Sanjay Mathrani, a student of Media and Communication Studies, University of Sindh and who successfully completed the Global UGrad Semester Exchange Program at the Arizona Western College (AWC), USA talks to Karvan about his experience of being an exchange student and how it helped him discover himself.

1. Tell us about yourself?
I was born in an epicenter of Pakistan’s heritage in a place called Umerkot known for its rich culture, folklore, myths, rituals, and archaeology. This place has an immense impression on my upbringing which can be reflected from my subject selection, hobbies to the professional engagement. I am the kind of person who loves activism. Moreover, I am good at hosting events, script writing, photography, and motivational talks. Through my passion for traveling, I want to explore and disclose the hidden and vulnerable aspects of our society.

2. How challenging it is to be accepted as a student of the US Global Undergraduate Semester Exchange Program?
I would say it was not a challenge, but it was a responsibility and hope; that my actions and reactions were accountable as the exhibition of Pakistan. Otherwise, as I have already told you that I am from Umerkot and everyone is well aware from the schooling of education from that part, so somehow my experiences and exposures supported me a lot to accept these challenges. But being a student of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Sindh, Jamshoro, it was not that hard for me to accept these challenges, because Sindh University is famous for its progressive approaches and intellectual narratives, my growth, valleys, and peaks, and ups and downs in life are reflecting mother academia. I was placed at Arizona Western College which doubled and emphasized my directions.

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3. What was your first feeling when you landed in the US?
Just excitement! Feel when your dream comes true, how you will express yourself? There was the same situation with me at that time, it was my very first international trip and I was in the United States of America under the program of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program to represent my identity; Thari, Sindhi, Hindu, and Pakistani. I was eagerly waiting for my turn for the country presentation from the first day. I was keen to show the beauty of my land, religious and cultural diversity, harmony, and tolerance with the people and fellows of this program, who did not have any idea about the four million Sindhi Hindus living in Pakistan, our historical heritage, folklore, engagement of youth and more about Pakistan.

4. Tell us about the activities you did as an exchange student in the US?
It was the requirement of this program to participate in community services for at least 20 credit hours and to arrange a country presentation to build a positive gesture and real communication with the people of your placement area, but I did more than their requirement; I worked 85 credit hours for community services and represented my country more than 10 times. I always wore my local and indigenous cultural outlet for such events and get-togethers for uniqueness. I would say that I was frequently asked rather bothersome questions; how are you treated being a Hindu Journo in your country? some of them were confused in my name that “Sanjay Mathrani” means I’m Indian Hindu! so likewise many media-oriented stereotypes countered by me.

5. What are your most memorable moments during your stay in the US?
“If you’re looking for a big opportunity to seek out a big problem” I’m a proud failure, I did not meet with the requirements of an engineering university after passing college and I know at that time how hard it was for me to tackle the questions of the society, even who don’t know about the definition and spelling of engineering were telling my father that he will waste his money on me. And when I was at Washington DC; National 4-H Youth Conference Center, I realized that believing in yourself will strengthen you to be empowered. I will never ever forget how the people in the US greeted and respected me.

6. How did it feel to promote the culture of Sindh among the Americans in the US?
Before my presentations when I took a survey from participants to know about their knowledge and perceptions about Pakistan, believe me, many of them were not aware of Sindh, Moen Jo Daro, Indus Valley Civilization, River Indus, Handicrafts, and UNESCO sites in Sindh and Pakistan. For them metropolitan cities and capital of Pakistan Islamabad was head and tail of Pakistan. But I can proudly say that the locals of Arizona and USA, administration of Arizona Western College, Rotary International in the USA, Yuma Medical Center, University of Utah, University of Texas, Boston University and infinite numbers of students from 22 countries of the world from an international team of AWC know where is Tharparkar, who is Ustad Shafi Faqeer, Mai Bhagi, Mai Dhai, Chang, Borendo, Dhool, indigenous communities of Sindh and many of my friends are really willing to visit my homeland. And, they are more excited to participate in Hindu marriage for traditional rituals.

7. What change did you feel in yourself before you left for the UGRAD semester and after you returned home?
I feel I am more tolerant now and that I can face big challenges and hurdles can also change the game. Before participating in this program I was directionless, I was just following the traditional style of personal and professional approaches and now I am able to choose my rights and wrongs. In addition, I will cite the source to give courtesy.

8. What various professional activities are you involved here in Pakistan?
As an enthusiast of heritage representation, I inclined my academic career into media and communication studies where I very carefully opted for the courses such as History of Civilization, Social Media and Creative Writing, newspaper and magazine production where I topped. These are not mere subjects for me but I conceptualized and produced practically through various mediums such as publishing my heritage, archeology and cultural work in the leading newspapers of Pakistan; writing online blogs with vivid photographs and documenting the dying musical instruments of Sindh. To my credit, I have published more than 500 English and regional language newspaper reports/articles/features using photography and videography as a digital source for creating awareness among the masses about the forgotten rich culture and heritage of Indus Valley Civilization. My features include the UNESCO recognized sites such as Makli Necropolis and Rani Kot Fort. I possess more than 1.5 years of experience of working as a Correspondent at Daily Times and Citizen Journalist at PakVoices and NayaDuar. Most recently; I worked with the United Nations as a Youth Volunteer and worked on Civic and Voter Education.

9. What is your mission in life?
My mission of life to bring the hidden talents to the mainstream, to represent my culture, art, heritage, music and literature with the world to create a multi-cultural society, to use the digital techniques and tools to give a broader space to our cultural history and its norms, to work for peace and interfaith harmony, and to work for the rights of the minority which are normally denied and manipulated by positive use of media.

10. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?
I believe that growing cadre is the only source and asset of our land. Their collective approaches and acceptance of existence can bring a positive change. Feel proud of your identity and do not push yourself back. Pakistan is a colorful country and we have many historical heritage sites and monuments. It is a dire need to highlight these places to enrich our tourism and cultural activities. Pakistan Zindabad!

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