How does moving halfway across the world change people?
Sahar Waseem might seem like your typical junior in high school. She takes challenging courses, pushes herself academically as well as through extracurriculars, and works hard to make the most of eleventh grade. However, unlike most others, Sahar actually moved to America from India quite recently. While the transition has been difficult, Sahar has adapted many of her hobbies in order to get more accustomed to American culture.
Sahar moved to America on April 4, 2018, during the last month of her freshman year.
“Life in India was not bad,” she states. “I just didn’t like my extended family (whom I had to live with) a lot, as lots of problems went on. I was not happy with my school, I really thought I could’ve done academically since I never got the grades I wanted. That being said, I made some of my best friends there.”
Although Sahar had to leave her friends behind physically, she still stays in touch with her best friend Hiba Ahmad (11).
Ahmad does miss her friend, although she’s grateful that they’ve still kept in touch, as well as some of the changes.
“There have been a lot of changes in her because America was like starting from scratch. We used to be just a bunch of pretentious tomboys trying hard to be cool, [but] we’ve embraced ourselves better now. Distance makes the heart grow, so somehow I feel closer to her now.”
Sahar’s mom Saima mentions that although she was worried about a cultural rift, she feels that moving was a good decision.
“She seems happier. She’s made some good friends. Her studies are better now. She just misses her brother and old friends.”
Sahar has also made a lot of new friends since moving, who’ve helped her through her sophomore year.
“I met her in freshman year, [when] we had an English class together. She enrolled as a new student later in the second semester. I decided to befriend her as I ended up being in a group project with her and two other girls. She also noticed that I liked a band that she also liked,” says one of her close friends Cheyenne Jimenez (11). “I viewed her as a smart yet really shy girl. She seemed a little shy in the class and didn’t talk much, but she answered questions despite being a new student.”
After getting to know her better, Cheyenne realized that Sahar wasn’t as shy as she initially seemed, which just made them even better friends.
“As we got closer, she turned out to be way louder and also pretty confident, but that I found admirable. As time went by I noticed that she’d work harder and harder, probably due to the classes she took, but nonetheless she remained the same for the most part, she just became more comfortable and open.”
Another close friend, Katrina Mina (11) agrees that she initially saw Sahar as a very shy girl. However, she says that the most noticeable change came from the fact that junior year is very stressful.
“She spends her brunch and lunch time in the library to study. She’s a friend who’s very hard working and will get things done on time but despite that, she’s a loyal and caring friend who’s always there for her friends and will help them when they need it.”
“Sometimes it feels like I’m talking to a completely different person since I’ve met her'” says her boyfriend Omar Youssef. “The important things have mostly stayed the same but since meeting her she’s become a happier and more hopeful person.”
“I’ve known Sahar since sophomore year, which was when we first met, but it wasn’t really until we went to band camp together that I really got to know her,” Tanya Kammampati (11). “Admittedly, I didn’t know her prior to when I first met her. so I thought she was in the same boat as me: just a typical high school student trying to pass through school while still taking part in fun activities. Since then, I don’t feel she’s changed as much, but I do feel like I’ve seen a more extreme side of her in terms of competitiveness, especially since it’s junior year now. I also now see her as more interesting as I now see her as especially hardworking and strong academically speaking.”
However, while the environment might have changed, Tanya mentions that Sahar has many of the same aspirations and motivating factors as other students.
“I think Sahar challenges herself just like any typical kid would: because they want to impress their parents. I know that certain subjects she’s taking only because they’re APs and she’s not too happy with them. I think it’s also because she wants to show she’s capable of a lot, which she really is, even the side effects aren’t the best. I think it’s because she knows she’s smart enough to achieve lots and sort of wants to prove that.”
One of the guard captains, Wenchi Lai (11), someone who has been around Sahar for a while now, also agrees that she has changed.
“In the beginning of the marching band season, I noticed she was an enthusiastic person. She was a first season, and it got pretty hard, but it never discouraged her. When people helped her, she took the feedback carefully and applied it. I really admired that from her. I think since then, she has definitely become more initiative and serves as a role model in a sort of way. Over the summer, I often see her practicing whenever possible and that attitude is really important. There’s a sort of time push in color guard where you have to get things memorized and done in a certain point, like a toss or a set. I feel like through these pushes, Sahar became more confident, so that was really great to see.”