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Ibrahim Rabbani ‘16 – Lahore, Pakistan

<ong>What was Lahore like?

I grew up in one of the bigger cities in central Pakistan. There’s a lot of pollution. The city is open til 8 p.m.. I went to a private high school. The private system is much better than public education. It follows the British international system, kind of equivalent to IB. We have 5 years of high school instead of four. Just like there are feeder schools here that feed to different universities, there are a bunch in Pakistan that feed to different universities in the states.

Why Carleton?

It had no writing supplement. That was the reason, I kid you not. It also offered financial aid, had no application fee, and the deadline was later than others.
What did your friends and family think about you going to school in the US?

“You got in, you got aid, you should go.” That was literally the end of the discussion. It’s a pretty general thing. Even back in the colonial days it was a regular thing to go to Oxford or Cambridge or wherever for an education. It was thought of as you were doing a noble service and you’ll eventually come back to your country with better ideas. The bigger problem I’d say now is that no one usually goes back anymore since there’s not much to go back to these days.

What are you thinking about majoring in?

I knew I wanted to be a computer scientist since I was ten and so I’ve taken a bunch of CS courses. I also realize that I tend to get bored of things. I had studied economics informally before and so I said I might as well try here. I started taking a lot of Econ classes and so now I’m going to declare both CS and Econ. I also studied other fun and weird things like music. I also took Spanish for a while.

What are some differences between American and Pakistani education?

All I know of what a high school in the US is like is from pop culture references, which probably don’t do justice to things and over-emphasize things like bullying and stratification. Some differences are, for instance, the fact that while the official medium of instruction was English, you didn’t talk to your friends in English. There was also much higher focus on science education. One of the other stark differences was that I had never written an academic paper before I got to college. We’d have classes where you’d write an essay-based exam, but it wasn’t the kind of paper with a bibliography. That was new. The first paper I wrote, I was like ‘what is this bibliography business?!’ I guess the bigger problem was learning how to use academic sources properly rather than just writing a paper. That part isn’t that hard, but it’s the getting acquainted with the reference material and JSTOR that takes more time because one of the main thing high schools back home are missing is academic culture. That was a huge change.

What is the general attitude in Pakistan about US drone strikes?

It is something people feel really strongly about back home. There is a lot of anti-US sentiment in Pakistan and it’s growing because of the war on terror. People do get issues conflated. They equate everything bad that happens with the War on Terror with the United States. There was an article that came out recently in which a drone analyst who worked in Afghanistan for a couple of years commented about just how inaccurate it is. You can’t really tell who’s on the drone screens, you have to go off of sketchy Intel. It’s imperfect as a technique to say the least. I’d say the surgical aspect of it is overemphasized, although they have killed some effective enemies of the state. I do think the collateral damage has been huge. Another argument people back home make a lot is that drone strikes add to the cycle of terrorism. They kill off enough civilians to infuriate the part that survive who then take up arms against the States, which then adds to the number of people you’re trying to kill in the first place. Personally, I do understand the need somewhat for drones, but their benefits are not as clear as the United States claims they are.

What’s something about Pakistani culture which you think Americans ought to learn from?

I think there is a stronger emphasis on familial values. Kids are expected somewhat to take care of their parents and parents are expected to fend for their children the best they can, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you view parenthood. Some view it as when your kids graduate high school they’re on their own. Parents in Pakistan literally take over for the welfare state. They compensate for there not being a welfare state. They try to pay for college the best they can. They try to marry off their kids, fund their marriage, and try to help out even after the marriage. That’s a huge thing. Generally the family structure seems to have held it together most. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. Here, there’s too many failed marriages. It’s not perfect, but that’s one thing I could take away from the culture back there which I think we need to incorporate more here which is respect for parents. There’s less openness but more respect. It’s a tradeoff, but I think the family structure has kept it better together over there, in my limited experience of what I’ve seen here.

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