Dreams That Dare to Come Alive

Khadija Noor, an exchange student from Pakistan, spent a memorable summer challenging herself, making new friends and exploring a new culture

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Growing up in Pakistan, Khadija Noor has always been curious about education in the United States, particularly in STEM fields. Pakistan’s Sister2Sister Exchange Program, which provides exchange students a peek at the U.S. education system, works with host institutions like Harvey Mudd College to offer undergraduate courses related to the participants’ fields of study. Competition for the program is intense in Pakistani, with just 20 women selected every year.

Noor, a Google Generations Scholarship recipient who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in software engineering from the University of the Punjab, was delighted when she qualified for the Sister2Sister program. Given that Harvey Mudd was her top choice because of the school’s reputation in STEM education, Noor was especially delighted when the College selected her to participate as an exchange student during summer 2023.

“A puzzle to unravel”

Ever curious to learn how mathematics can be used to solve real-world problems, Noor decided to sign up for a course on differential equations at Mudd, which focuses on such aspects. But Noor had not studied linear algebra like most of her classmates.

“The subject of differential equations was challenging for me because I’m not a math major, but Professor Darryl Yong often spent extra time after class and also in the evenings explaining concepts, which helped me a lot,” Noor says. “The level of excellence to which the College commits is marvelous. The instructors were the most amazing people I’d ever met.” Yong, in turn, describes Noor as “a very enthusiastic, energetic and gregarious person.”

“Dreams that dare to come alive”

In Pakistan, Noor teaches computer science to middle and high school students. She works part-time as a programming instructor and is delighted to apply techniques she learned from Other speakers included Krista Hiser, senior lead and advisor for sustainability education and the Key Competencies Framework at Arizona State University and Mark Stemen, professor of environmental studies at California State University, Chico. Conference co-organizers were Karl Haushalter, chair, HMC Department of Chemistry, and Seeley W. Mudd Professor of Chemistry and Biology, and Gabriela Gamiz, director of civic and community engagement. “Climate justice and education calls us to work collectively,” Gamiz says. “This fits with our vision of civic and community engagement because working with our community is critical.” The conference website is a rich resource for educators seeking to include climate education in their classrooms: Zachary Dodds’ Introduction to Computer Science class. Among her takeaways: a website where students can visualize code to help them understand how it is being executed.

In addition to pursuing a career in data engineering or data sciences, Noor aspires to be a role model for young girls in Pakistan. “Seeing the conditions of women in technology in my own country, I want to create a world in which every girl has access to educational resources,” Noor says. “Every girl should have an opportunity to prove her talent and be judged by her skills and abilities instead of her gender.” Noor’s time at Mudd has influenced this work, too: In collaboration with Dodds, Noor hopes to write a paper about computing education opportunities in Pakistan.

Back in Pakistan, Noor fondly remembers her summer exchange at Mudd. “My time spent there has doubtlessly been the best span of my life. I can never forget the amazing city of Claremont … a heaven of knowledge.”

“Beyond Borders: A Tale of Equations and Unity”

In the realm of knowledge’s vast domain,
A Pakistani girl embarked on a journey’s gain,
From distant lands, she crossed the sea,
To Harvey Mudd College, where she longed to be.

At Claremont’s campus, dreams took flight,
A summer exchange program, shining bright,
With eager steps and a curious mind,
She ventured forth, leaving the past behind.

Differential Equations, the course she pursued,
A challenge beckoning, she wholeheartedly delved into,
In lecture halls adorned with wisdom’s grace,
Professors Yong and Jacobson, guiding her pace.

First, Prof Yong unveiled the world of linearity,
Linear DEs, a puzzle to unravel with clarity,
With fervor and diligence, she grasped the thread,
Solving equations that once filled her with dread.

The second part arrived, Prof Jacobson took the lead,
Systems of DEs, a journey that she agreed,
A landscape of complexity and interwoven strands,
Through patience and resilience, she found her hands.

Alongside her, classmates formed a special kin,
Kayla, a sweet soul, always ready to lend a grin,
Emily, with curly hair, a fountain of knowledge untold,
And Connor, golden-haired, his spirit bold.

Together they conquered challenges, both big and small,
A united force, standing tall,
In study groups and midnight discussions,
They supported each other through lessons.

But it wasn’t just academics that bound their hearts,
Shared laughter, shared tears, friendship’s delicate arts,
Exploring new cultures, embracing diversity,
The Pakistani girl found a second family.

From bustling bazaars to California’s charms,
She bridged the distance with her newfound arms,
She marveled at the blending of cultures and creed,
Enriched by the tapestry of humanity she’d need.

As summer’s warmth began to wane,
The Pakistani girl knew she’d never be the same,
For within her, a fire had awoken,
A thirst for knowledge that would never be broken.

With gratitude, she bid farewell to the land,
Carrying memories, experiences, and wisdom in hand,
A Pakistani girl who once felt apart,
Found solace and belonging in her heart.

For the journey of knowledge knows no bound,
From Pakistan’s soil to American ground,
With determination, she’d continue to thrive,
A testament to dreams that dare to come alive.

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