FEATURED GRADUATE bothers you, so you can just sit on your computer and work, which is kind of what I wanted to do. Essentially, it was like getting paid for doing homework …and it helps to get to know more people which is also nice’. What also helped in her admission was how she had kept documenting her work throughout college and continued to do so even afterwards. Also, her constant involvement in activities besides academics helped: ‘It really helped that I was in societies and that I wrote stuff; I was in competitions; I won awards. Those type of things help because it just means you’re in touch with the universe. They don’t like people who live in their own little world… it just means that you’re educated and that you’re literate and you’re willing to discuss things’. It also helped that she was willing to be less uptight and offended by how people treated and talked to her for being from Pakistan, since as she says, Pakistanis don’t have the best reputation. Recalling how at instances she had to dodge some ignorant questions by being humorous about them, she emphasizes on how it’s important to not get offended by what people think or say. However, once their guard goes down, it’s easier to give them a dose of reality. Since graduating from Pratt, she’s been working through a student visa (F-1) program called Optional Practical Training, ‘…which means you get to work as a freelancer, or whatever position you want, or (even) an entire job. You just live in the city and you do what you want, (or) travel or move out of here and then get a job. And my year is actually ending in August but as a Digital Arts major, and Animation, we get a seventeen month extension which is just because we count as a computer science major’.
We discuss how having a citizenship or even a green card would have facilitated her work options because with an H1 work visa companies have to ponder over whether or not to go through the process of sponsoring your work visa as well, which is currently the case with Atia. In some cases, where the duration of work is small, it goes against you. However, having been luckily accepted, she cares to laugh about how she doesn’t have to pay anything for her visa because it will be entirely covered by her employer. She admits that being a Pakistani, a Muslim and a female helped in getting this job: ‘It means that you’re doing something which everyone perceived as extremely outside of your culture and it’s a good thing and it helps’. Reflecting over the past, she seemed happy about somehow managing to do what she wanted.
Just recently, since she got a full-time teaching job and is now getting an actual work visa: ‘As a student the best way to switch visas is to become a full time employee somewhere and if you freelance long enough at a company, in like New York, they might hire you but the economy is not really good right now so it’s kind of getting rough but because I’ve had work experience I had that opportunity where I qualified for a lot of teaching positions as well.’ On some of her professors’ advice, she applied to random universities and landed at her current teaching position.
‘When I was seventeen and I happened to mention that I wanted to do animation to people, I got laughed (at), like I got laughed out of town kind of (a) thing. It was like, everyone was just like, ha-ha-ha what are you going to do? Who is going to hire you? Like do you think Disney will ever come to Pakistan? You know the typical, and I was like, yeah it’s true, which is why I went and did (a degree in) Communication Design in NCA but I found that if you really want to do something then you do it!’ We ended the formal discussion at that, but talked a while longer about stories from back in Lahore. I guess wherever we go we’ll all enjoy looking back, but as long as we’re still in college, Atia and so many others give us the opportunity to look into so many options for the future. We wish her the best of luck for all future endeavors.