Khalied ’16 Delivers Senior Class Welcome (with video)

Lauren RubensteinMay 22, 20166min
Wesleyan celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2016 at its 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)
Tahreem Kahlied ’16 speaks to fellow graduates. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Tahreem Kahlied ’16 delivered the following Senior Class Welcome during the 184th Commencement Ceremony May 22:

Five years ago, when I was still living in Karachi, Pakistan, and studying for an accounting certification, I logged on to my Facebook and realized that my wall was flooded with graduation pictures. I wrote the following status in a fit of passive-aggressive jealousy (and I quote): “I just realized that I will never have a regular graduation with a convocation where I get to wear a gown and that flat hat thingy.”

Tahreem Khalied ’16 (Photos by Tom Dzimian)

I wasn’t just jealous…I was extremely sad. I believed wholeheartedly that I would spend my life auditing companies, and that was just depressing.

When I came to the U.S. four and a half years ago I did not know what to expect…and needless to say the first few months here were a cultural shock, completely nerve-wracking. Born and raised in Karachi, it was extremely difficult for me to adjust to the Wesleyan environment. I was scared on so many levels: scared about my future; scared about being the odd one out, the adult, foreign student in a sea of smart, articulate young people; scared about not being American enough to understand what it meant to be a Wesleyan student. Coming to Wesleyan was the first decision I had taken for myself, and it scared me that this one independent decision might turn out to be a big failure.

Then, during my first semester, I befriended a young Jewish man. I confided to him my fears of being at Wesleyan, about how I was afraid I was going to mess up the one decision I had taken for myself. He listened, tried to comfort me, and then took me sledding on Foss hill. He later sent me a video of me zooming down the hill, titled “You. Sledding. Your Decision.” I was so proud of myself. A few weeks after this, a classmate asked me to lunch. I had seen him before and had wondered at the non-conformative clothes he wore. I won’t lie, I was somewhat disconcerted at his invitation, especially when he nonchalantly told me that he identified as queer. We spent the next three hours just talking. There is a first time to everything: I had not only sledded for the first time, I had made my first queer, and Jewish friends. For a Pakistani Muslim woman, that is indeed a big deal because my relationships with each forced me to reconsider some serious cultural biases I had grown up with.

As a student studying race and ethnicity as part of her American Studies major, I was introduced to the possibility that there can be more truths than the one I believe in. The more classes I took, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. My professors will vouch for the fact that I got so immersed in the experience of learning about the socio-political aspects of American life that I was taking at least three American Studies classes every single semester, and literally soaking up information. I learned about colonialism, indigenous politics, queer politics, anarchy, racial and ethnic politics, latinidad, South-Asian diasporic writing, all as part of this one, very inclusive major. I was learning that diversity, whether in thought, or in person, is indeed beautiful.

My education here has been twofold: that which I acquired in the classroom, and that which I experienced amongst you: I have witnessed students fight for equality, stand up for social justice, and speak against racism and xenophobia. I have witnessed strength, perseverance, and solidarity, and I have grown to admire and respect you all immensely for it.

Professor (Joel) Pfister, the American Studies chair, emailed me a couple of weeks ago with a lot of (academic) good news, and then told me that I had taken Wesleyan by storm. I beg to differ, Professor Pfister…Wesleyan has taken me by storm.

Thank you and congratulations to the class of 2016.