful, did such a great job.
He did it for—I think—about eight years, and then he finished out in the West Coast and now he lives there and he works in a lab office and he’s doing great. He's doing great, it's a house and a car, a dog and you know, really cool. He has his life really well together there and he's always inviting us over to go and visit. I was like, yeah, definitely. I've been to the West Coast so many times because of that, so I'm really appreciative of that.
My sister—different perspective because she stayed at home and really made a career for herself staying at home, essentially helping take care of the—being the now oldest sibling in the house and taking care of all of us and our parents—and helping out with, like—because my parents, growing up in Pakistan, language barrier and things like that, so my sister was kind of the next person to help with those things. But while doing all that stuff, she was also doing her own thing, her career, which was becoming a nurse and then she eventually became a physician’s assistant, and now she works in neuroscience. And she's the only one who's married. She's the only, she's—so I only have one sister. So she got married, now she has two kids, has a house. My parents moved because she had kids and they're like, we want to be with our grandkids. Which is, that's amazing because I was like, I wish I could spend more time with them too because they're so adorable. But yeah, she has a really successful life in northern Virginia.
And then my second oldest brother, he went to school and then he eventually—he's now teaching physics and math, and he's doing pretty well. And then my twin, I love to joke and say, so it's like the Game of Life, so by 29, I took the college round, he took the career route and went into working in automotive—the automotive industry while I went to college. And then I ended up eventually getting to my career, and he's been in his career and now is finishing his degree. You know, that kind of thing. That's kind of cool, how we both end up at the same endpoint but just in different ways, so I think it's amazing how we can see like—how you see that once the time goes by, how it plays out, essentially.
L: You know the Game of Life: there's also a midlife crisis, at least five thousand dollars for a new tennis racket—
S: Yeah, yeah—we haven’t had too much of that, so.
L: Do you guys still get together once every year or…? Because it sounds like the whole family is on different coasts, everywhere. So—
S: Yeah, we're spread out. It's a little difficult for all of us to come together. But with the majority of my family being in Virginia, that's kind of like the base of where we meet up. I think it's more of, like, we try to go as much as I can but sometimes I'm busy too. And so, I usually—it's always my mom and dad, my sister and her family, and then whoever can make it there, sometimes my brother and my twin and I, sometimes my older brother and I, but it's never like—we haven't had it consistent enough that's all together. But in the course of the year, everyone visits at least once a year.
L: How about friends? So in childhood you said it was mostly your cousins who were your usual social circle—any friends that have lasted from high school or college? Or even in the workplace now—but yeah, those kind of people have just lasted and influenced you.
S: Yeah, I'd say, elementary and high school friends—I actually still have some connections there, some friends there that I stay in touch with either on Facebook or…. I went to an old friend's wedding. It was just amazing to catch up because I saw a lot of friends that he’s still close with but I know them, because they were in my grade too, growing up, and they're like, how have you been? I’m like, I’ve been great! But I think life goes in different directions, but it's you can almost catch up like it was yesterday. Right? So—so that's that.
I do have two really close friends I made from college whom I stay in touch with… pretty often, I'd say, but they're not too close, but they're close enough that I can visit. And so yeah, we stay in touch there. So it's been good. And then you know for me, I think it's true: it's been interesting ’cause I keep moving around in the last, say, ten years, I've been in four different states. So that's the thing. Or four different areas, I should say, so that's been unique to creating a friend base because I keep moving, but I've made really great—I mean, I’ve made really great friends that I, when I visit those places, I know that I can hang out with them if they're free and that kind of stuff. So, I always have, like, I always make at least one or a couple significant acquaintances that would become friends and then catch up like it was yesterday kind of thing.
L: Sure. So do you…so a little bit more like long-term then, do you still see yourself hanging out around New Haven for the rest of your life, or do you like maybe have plans to move on? PhD? Maybe? Something?
S: You know, I am at this point where I'm still thinking about that. Even PhD. Because I could definitely do it. There's—they have online programs that I could do, and while I'm still working. I think in terms of where I want to end up being, I think that's just dependent on life circumstances. If I find, if I end up getting married or something like that, and they were here then I can stay here for sure in the long run. If it's not, then you know, we'll see what could happen there. But I love my experience and my time here—it's at Yale because I don't live in New Haven right now. I live in—
S: Yeah, yeah, but I mean, I love New Haven. Obviously, it's amazing because I think there's so many great places to be, restaurants, and things that are happening on campus activity-wise and that's what I love about working in student affairs. I love to go to those events because it's just, you see greatness happening right in your job, essentially. You all do such amazing things. I'm just like wow, so, yes, I'd say I love that. So there's no reason for me to leave for that reason. It's just more where life takes me in terms of, if I get a PhD program, if I get into one, is it better to be at the school or can I take it more remotely, that kind of thing, but nothing immediate. I would say right now, it's focusing on my career, being in my second year right now, it's really building that and establishing relationships with different departments, with students, and things like that to really make a big impact. Baby steps, really, because I don't want to rush into anything when you're doing those things, but I think it's great to see so many people on board for a lot of the things that I—that I have tried, I brought up, and also what they're doing and how I can help them out as well. I think that's been amazing so far.
L:Mm. That sounds good. So generally then, has anything—as an open question—has anything been on your mind recently? Um…you look confused. I guess just like—any, I don’t know, just things you’ve been thinking about, just tough questions, or reflections on different parts of your life. I just want to like, catch stuff that my questions might not have gotten to.
S: Oh, I see. Um, I feel like right now it's—everything's been pretty good. I just adopted Hercules, my 11-weeks-now kitten, he's been amazing. I think that in itself has been a great experience, because we didn't have a dog or a cat growing up. We had a goldfish or parakeets growing up. And so for me, this is just a whole different experience. I've been Youtubing and Googling how to best raise kittens and all these things I've been putting into practice, and I think it's actually working too, raising him. So he's been amazing because he's been showing me a lot in terms of taking care of an animal, and the patience, and making sure you check in on them and play with them regularly and all these things and I love it too, students love him too. He's so friendly and I want to make sure that stays as he grows up. So I think that's, right now, the big thing that's been on my mind.
But the other thing is also I want to travel more. I don't know, I think I'm guilty of—I don't—I don't take enough time to myself. And that's just because I love working hard and I feel so accomplished when I do that, that I forget I should take some time off. I noticed that definitely the first year, but you know, the first year is such an anomaly, I've learned, you have so many things you want to learn and do at the same time. Whereas now, my second year, when things are kind of, you have a good grasp on things. You can have a little bit more opportunity, so I’m like, in this, in-between, like, I love spontaneity. So I'm like, if something comes up, I'm going to do it. Let's do it, you know. And so I think that's the thing, it’s just telling myself to make sure I can take time to myself and enjoy, and I do want to travel more but you know, it's one of those unique problems where there are so places to travel, it’s hard for me to decide where I want to go and that kind of thing.
L: Is there a top 10 list? Top five?
S: Top three, I would say. I've traveled in so many places in the U.S. now because of conferences. I've been very fortunate from my involvements that I've been able to go to a lot of different places in the U.S. There are—I haven’t been everywhere, so there are still a few places in the U.S. So I could talk about the U.S. and then also internationally. So the U.S.—I really want to go to Seattle, I haven’t been. The Bay Area, I really want to go to. And then Dallas. I've been to Houston, San Antonio, and yeah, it's just—those are the things that are coming to my mind because I've been to a lot of other ones, but those are the ones that I haven't been to yet. And Las Vegas, but I'm actually gonna be going there for a few days soon.
And then internationally, I think the world is—there’s just so many great place to explore. Pakistan would be amazing as my—I would actually, that would actually be my number one because I only went back once when I was five years old, so it's been a… little bit of time.
L: A while.
S: It's been a while since I've—since I've been back and I love… I think Instagram, more so than any other thing, has unique pages or accounts that show the amazing things in different places. I remember I saw it because I first got into this… Michigan, for some reason, I just saw it, it’s like this thing called Pure Michigan—
L: Pure Michigan, like on TV—
S: Yeah, yeah! You know what I'm talking about? Yeah. Yeah, so they have that on Instagram too, and I saw these photos, and I was like, boy, this changes my whole perspective on what I thought Michigan was, which I didn't know what it was.
L: Right, like you think it’s rusting cars!
S: Yeah, yeah—I mean Detroit's awesome, don’t get me wrong. There’s so many amazing things to explore there, and so—but when I saw that I was like wow, this is so great, like caves and lakes and you know, all these—
L: —fly fishing!
S: Yeah, yeah! Exactly. But when I saw that, I was like, what about internationally, and I'm like, I'm sure something is there, and I saw that same thing in Ozawa. I saw these amazing mountains to hike and you know, lakes, all these different things. So that's my number one. I definitely want to travel to—for some reason, I just seem very interested in it. Maybe just because I was, I've seen and heard a lot about, people have been to them, that kind of thing. So I really want to go to Tokyo and Japan. I would love to see that, the busy life and be immersed in that, would be really cool.
I also want to go to Madrid, more so because I'm a soccer fan and I love Real Madrid, but just anywhere, really, in that sense, that'd be cool. And then Australia, Sydney, because I think—I love zoos and I was like, it'd be so cool to finally see a kangaroo, because I have not seen one yet. So it’d be so cool to—well, it’d be nice anywhere in Australia for that matter—but Sydney is also a pretty touristy place, so it’d be pretty cool to see that. So those are my… obviously, I'd be more than happy to go anywhere. It's just if I had to pick, like, “Sheraz, you can only pick three,” then I’d be like, okay let’s pick just three, then here they are.
L: I wonder what the relationship between Sydney and kangaroos is like—like are the kangaroos right there—
S: I’m not sure.
L: Or do you go on a little safari with your little truck and go nyoom nyoom?
S: Yeah, yeah—I mean like, I guess it’s really… I should say anywhere in Australia that has kangaroos that’s more important. But if I had to pick a city, then I would pick Sydney because if I'm not mistaken, the Olympics were there before? Or something—a significant event.
L: Yeah, at some point—I think in 2000.
S: Yeah, exactly. So I love—being a track athlete, it would be cool to see the stadium and all those things too, so that's why I was like Sydney is on there, too. So yeah, that's kind of what's been on my mind right now. Um… yeah. Yeah.
L: Mm… I think that’s—pretty good?
L: Question mark? Actually, I had one more question. So um—this is like, so not chronological—but going back to when you first got here, I hear from my upperclassmen friends that the AACC was kind of in shambles, but just because the outgoing administrator… dropped the ball and some stuff, so people had kind of lost faith in the AACC at that point, and there was just a lot of chaos. So what was it like coming in and, like, inheriting that and having to recreate a lot of stuff, in a way?
S: I would say… my interview gave a little bit of context about this going on and I want to emphasize, I want to be there for the community in any way that comes off, right? So, make sure that I do my job, my administrative tasks, right, because that's a lot of my job—administrative tasks. And I think part of the thing is, like, these little things of how soon you respond to something or get something turned in and give it to someone. I was like, for me, that's what I love about my career. I feel like if you love your career, you don't feel like it’s taxing, it's more rewarding, right? And so administrative tasks, yeah, they can seem taxing, but I look at the, like, what I could do after it's done, so yes, I can't wait to get these administrative tasks done and then I can attend this program or hang out with students and that kind of stuff, right? And even doing it, it’s like a work of art, right? That's why I tell some staff I love puzzles because getting a reimbursement done, it's making sure the right things are checked off, and I submitted it, and then someone gets the email, they write the information that they need. It's like, yes, I got that puzzle completed, right? It's just kind of how my brain works and it's weird.
But I think for me, in terms of rebuilding this relationship, it was—it was a lot of factors. There was making sure that was the number one thing, first off, that was done—streamlining processes without taking over essentially the center because at the end of the day, it's our center, everyone’s center. So these processes weren't meant to make it harder for people, it’s supposed to make it easier and I think that's actually showing, too—like how quickly we can get reimbursements and how quickly can you get a funding process and know what the processes are and things like that, right?
And then the second piece is being there, being present, and that comes off in different ways. So whether it's attending different meetings, being at staff meetings and being in the moment, making sure I can listen to—and also PLs [Peer Liaisons], I should say too, right—center staff meetings and PL meetings, being there, being present, but not taking up too much space because again, this is a student-led, student-driven kind of approach. But the other piece that I think is really, really important is being at events, just being there, and just even being there like, “Oh my God, this is an amazing event, I can't wait to attend,” not, “I can't wait to lead your program.” No, I want you to lead the program and I'm there if you need me to help with anything, but I'll be there just to enjoy and really be there as a support person, right, and cheer you on.
Yeah, and so I think what came with that, though, and I think this is one of those anomalies—and that’s why I say my first year was an anomaly—is that I worked a little extra, but I had this kind of motivation, this energy to rebuild the community, so I worked a little extra and longer, but that all came to—it was like a win, because I love what I do, and I got to enjoy these great programs and see all these—not just our staff but also student org programs. And then on the flip side, I also got to make sure that students got what they needed in time, responding to emails right in time, and all these different things. I think that set up really well the first semester. So when Dean Yee came in, it was just a transition now to have more support so I don't have to essentially be here too late, we can kind of divide and conquer and support you all, essentially. And go to the programs that we can, obviously, if it works with our schedule. It's a work-life balance. And I think this helped now when Dean Yee joined, because we really have a good sense of work-life balance here.
L: Mm, yeah, that’s interesting. I think I speak for all of us when I say thank you so much for everything you do for us, like you really, like—like you really put in so many hours, even on your long days, like you go home at what, 7? And you get home so late. And all the other days you’re always there for us, so—and you respond so quickly to e-mails, it’s just like a blessing in this Yale University institution where everybody replies, like, at their will, like five days later.
S: No, I mean, I—and I never try to compare myself to anything. This is just like my work ethic is, it wasn't like it was the first year and now it's done. It's just how I, how my work ethic is. Thank you for that. I really do appreciate it because I really want to make this a positive—
S: Yeah, thank you for that. I like working—you know, not love working, but it’s more of, like, I put a lot into the job I do, because I love the job that I do. And in order to carry that out, I have to show that and I want to do that, because I love what I do. And so, when responding to emails, someone asked me a question and I want to make sure they have a response. Someone’s getting reimbursed, I want to make sure I can get them the reimbursement that they need. So it’s all these things, but they all feed into—not feed in, but they’re aspects of the job that I wanted to do. If I—if I’ve learned in this context of “love what you do,” I feel like, as soon as I start complaining or have an issue with something, then maybe I should start reconsidering what I’m doing, and I don’t have that ever.
You know, every challenge, every obstacle that comes this way, let’s address it, but how can we address it in a positive way? And have a positive outcome to it, right? And when we do events, there are so many things that can cause stress, and for me, I’m like, things are going to happen. It’s just—it’s gonna happen, something might break or whatever, but at the end of the day, have fun doing the program, because you’re doing it because you’re invested in this, and you want to do something. So I do that with—when I do the programs, I’m like, how can I help folks if I—if something happens, if someone needs to take a break, how can I just tag someone on and help them? ’Cause at the end of the day, this is what the AACC is, a community of providing support, doing events, being a space for students, and to do that, we have to, we have to do these—we do these amazing programs, and I think that’s complemented with how we have a positive experience here.
And to me, to make that positive experience happen is to make sure these administrative things are done, and things like that, so it’s one less thing for a student to worry about, and they can really focus on doing an amazing program, which is—which you all do. It’s amazing how many programs you all do and what amazing things you all do.
L: Yay, so that’s a good note to end on. Thank you for sharing!
S: Thank you!