International student from Pakistan enjoys adventuring in Austin, misses family-centered culture

Few college freshmen can say that by their first day they’ve already flunked, dropped out and experienced a life-changing moment of redirection. International student Saarim Damani has done all that and more in traveling all the way from Karachi, Pakistan to attend St. Edward’s University.

Due to Pakistan’s different school system, which ends and segways to college a grade earlier than American education, Damani was already in his freshman year of college when he dropped out because of poor performance in the Pakistani version of standardized testing.

It was here where the road split. Damani decided to pursue a college career in America, but first he had to get back into a Pakistani university in order to transfer. This meant completely transforming his grades and study habits. In less than two months, Damani miraculously raised his failing grades to straight A’s.

“I (had) just 45 days to study for six papers, so that was the toughest period, because I had to do good. That was my only chance to come over to America,” Damani said. “It’s the best place for education.”

Damani was specifically drawn to St. Edward’s because of his cousin’s advice that Austin was the place to study. After missing the UT deadline for registration, he made it into St. Edward’s and began to see all his hard work pay off as he packed his bags for America.

The international student, like many others, was initially shocked by American cuisine, and more specifically Austin cuisine. However, unlike others, his palette is a little more finicky, given its tendency towards the Middle Eastern taste.

“Pakistani food is more like curries, and those are very, very spicy and taste different,” Damani said. “It’s so good. When you cook food in our country, there’s smell all over. If I cook (Pakistani food) over here, the whole library would be filled with smell. Oh, it’s so tasty and yummy and spicy, but over here it’s gross. It isn’t spicy at all and it all tastes the same.”

While Damani far prefers the American system of education, he will always favor the lifestyle in Pakistan because of its family focus.

“Living is better (in Karachi), because over here it’s always running, running, running, running even if it’s a job, it’s 7am to 7pm, so you know the social life is very less because you don’t get as much time with your family over here. In Karachi it’s totally opposite. You get more time with your family and it’s more socializing.”

Damani is an avid adventurist, eager to make the most out of his time here. The freshman is a regular with the Outdoor Adventures Club, taking advantage of the opportunity to see so many of Texas’ state parks. He is also planning on starting a cricket club in the future, as the sport is very popular in Pakistan and other surrounding countries.

While discussing the mantra of “Take On Your World,” the international student had more than enough to say on the matter.

“I think of it as taking on your dreams and not waiting for the right moment. You shouldn’t wait for the right moment; you should take the moment and make it right. That’s what I believe. I have my dreams and I am looking forward to fulfilling them. That’s what the motto means. Take on the world, and I will one day take on my dreams.”