“I have lost track of which way I am going home. It’s both — going home means U.S. to Pakistan, but also coming back to the U.S.”

One rainy morning in early November, Emaan Karamatullah, WG’17, boarded a Megabus for New York City to petition the Icelandic embassy for a visa for an upcoming trip with Wharton friends. A few hours later, the first-year student was on the bus home, slightly dampened, her application denied.

For many MBA students, international travel is an essential part of the experience. For Emaan, the journey took a slightly different course. Although the Karachi, Pakistan-born student has lived in the United States since arriving at Bates College at age 17, she found some of her travel plans complicated amid global tensions.

Holding a Pakistani passport, she also was unable to get an Australian visa in time for a winter-break meeting with her Global Consulting Practicum (GCP)  client.

An Open Culture at Wharton

Emaan’s experience at Wharton itself has been entirely more welcoming.

“There are people here from everywhere,” she says. “I’m the last person to feel any different because I’m at a place like Wharton that is so supportive.”

When her Thanksgiving break trip to Iceland fell through, she accepted an invitation from a local Wharton learning teammate to spend a traditional Thanksgiving — turkey and touch football —  in the Philadelphia suburbs.

“I’ve been surprised by the genuine bonds I have developed with my learning team members,” she says. “We are not just together because we are part of a learning team, but because we have become close friends.”

And despite missing the GCP trip, Emaan made essential contributions to the project team, consulting with a Sydney, Australia-based rugby about how to grow and diversify its membership.

“Applying to GCP is a process, and it takes coordination with the five people on the team. You have to find a project that fits the skills and interests of everyone, submit a proposal, and wait to see if you’re accepted,” she says. “If you get it, then the real work begins.”

Emaan, a Strategic Management major, has a natural affinity to the sports-based client. “I used to be a tomboy,” she says. “Back in Pakistan I played a ton of cricket growing up, and I always played with the boys,” including her regional team.

Since coming to the U.S., she’s fed her sporty, adventurous side. “I consider myself to be an adrenaline junkie —  I have been sky diving, whitewater rafting, bridge jumping, zip lining, parasailing, jet-skiing, rock climbing, snowmobiling.” A passionate outdoorswoman, she pushed herself to complete the Presidential Traverse —  a 10-peak hike in New Hampshire —  in a single day, half the usual time.

At Wharton, Emaan naturally gravitated to the Outdoors Club and Mountaineering Club, but she also tried something new with the Boxing Club.

“The first boxing session was humbling,” she says. “I have never felt so much physical pain and joy at the same time. The drills were excruciating, but the sense of achievement at completing a set overpowers the pain. I am absolutely loving the workouts, and I am super excited about improving my technique and learning how to spar.” Now she’s preparing for Fight Night, a charity boxing match that has become a huge Wharton tradition.

Walking Between Two Worlds

Emaan plans to work in the U.S. again after Wharton, making a switch from economic consulting to management consulting, preferably on the East Coast, where she’s lived for nine years. She particularly enjoys the walkable culture of Philadelphia.

“I live in Rittenhouse,” she says. “I can step out of my apartment without telling anyone where I’m going and walk a mile and a half to school. It’s a simple thing that is a luxury back home. I can’t step outside and walk to see my friends in Karachi. For one thing, it’s not safe, and for another, if someone saw me walking along the street at home, they’d wonder what was wrong.”

Emaan visited her family in Pakistan over winter break when her Australia trip fell through, and she realized she now has roots in two worlds.

“When my flight landed, I did my immigration in Boston,” she says. “The immigration officer looked at me, saw I’d been here for nine years, and asked where I study. I said, ‘I go to Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania.’ He stamped my passport and said, ‘Welcome back home.’ I realized that I have lost track of which way I am going home. It’s both —  going home means U.S. to Pakistan, but also coming back to the U.S.”

Posted: May 19, 2016

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