Growing up, I never really thought about my religion as a point of difference. Coming from Poland where the vast majority of people are Catholic, I never put much thought into it and didn’t think I would have to. But being in an interfaith relationship inadvertently leads me to discussions on the topic. When we began to plan our wedding, it was obvious to both of us that we wanted a Catholic priest and a Muslim imam jointly conducting the ceremony — reflecting the union we have built over the years and want to continue. Read more.
My first exposure to religion was positive: my parents are both Buddhist and regularly took my sister and me to a Buddhist temple in Michigan. It was a peaceful temple on a lake, surrounded by a stretch of woods and nature. But when I was in elementary school, my relationship with the word “religion” took a turbulent turn. One day, a classmate asked if I believed in God. Read more.
Historically, India has been a primarily Hindu country, and Pakistan has been primarily Muslim, and these religious differences were exacerbated by the violent Partition of the British Raj in 1947. This is the context in which by accident, some 15 years ago – before social media had diminished boundaries – I set foot in Karachi (Pakistan), as my plane was inadvertently diverted there to the collective panic of fellow Indians on board. Read more.
I came to the U.S. in August 2006 for my undergraduate education. For the first time in my life, I was traveling by myself, and moreover, 7000+ miles away from my home in Pakistan. I landed in Portland, ME at the Jetport and was going to be picked up by the Dean of International Students. However, as luck had it, he forgot to pick me up and I spent my first night sleeping on a couch in the Jetport! Read more.
The hardest moment on my road to figuring out my identity was when my 6th grade teacher asked me during one class whether I felt more Norwegian, Chilean or American. Although this was not an outrageous question given my upbringing, being put on the spot at that moment to answer the question in front of all my young peers made me feel like a deer in headlights. I couldn’t give a clear answer. Today I still get the question but now I have my answer. Read more.
The first time I supervised a team was at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, where I oversaw a group of 8 Afghans and Americans. Midway through the year, we hired two more people — Afghans who had worked in provinces that were closer to the war. One of them picked up his role very quickly, but the other new employee didn’t speak English very well and he seemed distracted. As it turned out, providing support to the Americans made him a prime target for the Taliban. Read more.
As an undergrad, I remember taking a class on the Business of Fashion. Gender breakdown: 90% female, 10% male. In my career in advertising, I worked with a multitude of supervisors and directors. Gender breakdown: 90% female, 10% male. As a personal passion, I spent a few years taking hip hop classes at a variety of dance studios. Gender breakdown: 90% female, 10% male. On reflection, I see fashion, advertising, and dance not as female-dominated, but rather as male-lacking. Read more.
I found out my dad was gay when I was 16 years old. It was particularly difficult because, like most heterosexual male teenagers, I was overwhelmed with tons of confusing feelings about women at the time. It made me very resentful of my dad. I thought at the time, how could he not be the male role model I needed? He and I finally spoke about him being gay this year, over a steak dinner in a crowded restaurant. That moment has changed me completely. Read more.
Being an international, a woman, and a mom is somewhat far from the mainstream MBA student. During preterm at Wharton, I didn’t want to tell people I was a mom right off the bat. My son was just 6 months old — I was new to this mom thing and wasn’t sure if ‘Mom’ was something I wanted to be labelled as. Is it even possible to get your MBA with an infant? I didn’t have the answer; nor did I have anyone to reach out to before coming here. Read more.
Growing up as a child of immigrants, I truly believed in the American Dream. It meant that everyone was created equal, and that anyone could succeed as long as they worked hard enough. Today, I still believe in the ideals of the American Dream, but I’ve also come to understand its many limitations. For example, all people are equal, but some people are more equal than others. And sometimes, all the hard work in the world cannot bring success, if success simply does not exist in that world. Read more.
Before we immigrated to San Francisco in 1992, my father was a nuclear physicist in Moscow. Due to limited English knowledge and having had signed a strict NDA, his options for employment upon moving were extremely limited. We were eligible for food stamps, and my mother, who found a job quickly as a part-time pianist at the San Francisco Ballet School was the ‘breadwinner.’ My father had to take whatever job he could, and soon became Round Table Pizza’s most educated pizza delivery man. Read more.
As a child born and raised in Australia, I grew up with the expectation that hard work opens up opportunities and leads to success. My parents were immigrants from India who started their lives from scratch in a new country. I was praised by those around me for being smart, hardworking and successful, and my assumption was that being smart and hardworking led to my “success.” It was during an extended stay in India in 2011 that my views shifted completely. Read more.
I didn’t move to the US until I was sixteen. I didn’t start thinking of myself as black until I was 18. During my first year of college, a friend of mine heard me identify myself as Russian and Cameroonian and pulled me aside to let me know that such an identity wasn’t a privilege I could maintain anymore — I was now what people saw me as, and that is black. Read more.
My first true encounter with racism happened during high school in Iowa on a football field. Our team had won the game and I had played well, and during the post-game handshakes an opposing player made a point to single me out and say, “Good game, ch-nk.” Now of course I knew racism existed, but it had always been more of an abstract concept. This was the first time it was directed at me with such malicious intent. Read more.
It’s easy to dismiss explicit racists. Like the person who yelled at me for “not being American” and told me to “get the fuck out of here.” What I find exhausting is to fight against implicit racism. Like the times I showed up to pre-games in doorman buildings wearing dark jeans, a button-down, and dress shoes with a six-pack of beer in a plastic bag. Me: “26D, Jon Mark, please”. Doorman: “OK. Jon, you have a delivery downstairs.” Me: “Sir, I’m not delivery.” Read more.