August issue 2006

By | Life Style | Published 18 years ago

Watching the class of 2006 graduate in Montreal, I was reminded of the dreams and aspirations that fill a graduate’s mind — hopeful but anxious of a future that he is told is his for the taking.

As the young graduates of today venture into the real world, I wondered what the graduates before them did after they stepped down from the podium and took off their gowns. Where did they go after placing their prestigious ribbon-tied university degrees in a drawer? Did they find their way back to the country they once called home or did they allow themselves to be lured by the west, where dreams are turned to reality? What influenced their decisions? Fresh out of college, at the start of their careers, what have these starry-eyed leaders of tomorrow found?

To find the answers to these questions and more, we approached 12 young professionals, working in the UK, US, Canada, Karachi and Lahore.

All 12 of our ambitious young adults had the privilege of studying abroad. As expected, they all spoke about the freedom of the west: unlimited independence as you feed and fend for yourself and newfound responsibility as you are forced to take ownership of your actions. Furthermore, the west, home to the most influential purveyors of all things financial, scientific and cultural, provides ample opportunities for growth, offers an environment of professionalism and dishes out salaries that respect your talents. While those who choose to work abroad miss their families, the career and lifestyle advantages are by far, a fair trade-off.

graduates-2-aug06But that is only half the story. The west, it seems, is often a means to an end, just one stop on a long journey. Perhaps it is family, perhaps it is the challenge, or maybe there is no substitute for the satisfying power of home-cooked daal chawal.

While compiling a list of the positive points about working abroad is effortless, doing the same for working in Pakistan is not as simple. Still, it only requires a look beyond your steaming plate of karhai chicken and freshly pressed underwear for you to discover the hidden merits of working here.

The interviewees working in Pakistan all have one thing in common: they are positive and hopeful. Being one of the fastest growing developing countries in Asia, Pakistan offers ample opportunity to make it big. An important factor is that in Pakistan, one is not looking to maintain — here, the keyword is improve. And room for improvement is plenty. Opportunities to affect change seem abundant for hardworking graduates with foreign degrees. An education from abroad sets you apart from the crowd as most organisations consider a foreign undergraduate degree equivalent to a local master’s degree. But the real strength of Pakistan’s magnetic pull does not lie in the opportunities of personal improvement and personal gain — there’s a sense that you can contribute to something bigger.

So, east or west, what is their quest?