Zahra, a Global UGRAD-Pakistan student, discovered that the university radio station was a great way to reach many Americans with her cultural knowledge of Pakistan. IREX

By Sarah Bushman, IREX

Students at Minnesota State University Moorhead got an unexpected ‘Journey to Pakistan’ this past semester, thanks to a young Pakistani woman, Zahra, who found her public voice after coming to the U.S.

Though students had never before enjoyed a program hosted by an international student, Zahra quickly gained followers through what became a popular campus radio show.

When Zahra heard about openings for student DJs at the university, she said, “This is SO me.” A Global UGRAD-Pakistan participant this past spring, Zahra had never seen herself as a radio personality. But she found that the medium of radio enabled her to share her culture and story to a broader audience on campus. Every Tuesday at 11 a.m., she took her place in front of the computer sound board and microphone at KMSC Dragon Radio. “I started the show because, according to my family and friends, I love to talk!”

Ludmi Herath, International Student Programs Coordinator at MSUM, said that Zahra was the first international student to host a radio show at the school. What started as an outlet for the gregarious biotechnology major became a way for her to fulfill her role as a cultural ambassador.

“At the start, I confess I had no plans,” Zahra said. “But then I thought, what better way to tell the people here about my beautiful Pakistan than to say it out loud in public. I asked the music director if I could do that. He said, ‘It’s your show, you can do and say whatever you like, but remember no swear words.’ So then it came naturally.”

Zahra titled one of her shows ‘Journey to Pakistan’ and took listeners through an audio tour of her homeland. She introduced the show by noting that many of her friends had been talking about traveling for spring break and this made her think of the things that make Pakistan an interesting destination. “I emphasized the beauty and charisma of my beloved country. I tried to tell them that it’s not all about bombing, fighting and blood-lust. The riches we have. The mountains of untouched resources. Hospitality. The people.” In between her descriptions, Zahra played music by Pakistani artists like Hadiqa Kiyani and interspersed these songs with popular western songs from artists like Nikki Minaj, Adele, and Taylor Swift.

Signing up to host a radio show was a brave step, but Zahra found a natural outlet for her personality and a way to share her country and culture as an ambassador. “I wanted a chance to make more and more friends and I found this way.”

Though Zahra’s university back home does not have its own radio station, she is thinking about ways to continue sharing her experiences with the community. Her experience with MSUM’s Dragon Radio, she said, gave her “more confidence that I can manage a show on my own.”

The Global UGRAD-Pakistan Program is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, and is implemented by IREX.

To watch an interview with Zahra visit:

http://www.irex.org/news/pakistani-student-takes-culture-airwaves