PhD Success Story - Physics
I had never imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that I will be offered a funded PhD position in USA. I spent my childhood in a backward and remote village of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Like most of the inhabitants of our village, we also belonged to the lower-middle strata of the society. My father had to support a large family with his meagre resources. In such a bleak scenario, it was a daunting task for him to make both ends meet, let alone provision of education to his kids. However, he worked tirelesslyso that his children could have access to quality education.He believed in what the great Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world”.
I completed my schooling in the government-run schools. I still remember the deserted look of our primary school that lacked all the basic facilities of life. It was an old, dilapidated building with 2 rooms in which more than 150 students had to study and dream of a better future under some of the most difficult conditions. With no electricity, no proper seating arrangement and no washrooms, the kids of our school, like thousands of kids around the country, had to fight against challenges on daily basis. I remember how we used to sit on plastic matts made of sacks and how we used to drink water from a nearby mosque when we felt thirsty.Many of my classmates dropped out of the school due to financial hardships, despite the fact that they were good at studies. I feel blessed to have survived this cruel system which weeds out the weak and the financially crippled.
During my childhood, I used to dream big. I wanted to achieve something but was not sure about what I actually wanted. In the absence of proper guidance and counseling, I was heading towards an unknown destination, however, I had a feeling that the end will be beautiful and that Allah will guide me through all these uncertainties.
Compromising with the day to day difficulties, I completed my BSc from a local college. I maintained first division throughout my educational career. I was the first person from my family who got university level education.As I was unable to pay my tuition fee, I had to take loan from one of my relatives to continue my studies. At the university, I developed an intense desire to do PhD in physics from USA. This idea fascinated me to an extent that it became the foremost goal of my life. I talked to my professor who encouraged me to take TOEFL and GRE. But considering my financial condition, it was almost impossible to invest so much money in GRE and TOEFL and thus the harsh realities of life were snatching away the dream of studying in US from me.
After doing my masters, I did not want to waste any time and hence concentrated on improving my profile. I enrolled in MPhil at the Department of Physics, University of Peshawar. I focused on research and started writing research articles as it is an important factor in securing a PhD scholarship. In the meanwhile, I was selected as lecturer in physics by Federal Public Service Commission and was posted in another city.I had to travel 4 hours daily to another city, deliver lectures and then come back to the university to do my MPhil work till late night. My routine was so hectic that I had to skip lunch almost every day. It was very difficult to manage all these things but I somehow kept going. My hard work paid off and I managed to complete my MPhil with 3 research articles in reputed international journals.
For fall 2017, I applied to 6 US universities. The whole process was extremely tiring and expensive. Paying for the application fee, filling online forms, attestation of educational documents, arranging recommendation letters and sending GRE and TOEFL scores to universities was a lengthy and arduous process which consumed a good sum of money. I was very hopeful that I will get acceptance from somewhere. However, to my utter astonishment all the universities rejected me except one which offered me a position without funding.
I was in a state of total shock. I was feeling completely down and out and I was almost ready to give up. In such a situation, Scholar Den Founder helped me a lot and inspired me to keep working towards my goal. While waiting for the fall 2018 term, I started emailing professors. A few days ago, I emailed a US professor who is working in my field of research. On the same day, she invited me for a Skype interview. As I had only three hours to prepare, for a moment I thought I should request her to postpone the interview, however, a voice from within told me to attend the interview no matter what the end results is. The interview went extremely well and I was offered an Research Assistantship position for spring 2018 term the very next day. This news was not less than a miracle for me. All this happened within few hours and it made me realize that if Allah wishes, He can change your situation within blink of an eye.
I am not ashamed of the fact that during my life I faced many challenges, hardships, failures and disappointments. I applied to Fulbright and got rejected after the interview, I applied to US universities and was rejected, I wrote to dozens of professors and most of them even did not reply. It is a fact that every failure made me stronger and fueled my burning desire to achieve something in life.
During my recent struggle for a PhD position, many people helped and guided me. I am specially indebted to Zeeshan and Scholar Den Founder for their unconditional support. It is very rare to see such selfless and sincere individuals who help others out of their busy schedule and personal commitments. In fact, all the mentors on Scholar Den platform are doing a wonderful job in their own capacity and their services are commendable.
In the end, I would like to advice the young and aspiring students who want to study abroad:
- Always dream big. Remember the saying, “Aim for the stars, even if you miss you will land on the moon
- Nothing is impossible, Literally. You can achieve everything at the cost of your comfort zone. Believe in hard work and never look for shortcuts. Remember, “there is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs
- Keep improving yourself on every level. Try to gain extra skills by doing online courses, internships, research projects etc. By gaining knowledge, you are investing in your future
- Accept the fact that Failure is part of life. No successful person exists who has never failed. The world is cruel, it will test you, disappoint you, laugh at you, discourage you and even try to pull you down but never give up on your dreams
- Last but not least, always help others and try to be humble. Show empathy towards fellow humans with an intention to contributing to the overall betterment of the society. Best of luck in your future endeavors.