How I Overcame Fear and Turned Adversity into Opportunity

Sahar Naqvi

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Sahar Naqvi, a former chapter officer from Broward College in Florida.

When I graduated from high school, I had one goal in mind — to become the best version of myself. I decided to go to a community college but faced many problems. Being a first-generation college student, I did not know how to navigate the educational and financial aspects of the system. Therefore, I decided to withdraw because I felt that I wasn’t “college material.”

I soon started a career in banking and finance and decided that was good enough for me. However, there was a voice inside me, continuing to tell me that I could do more and be better. I felt a yearning to learn, to know more. No matter how much I tried to quiet the voice, it would not go away.

Finally, after four years of working, I decided to return to school. I re-enrolled at Broward College in Florida, this time as a nontraditional student, in order to pursue my associate degree.

At the beginning, everything seemed daunting — I had to learn how to be a student again. The one thing that helped me overcome my challenges was PTK.

The PTK Mu Mu Chapter at Broward College gave me the confidence, consistency, and courage to combat those challenges. I wanted to help others with similar experiences and became the Vice President of Scholarships at my chapter. I spent hours advising my peers and planning activities.

The PTK office became my sanctuary, where I knew I could sit for hours and engage in intellectual conversations with fellow students, solve life’s problems together, and discuss financial and academic opportunities. It became a place that gave me and others much-needed hope. It was a way to make our academic and professional dreams come true.

Prior to PTK, I doubted if I had the capacity to do the impossible. The task that seemed most daunting was becoming a Fulbrighter. Luckily, PTK had instilled in me discipline, integrity, and courage, which gave me the confidence to venture into new and exciting academic endeavors, like the Fulbright Scholar Program.

When I initially applied for a Fulbright Award to pursue a master’s degree, the program was halted due to host country security concerns. After the suspension, I found myself questioning whether I was “Fulbright material” but recalled the challenge of returning to college. I remembered that despite the difficulties, it was exciting to try a new endeavor, to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. Convinced, I then decided to reapply.

The second time I applied for a Fulbright award, I made sure to have great mentors supporting me through the process. I kept a positive outlook: I had overcome challenges and knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a Fulbrighter and I was “Fulbright material.”  It is easy to let your fears get in the way of your success, but the harder choice is to make an opportunity out of adversity. I believe all of us can be tenacious; it’s a matter of finding the right resources and mentors and doing the actual task.

Becoming a Fulbrighter was one of the most impactful things in my life. My Fulbright experience taught me that it is truly a unique experience, unlike any other. Because of Fulbright, I am more courageous and motivated, and I have a sense of purpose.

Fulbright enabled me to meet some of the most gracious people and form genuine relationships with people unlike me. I was able to learn and grow as a person, as an academic, as a woman, and as a mom. It is because of this multifaceted experience that I am a committed cultural ambassador that sees the world beyond its challenges.

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