Tashifa vividly recalls arriving at her Queens high school from Pakistan at the beginning of second semester in junior year. She felt “like a turtle in a rabbit race.” Tashifa very quickly came up to speed. “She showed incredible work ethic immediately,” her college counselor wrote, “catching up with her peers in class. She passed all the Regents exams that she took in June, scoring a 96 on the English exam.”  

Tashifa already spoke three languages, and she applied herself to mastering a fourth. “I used my determination as the source of helping me learn this new language,” Tashifa recalled in her essay, “trying to absorb the vast vocabulary, and acquiring knowledge about this foreign culture, environment, and people through books. The book that particularly helped me in this was The Great Book of American Idioms.”

Tashifa plunged into the school’s extracurricular activities, including the UNICEF club, Art club and Muslim Students’ Association, demonstrating that she was a natural leader. One of the clubs continued an interest that she had developed at her school in Pakistan: badminton. Playing with the sister who first taught her the sport, she wrote, “The sound of the racket hitting the shuttle every time is a really soothing sound for me. I love playing the game nonstop to the point where my arms hurt the next day.

Gratitude to her parents is one of Tashifa’s driving motivations: “This is a new beginning in my life,” she wrote, “and I am both anxious and enthusiastic about achieving my dreams and happiness for myself and my parents, who left everything just to give me a better life and studies.”

It's difficult to single out one teacher because even though I only had one and a half years with them, they all made me feel at ease and welcomed. However, Janet Stephens, my English teacher, stood out because she consistently checked in with me to see how I was doing and whether I was having any scheduling or subject-related issues. I always felt comfortable approaching her with any problems, I am extremely grateful that she was there during the tough times.