The epic saga of a student who moves away from family and familiarity to an unknown country for the sake of school. This is a story not unknown to many. But when the student, not only successfully completes schooling, but starts her journey towards brighter and better things, only then she becomes the subject of a tribute to achievements article at Generation Next.
Sarah Irshad is one such achiever. Maybe an over-achiever to many who have not achieved as much as she has at her age. School, Job, CA exams are some of the quantifiable achievements of the 22-year old Sarah. Courage, Strength, Conviction, Love for her family, Ambition and Determination are just a few of the unquantifiable achievements that make her unique and strong.
I walk faster as I am running late as usual. The meeting place for the interview was my designated leisure spot, that is, the sheesha café close to the Yonge and Finch intersection. I chose the particular spot, mainly because of the sheesha or hookah (of course), but also because of the informal setting that followed the theme of informality that I wanted to encourage. People tend to be more open and let out more secrets in an informal setting, I think and laugh my evil laugh.
She is already sitting on one of the table in the outside patio waiting for me. I dump my notebook and pen (my old school method of taking notes for an interview) and my gigantic gold purse onto the table as I apologize profusely. My inability to be on time has been the bane of my existence since the beginning of time. She laughs at my ramblings and tells me it’s okay. I ask her about her family to put her at ease, not that she needs it. She seems completely at ease as she answers my questions. I am the one who might be showing a case of nerves when executing my second interview ever. “My mother and younger brother are still in Saudi Arabia. My mother is a doctor there. My older brother is a consultant in Philadelphia.” Wow, a family of over-achievers. I can relate being a part of one myself. She has been away from her family for seven years now. I ask her if it has been difficult for her to stay away from her family for so long. She confesses that she gets homesick from time to time, but now cannot contemplate living anywhere else but in Toronto. She hopes her family can move here with her soon. Toronto has that kind of magic. You live here once, and suddenly, moving gets a lot tougher.
The pride in her voice is evident when she talks about her family. She gushes about her younger brother who might be moving to Toronto next year for studies. Then she moves on to her older brother who from the sound of things is a genius. “Family is a haven in a heartless world” so the saying goes. It is personified in Sarah’s case as her family truly is her haven. In dark times and in good times, they have been there for her and vice versa. Her dedication to her family is unmistakable.
“So tell me about your school and your school experience? You came here at first year of undergrad, so did you face the same culture shock that many experience here”, I ask, after ordering double apple sheesha. She shakes her head. “No, not really. The lifestyle in Saudi Arabia is similar to Canada. I went to an English speaking school as well. So it wasn’t as much of a shock for me as for others I know. I also learned to adapt to the different Canadian culture. When in Rome…”, she laughs. I cannot agree more. As a new immigrant, an ability to adapt to the Canadian culture is an asset. Keeping your original traditions intact is definitely important. But changing your fashion, accent, and at times, outlook can help to assimilate into the Canadian culture easily with the least amount of hardship especially for students. High School can be a tough experience for those that don’t “fit in”.
She attended Schulich School of Business, one of the top business schools in Canada and graduated at the top of her class with honors. After undergraduate, she was one of the few students who got a position six months before graduation at one of the top mid-size accounting firm, BDO Dunwoody. Two years working full-time, she was able to complete all CA exams and is working towards completing her work hours to get her CA designation. Take a deep breath. This list of achievements can leave anyone breathless. But wait. You haven’t heard the best part. She is only 22 years old! Quite a prodigy.
Away from work, she likes to travel. Istanbul, New York and Florida on her list of places to go this summer. Ah, to be young and free. But all jokes aside, working 5 days a week as well as overtime, she deserves a well-earned break.
To finish up the interview, I end with a classic interview questions, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” She dreams of starting a non-profit organization. A philanthropist to the core. Good luck in her endeavors. She will do well, there is no doubt in my mind.
Author: Sona Dhawan