Fiza Shahzad, a senior at Georgetown University in Qatar, joined Education City after years of dealing with a curriculum where she, a South Asian woman, felt largely invisible. History courses in her home country, Pakistan, lacked an analysis of gendered experiences of history.
“While in middle school and high school, I was never that passionate about history, or Pakistan studies, as it was more popularly referred to in Pakistan. It was quite problematic in the sense that it’s essentially just a way of indoctrinating citizens with the nation’s false realities,” said Fiza Shahzad, a senior majoring in international history at Georgetown University in Qatar.
Raised in Lahore, Shahzad graduated from Lahore Grammar School 55 Main in the summer of 2017 and joined GU-Q in August of that year. Shahzad had a background in science in high school and a keen interest in politics.
Although she was planning on majoring in international politics when she came to GU-Q, she changed her mind and decided to pursue a degree in international history with certificates in Arab and regional studies and gender and politics.
Shahzad was able to view history through a new lens upon taking history courses in GU-Q, due to the fact that the methodology of teaching history was opposite to what she experienced in Pakistan. She told The Daily Q that she feels GU-Q courses offered her a more holistic, accurate and engaging view of history, whereas her high school classes offered short and simplistic narrations of events that excluded minorities and especially silenced women.
“History at Georgetown is taught in a very unique manner. They focus more on perspectives and processes rather than progress or facts. Which is really important because there is no correct history, what matters is from which position you are viewing history at the end of the day,” she said.
Shahzad quickly emerged as a leader in the GU-Q community. She took part in the Georgetown Model United Nations conference, where high school students participate in a simulation of the United Nations, debate global issues, international politics, and policy-making. Having gained previous MUN experience in high school, Shahzad served as the MUN vice president in her freshman year, and then she served as the chief of staff in her sophomore year, and finally, she served as MUN secretary-general in her junior year.
Shahzad also invested her time in community building projects in and outside of GU-Q. In 2019, she organized the GU-Q student orientation. She has served as the student chair of GU-Q’s Honor Council, which is the administrative organization that educates and administers the honor system, academic integrity, and honesty within the institution. She taught basic English classes as part of the Hoya Empowerment and Learning Program, which is a student-led initiative that consists of teaching administrative, technical, and language classes to the service-providing community of GU-Q.
She traveled to Prague to partake in 2019’s International Youth Leadership Conference. She also traveled to Germany with Georgetown Associate Professor Sohaira Siddiqui to participate in a discussion forum revolving around interfaith and intrafaith dialogue with Muslim, Catholic and Protestant students and scholars and to look at the role of women in religion; this was done in partnership with the University of Tübingen. While there, Shahzad also took part in a research and student exchange on exploring religious diversity and differences between Qatar and Germany.
Reflecting on her time at GU-Q, Shahzad said that choosing to major in history was the best decision she made, emphasizing that she grew a lot as a writer and researcher.
“Being a history major at Georgetown helped me develop, whether it was in confidence or work ethic. I think that really played a role in making me a more dedicated student. I approach information differently now, and I feel much more confident in my writing skills,” Shahzad said.
Managing rigorous classes and extra-curricular activities can often be daunting, both physically and mentally. Shahzad draws sketches and paints in her free time to cope with stress.
Despite the hardships that the pandemic brought about, Shahzad hopes to join academia in the future, upon completing her graduate studies. She got accepted into the history graduate programs at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Tufts, and Toronto. She is planning on joining one of these universities in the fall.
“Fiza has been an outstanding student at GU-Q over the past four years. There is hardly any activity on campus that she is not involved in. In class, she can be trusted to make astute interventions that greatly enhance the overall quality of discussions. We will miss her energy and enthusiasm,” said Uday Chandra, an associate professor at GU-Q.