The immigrant who was interviewed for this paper is John Smith (not his real name). He is a twenty-nine-year-old male immigrant of Pakistani origin who lives in New York. Both his parents are from Pakistan but settled in the United Arab Emirates after their marriage. Smith has also spent all his childhood in the United Arab Emirates where he was born and has only visited his home country Pakistan twice in his whole life.
Smith moved to New York from the United Arab Emirates at the age of eighteen to pursue higher studies in engineering at a well-known university. He lived with one of his uncles who has been living in the United States for several years and is a citizen. Smith is currently pursuing his doctoral degree at the university and is also a researcher as well as an assistant to one of the professors. He spends most of the time at the university or in the lab where he performs his research work. He has not yet applied for citizenship of the United States but plans on doing so as the time for his marriage comes near.
Conditions in the Home Country
Smith has Pakistani origins but he does not identify culturally with Pakistan. He identifies with the religion Islam and also speaks the mother tongue Urdu fluently but does not identify with the values of local Pakistani culture. He is not fond of cricket or Pakistani music. He prefers football and western pop music. This he attributes to his western and liberal upbringing in the cosmopolitan society of the United Arab Emirates. Smith is more culturally aware of the United Arab Emirates where he has spent the first eighteen years of his life and often refers to the country as his home country as opposed to Pakistan.
Smith says that while he was a child he often heard his parents talk about things in the home country. Compared to the general poverty in the rural parts of the country, Smith's parents belong to a family in the relatively prosperous city of Lahore. They are also second cousins and their marriage had been decided when they were children. He says he liked to listen to stories of his uncles, aunts and grandparents but never identified himself with them. He would occasionally speak to them over the phone and he says he feels affectionate towards them. Being an only child, Smith claims he was very attached to his parents as a child.
Education and Childhood
When asked about his education and childhood aspirations he explains that he went to a reputable private school in the city of Abu Dhabi. He says he was interested in science and mathematics from the very beginning and was one of the best students in class. He had an inclination towards scientific discoveries and experiments and would often dismantle his battery-operated toys to investigate the circuitry. His social circle consisted of Pakistani friends of his parents and their children. At school he interacted with friends from India, Bangladesh, other Arab counties and occasionally children from western countries as well. He says his interest in the United States was aroused with the American involvement in the Iraq-Kuwait war of 1992 when a large number of Americans began to be seen around the cities of the United Arab Emirates. He was also interested in their technological developments and space exploration activities and was fascinated by the moon landing of 1969. It was his dream then to pursue engineering studies in the United States after completing school.
Societal Attitudes and Norms
About life in the home country he says that life in the United Arab Emirates is comfortable and easy. Society is cosmopolitan and tolerant, although there is less mingling between immigrants and the local citizens. People are well-educated. He says while school education is easily affordable for many middle-class people, university education is very expensive. For this reason, immigrant parents send their children to their home countries for higher education. Some send their children to universities in the UK and U.S. If they can afford it.
About life in Pakistan he claims to know very little. He also says that his parents did not push him to adapt to the cultural norms of the home country since they saw that it would be difficult for him. He says that family life was more important in Pakistan compared with career and scholarly pursuits which is why he did not want to go to Pakistan.
He also said that there was greater poverty in the rural areas than in urban areas but the lifestyle in urban areas in Pakistan was different from that in the United Arab Emirates. Modern amenities were limited and there was little influence of western culture whereas life in the United Arab Emirates was heavily influenced by western culture which is why he felt more comfortable about moving to the United States and eventually settling there.
Reasons for Moving to the United States
Opportunities for Employment
Smith says he did not see good employment opportunities for himself in Pakistan which was technologically backward compared with the United States. He also perceived corruption to be very common in Pakistan and felt that he would never be able to adapt to a place where bribery was a part of life and people generally did not think much about observing rules and following laws.
With regard to employment opportunities in the United Arab Emirates, Smith says that most of the employment opportunities are in the banking, tourism and construction sectors, while he was interested in research opportunities. Furthermore, there was always the threat that immigrants could be terminated from their jobs without prior notice and their visas canceled. He wanted to avoid such a situation in favor of better job security and employment conditions.
Opportunities for Higher Education
When I asked him why he preferred to come to the United States instead of attending a university in Pakistan or the United Arab Emirates he said that he wanted to settle in the United States since it was his childhood dream. He did not feel the kind of career he wanted to pursue would be possible in Pakistan.
He considers life in Pakistan to be frivolous where people are mostly concerned with having an active social life and scholarly or academic pursuits are not highly valued. Research facilities are universities are also very basic. He also did not identify with the local Pakistani culture and wanted to move to the United States to fulfill his ambitions and to fit into a cosmopolitan and progressive society.
Smith says that University education in the United Arab Emirates is expensive and not as highly evolved as universities in the United States. He explains that another consideration for his moving to the United States instead of saying back in the United Arab Emirates was that since his father was living in the country on a work visa which would be terminated immediately as soon as his job at a local bank was no more, the family would have to pack off to Pakistan immediately.
As his father was about to reach the age of retirement and the bank was planning downsizing the workforce, he felt his education would be disrupted if his father lost his job while his education was in progress. As Smith was also determined to settle in the United States after his education, the family decided for him to move to the United States after he completed his A-Levels from the University of Cambridge International Examinations.
How Smith Moved to the United States
When asked how he started planning to move to the United States, he says that during the final year of his school education, he attended a seminar or opportunities for higher education organized by his school. He learned about various local and international universities that offered undergraduate programs and programs for higher studies in various disciplines. Since he had made up his mind to study engineering in the United States, Smith discussed with the student counselor what opportunities were available to him. The counselor then guided him about how to select universities and send them applications. Smith also consulted with his parents and they helped him in the university application process.
After having applied at three universities, smith was accepted at the CCNU on a scholarship. His parents then helped him apply for the visa at the American embassy in Abu Dhabi. The process was completed in time for him to leave for the New York to begin his classes. Smith's parents also contacted his uncle in New York who would visit Smith at the hostel and help him get used to his new life. Smith was also to spend one weekend in the moth at his uncle's place so that he could see how his nephew was progressing.
Smith says that getting to the United States was not a problem for him because his parents and his…