With henna in hand and hearty servings of biryani nearby, the Pakistani Student Association at UCF is sharing its culture with students one custom at a time.
PSA will use a combination of social and educational events to educate students on Pakistani culture, as well as engage in community-service opportunities meant to bond the organization’s members together, a number which is currently estimated at 74, judging from their email list.
While still trying to establish its footing ever since the group applied to become a registered student organization, Tahoora Ateeq, the organization’s president and a junior biomedical sciences major, asserted that PSA is resolute in its mission to give Pakistani-American students a voice and to provide a platform for students from other backgrounds to experience Pakistani culture.
Although PSA is one of the more recent RSOs to form this semester, Ateeq remembers a UCF organization with a similar purpose as early as her elementary school years.
“When I was younger, I used to come to events for this organization on campus,” she said. “They use to have huge gatherings. They would have all this food, a basant, which is this kite-flying festival, and celebrate Independence Day. I have these memories from my childhood so clearly.”
The former club disintegrated due to a lack of development and membership, ateeq explained, so she worked to revive PSA out of a desire to revive an organization that might help unite students interested celebrating Pakistani culture.
PSA has been able to fulfill the organization’s goal of establishing a community for Ussama Azam, a sophomore computer science major.
“As I was growing up I moved away from my cultural background, but the organization has now allowed me to reconnect with it,” Azam said.
PSA’s first event takes place this Sunday, when members will prepare food packages and hygiene kits for the homeless for the Project Downtown charity.
The organization’s board is still working on narrowing down a list of other events they wish to put together this semester. One of the most prominent events PSA is looking forward to holding is a Mock Mehndi, a night which will simulate a traditional Pakistani wedding where students will be able to view traditional decor, eat Pakistani food, engage in traditional dances and get henna tattoos.
“We chose this type of event because Pakistani weddings are so extravagant,” said Sarah Siraj, a senior psychology major who serves as the PSA’s treasurer.
Siraj said the fact the Mock Mehndi event does not include any religious aspects is another important reason for the event.
“We are not religiously affiliated, we just want to share who we are culturally with people,” she said.
Although the organization aims to showcase Pakistani culture, PSA is welcoming of any student, no matter their cultural background.
In fact, PSA’s Web developer, Ahmed Elsayed, a sophomore civil engineering major, is Egyptian.
“I personally don’t know much about Pakistan so being involved in the organization gives a face to the country,” Elsayed said.
Elsayed opines that PSA is a great way for students to connect to and broaden their community and believes “students should get involved with more cultural organizations” to make that happen.
Nicole Dudenhoefer is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.