January 18, 2019
Maryam Abdul Rashid took a big risk enrolling in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Coming from Malaysia, she said people back home questioned her prospects about what her future might be. But she took the leap anyway.
"I forever feel blessed to have been given the chance to travel 9,021 miles just to come to school here," Rashid said. "Coming here to ASU and the School of Sustainability was one of the best decisions I have ever made."
Rashid is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in sustainability with a track in society in sustainability. She’s also enrolled in ASU’s 4+1 accelerated Master of Sustainability Solutions program. Read her Q&A below to learn why she's happy she decided to join the School of Sustainability community.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Answer: I am an international student from Malaysia who has been involved in multiple organizations on campus, like being a School of Sustainability ambassador, president of the Honor Society for Sustainability, SOS 201 (Introduction to ASU and Sustainability) facilitator, ASU Global Guide mentor, director of service for Alpha Kappa Psi, a community assistant in the Hassayampa dorms and an intern with Think City in Malaysia.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved traveling around the world to the point that I have visited at least one country in every continent except Antarctica, which has made me appreciate different cultures from around the world. During my downtime, I also love to taste different types of cultural cuisines that my international friends share with me.
Q: What made you realize you wanted to study sustainability and why?
A: I guess I have always wanted to study sustainability ever since high school but at that time, I did not know what sustainability meant. I had always been very active in multiple environmental efforts back home, but something did not really fit. When it was time to chose my major and what country I would like to study abroad in, my options were very limited as they mostly involved in environmental science. However, environmental science was not something I wanted to major in as I was aware that science and math were not my strongest subjects.
When looking for different universities in the States, I discovered that ASU offered a sustainability major in the School of Sustainability. At that point in time, I did not really understand what sustainability meant but the programs offered sounded like they were more suited to my interests compared to schools that offered environmental science, as I like learning about people and their respective cultures. Even though I took a big risk to study sustainability as many people back home had questions on what my future would like as at that point in time, since the idea of sustainability was something very foreign and new, coming here to ASU and the School of Sustainability was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I finally found a major that I was truly passionate about while being surrounded by amazing professors and peers that made Arizona feel like a second home to me. The School of Sustainability has given me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams, as it has given me the opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador, build connections with peers and companies both in and outside the States, and expand my knowledge on sustainability. Therefore, I forever feel blessed to have been given the chance to travel 9,021 miles just to come to school here.
Q: What’s been your favorite part of being an ASU and School of Sustainability student so far?
A: One of my favorite classes that I have taken so far is SOS 510 Perspectives on Sustainability with John “Marty” Anderies. Marty really challenged us to think beyond the typical sustainability problems that we have been exposed to in our undergraduate career and to think about underlying key sustainability problems such as inequality, status consciousness, imagined orders, culture and complexities. Before taking his class I had never really thought about the connection between status consciousness and sustainability but the more I thought about it, the more relevant it became.
Growing up in a culture that valued status consciousness through one's title, wealth and level of education, it really helped me become more aware when trying to create sustainable solutions in those different cultural contexts. It also became the basis of how I started thinking of solutions — especially ones that relate to the problems we have back at home.
My favorite part of being an ASU student is just the diversity that comes with it. Being an international student myself, coming to a school that values different people and their cultures made me feel welcomed and a part of something bigger than myself. When I was a freshman, the older ASU students helped me adjust to the life here in the States when I was scared and had no one by my side, as it was my first time living abroad in a different country. Ever since that moment, I knew that I wanted to help other new students adjust to their life here at ASU and I was given a chance to give back by being a community assistant and an ASU Global Guide mentor to two exchange students from Korea and Japan, who I am still close with till this day. No matter who you are or where you come from, I feel like ASU gives a thousand and one opportunities to explore and grow as a person — and that's a huge reason I love studying at ASU.
Q: How do you envision applying sustainability to your future career?
A: After finishing my internship with Think City, I discovered my love for designing cities in a more sustainable and people-centric way. In the future, a majority of the population will be living in cities. Therefore, I believe it is important for us to already be the mindset of making improvements to the current system we have by making changes to the current beliefs, assumptions, rules, capacities and the type of resources we need instead of finding solutions on how to adapt to these changes later in the future.
I hope to become a representative of the people and help design cities within their respective cultural context and the type of climate they are situated in. People are a huge part of what makes a city what it is, which is why I feel like my future career in sustainability will be a mixture of working with different types of people and the cities they live in.
Q: What does sustainability mean to you?
A: Sustainability is a field that not only values the environment, but it also takes into consideration the current system we have set up for ourselves. It is a field that deals with different problems that have complexities, social dilemmas and non-linearity, and of course one that involves intra- and intergenerational as well as interspecies equity. Sustainability is so far the only field that I have heard of that deals with all these different issues no matter the context of the situation.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: If you are debating whether or not to come to ASU and the School of Sustainability, it is definitely worth the shot. I have enjoyed my time here and have gotten so much out of this experience. If I had to do it all over again, I would still choose ASU and its magnificent School of Sustainability. Go Devils!