Ahmad greets college with open arms

Mohsin Ahmad of Pakistan has ambitious goals. Photo by Rebecca Hammel

“His friends and family in Pakistan call him President Mohsin,” Carol Lucking said of 20-year-old college student Mohsin Ahmad, who began his second semester at Goucher College in Baltimore this Tuesday.

As international coordinator for the Aspect Foundation, Lucking first met Mohsin in 2005, setting him up with a host family in Amissville where he lived as a foreign exchange student while attending Rappahannock County High School.

Host parent Ellen Adams recognized his positive and curious outlook from those first weeks in Rappahannock.

“It’s his enthusiasm,” Adams said. “It’s his willingness to jump in with arms wide open and embrace the opportunity. And that’s just what he’s done at Goucher.”

Last Saturday at a potluck fund-raising dinner held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, Mohsin recounted the highlights of his first semester at Goucher College. Aside from his studies, Mohsin joined the Ultimate Frisbee team and involved himself in a campus-wide peace project that included, among other things, mentoring fourth-grade students from inner-city Baltimore.

“When I came here I had choices,” Mohsin said, comparing his U.S. college education to what he may have received in Pakistan. “So I definitely wanted to make the best of the opportunity. I’m going to do double majors in physics/engineering and international relations.”

When Mohsin came to Washington D.C. for a Youth Exchange Student conference last August, Rappahannock residents Rosa Crocker and Ellen Adams visited five academic institutions with him, and helped to guide him through the application process. And when Goucher College offered him a four-year scholarship covering half his expenses, Mohsin’s father and a number of other donors made significant contributions to pay for his first semester of school.

Crocker and Adams estimate that this academic year will cost about $60,000, and through active fundraising, Mohsin now only needs $24,000 more to pay for the year.

It has been more than six months since Mohsin has visited his father, sister and brother in his hometown of Peshawar, Pakistan, though he remembers the condition of the city when he left it.

“Back then, when I was there, when you go out, you never know if you are coming back or not,” Mohsin said, attributing problems like terrorism and fuel and energy shortages to a bad political situation. “There were suicide bombings all over the place. All the businesses were closing. No one could go out and buy anything.”

And since Mohsin left Peshawar in January for Goucher, there has been devastating flooding throughout the country.

“I just can’t believe what I left back there is totally different,” Mohsin said, referring to flooded and destroyed roads and cities that he can only see on television or computer screens. “All the people could do was run for their lives, and leave everything they had. And once they were out of there, there were no houses for them to go back to. I think now people in the rest of the world are starting to realize how bad it is.”

Mohsin changed his life goal from becoming an aeronautical engineer to becoming an industrial engineer because his knowledge gained in the U.S. could help to create a system of dams and viable alternative energy to lessen the destruction of such natural disasters in his home country when he returns.

“For me now, it’s not about myself or my family, it is about my country,” Mohsin said, “and then, ultimately, about my people.”
Mohsin has hope for the nation of Pakistan. He sees the problems there as solvable, but not until there is adequate leadership, which he believes has been lacking for decades.

“I don’t say I’m going to become a president or anything,” Mohsin said, speaking of his return to Pakistan after college, “but I am going to become a leader.”

I’m sure a few of President Mohsin’s family and friends would beg to differ.