Kashaf recently came to the University of Minnesota Crookston as an international exchange student from Pakistan. Kashaf is originally from Rawalpindi, a city in the Punjab province, and is a part of an exchange program called the Global UGRAD Pakistan Program which is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. She applied to the program and was one of 108 students selected out of over 31,000 applicants. This program sends half of the students to the United States in the Fall semester and the other half in the Spring semester. Kashaf is a part of the Spring cohort.

In order to ease the transition of different cultures, Global UGRAD requires a pre-departure orientation as well as a 3-day welcome workshop in Washington, D.C. to give students information about U.S. culture, laws, and rules.

“I was really excited,” said Kashaf. “I’ve never been out of Pakistan before, so coming here was a totally different experience for me.”

Kashaf is an exchange student on a J-1 Visa, meaning she is not able to hold employment. She has found many other opportunities to get involved.

The U of M Crookston offers many opportunities to get involved on campus, so Kashaf jumped at the chance to be a member of Golden Eagle Entertainment (GEE) and El Futbol Club, plus she likes to play pickleball and ping pong at the Wellness Center.

“One of my favorite things about campus is there are so many events, big and small!” Kashaf exclaimed. “I (recently) got to attend the Lunar New Year Celebration, Casino Night, and the Make Your Own Sugar Scrub event.”

Kashaf says that Crookston is similar to Pakistan, in a way that everyone knows everyone and it is like a community.

“People are way too nice and way too helpful as compared to those in Pakistan,” she joked.

Kashaf adds she had never seen snow, and really loved experiencing winter even though Crookston is “way too snowy.”

“I love the snow, I still can’t get enough of it!” Kashaf pronounced.

Kashaf is also a first generation college student.

“I am so fortunate and lucky to have the support of my parents,” Kashaf says. “Many parents would not let their children, let alone their daughters, leave the country at this age to pursue their education, but my parents were really encouraging.”

Pakistan is currently a male dominated society, but feminism and gender equality is on the rise. It is common for some parents to be very narrow minded, but Kashaf’s parents have always been open minded and receptive to her dreams.

Being so far away from home and your own culture can be difficult. Kashaf is grateful for the accommodations U of M Crookston has arranged so she can be comfortable and happy while staying true to her religion and culture.

“Sok Leng (Director of Global Programs) helped make arrangements with Dining Services before I got here," Kashaf noted. “My religion is Islam and our food has to be Halal, or permissible, to eat. I can now go to the Dining Hall and ask for Halal meat and they have it ready for me.”

“Everyone is so kind, they even make some of the food extra spicy for me,” she added.

Kashaf is extremely connected to her religion and culture. She says her deepest culture is Punjabi.

“Pakistan has various different cultures,” she explained. “My culture is Punjabi, but I love to have and include all of the cultures.”

“My favorite part of every culture is the dress and the food,” Kashaf continued. “Different cultures have different types of dress and they are all so beautiful.”

Kashaf will be presenting many cultural dishes at the U of M Crookston International Dinner on March 18. She hand-picked these dishes because they are very common in Pakistan and a very good representation of her culture. Kashaf joked that is also a bonus for her because she misses these foods and will get to eat them at the event.

Her love for food came from growing up with her mother’s incredible cooking skills. Kashaf says her mother is usually the one who cooks for her family, but she taught Kashaf how to cook some of these dishes as well.

As a starter for the March 18 event, Kashaf has chosen a vegetarian dish called Pakoras. Kashaf is also presenting seekh kabab, which is chicken or beef patties made on skewers. Kheer, which is similar to a rice pudding, and kulfi, which is a popsicle stick that is made with milk and nuts, will be featured as desserts. As a main dish, she selected chicken and veggie biryani which Kashaf says has a certain taste that is local to Pakistan.

She notes that in Pakistan they eat spicier foods, but these dishes will be made with less spice to account for the different taste buds in the U.S..

Kashaf will present about the cultural differences between the United States and Pakistan, and wants to specifically touch on the differences between the marriage ceremonies, the education systems, family life, the dress, and the food.

To learn more about Kashaf and Pakistan, reserve a seat at the International Dinner on March 18, 2024 at z.umn.edu/MIC2024Dinners or contact Rae French at rfrench@crk.umn.edu with any questions.