Zara Raza: My American Dream

Zara Raza
Zara Raza is a 2018 MALA scholarship applicant. In her essay, she shares her vision of The American Dream, and what it has meant for her family of strong women.


In my opinion, I do not believe that the “American Dream” is simply about freedom and independence. There is a lot more to it than just those two words.

Sure, we are very fortunate to have been born and raised here in the United States, as our lives would have been completely different if we were born elsewhere, and most likely not in a good way. But when I think of the phrase “American Dream” so many different words pop into my head: safety, security, opportunities, equality, along with freedom and independence.

My parents were born and raised in present day Pakistan, where the conditions were not very suitable for a proper education. There were safety concerns, electricity would often go out, some people would die from excessive heat, there were fees to go to public grade school etc. Also, life was harder for females as they were expected to take care of their homes and families, so not very many women continued further studies.

Luckily, both of my parents moved to the United States in their early twenties, so my sister and I were born here. Because of this, my sister and I did not go through the same troubles. In fact, we can hardly remember any obstacles that prevented us from reaching our full learning potential. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have grown up in an environment where everyone is given an equal opportunity to become something big.

I am not going to say that the United States is a perfect country. No country is perfect.

When I listed the words above related to the “American Dream,” I knew that those words did not apply all the time.

For example, the United States is not a completely safe country, especially with the rise of school shootings. As for equality, we all know that sometimes there is inequality in the United States, whether it is in terms of age, gender, race, sexual orientation etc. But I do believe that our country is progressing towards more equality for people. Even with these flaws, I would not want to be born and raised elsewhere. I believe that I have been provided with so many wonderful resources that are helping me create a fabulous future for myself, resources that probably would not have been provided elsewhere.

One aspect of the United States that I am extremely grateful for is the fact that standard grade school education is free. If it were not free, I most likely would not have had the opportunity to work my way to the top. Graduating in third place out of 719 students, I believe I took full advantage of every resource I had — and it really paid off.

I remember when I was in the first grade, and my family’s income hit rock bottom. My mother was the only one supporting us, and we were living in a hotel room for about a month, trying to find an apartment to move into.

I remember that my mother only had about twenty bucks in her bank account, and she was getting worried that we would eventually become homeless. She was ill before, so she could not work. However, she knew she needed to do something, so she ended up getting two jobs to support us.

Luckily, our income stabilized a little. But we were still not making enough money, so my mother took a third job as well. I remember she would barely be home because she was working all the time, and she would get about two hours of sleep a night.

My sister and I felt really bad for her, so when my sister turned 15, she got a job as well at a nursing home. My mother quit her third job and started getting a little more rest. That was a very tough and scary time for my whole family, and I cannot imagine what would have happened if our public school education were not free. We really would have become homeless then.

My mother now works at a couple of salons and spas, and wishes to eventually open up her own salon. My sister is in law school, and we all know how pricey both are. As for me, I am trying to obtain as much financial aid as possible, so I do not have to see my mom and sister struggle to provide for me, as they have already done enough. Along with this, I also plan on getting a paid internship, so I can stand up on my own feet.

I believe that this is how we portray the American Dream: three females coming from a background that could have hindered us from reaching our full potential, but not letting that stop us from chasing our dreams.