#MyPathToSeniorWalk: Sherjeel Naeem
Growing up in Greenwood, Arkansas, with parents who were immigrants from Pakistan, Sherjeel Naeem lived between two cultures – an experience that helped him understand the struggles of international residents integrating into another country.
“Because both of my parents were immigrants, I can imagine how much of a struggle it was for them to adapt to a completely new way of life with new customs and language,” he said.
That empathy led him to become a cross-cultural mentor for the Office of International Students and Scholars in the Graduate School and International Education at the U of A, where he has helped international students find a home in America — and Arkansas.
“We do that by helping them throughout the entire process — from immigration to immersing them in American culture once they’re here,” Naeem said. “We take them to football games and events on campus. We just try to make them proud to be University of Arkansas students and make sure they’re happy to be here.”
The need to create connection drives the junior pre-med biology/anthropology major in his career as well, as he wants to pursue a career in mental health to help the local community. He’s currently developing a clinical support program for South Asian Americans in Northwest Arkansas.
“I’m a very big advocate of mental health,” he said. “I come from a South Asian background, and mental health in the South Asian community isn’t very well understood. So, if I do end up going into medicine, I want to go into psychiatry. But if not, then clinical psychology is definitely the go-to.”
Naeem was drawn to the U of A due to the diversity of the campus and region, and he’s sought to make the campus more inclusive during his time here.
“My goal and the goal of various other student leaders is trying to push for inclusion,” he said. “We always hear the words ‘diversity and inclusion’ together, but I think they’re separate terms. Diversity is having everyone there at the table — different religions, races, sexualities. Everybody is there, but their voices may not necessarily be heard or acknowledged. Inclusion is making sure everybody’s voice is not only represented, but implemented into a framework for positive change.”
Since he’s been on campus, he’s found a sense of belonging through the many organizations he participates in, including serving in positions such as vice president of the Arkansas Interfaith Coalition, mental health ambassador for the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services and director of outreach for Students for Refugees.
“There’s a strong support network here. I’ve met a lot of great people here, people who constantly inspire me every day,” he said. “I feel like I have a purpose here. At the U of A, we’re large enough that everyone can find their own little niche and place they specialize in. But we’re also not so large that you feel your voice is drowned out by everyone else.”
For more student success stories like Gary’s, check out our previous #MyPathToSeniorWalk features: Erick Soto, Kennedy Hicks, Rachell Sanchez-Smith and Gary Jackson. Many more stories are to come. If you have story that you'd like told or know someone who has an inspiring story, please check out the nomination form.
John Post, director of communications
Graduate School and International Education
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