When the American-born Shandana Shah moved with her mother from Sterling Heights to her parents’ native Pakistan just before starting high school, barriers of both culture and language prevented the Macomb alumna from expressing herself to the extent she was accustomed. Now Shah is making up for it as a communications major at the University of Michigan.
“Although we spoke a Pakistani language at home, it wasn’t the one spoken at school,” relates Shah. “Not being able to talk to people was difficult. The sense of togetherness we felt with family helped make the transition easier, but, still, my grades in Pakistan were not very good.”
Shah took a year off after graduating from high school to think about what she wanted to do. Her mom wasn’t quite ready to return to Michigan, and Shah wasn’t quite ready to commit to a major or a school. By the time they resettled in Roseville, Shah had decided she would attend Macomb.
“My older brothers had both gone there before transferring to Michigan State (yes, you read that correctly, the new Wolverine’s siblings are both Spartans),” says Shah. “Macomb was familiar, and that is what I needed at that time in my life.”
At Macomb, Shah excelled in her studies and was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students. She volunteered for an alternative spring break trip to New York, where she and other Macomb students, supervised by Daniel Thurman, Macomb’s associate dean of Student Success, prepped, packaged and delivered healthy meals to those with serious illnesses. She was also selected for a paid Community College Summer Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a 10-week program that introduced her to one of Michigan’s most venerable institutions of higher learning.
“Macomb gave me a huge opportunity to reinvent myself. It helped me build up confidence to apply to U of M, and the faculty were genuinely excited for me when I was accepted,” says Shah, who credits Thurman for mentoring her throughout the transfer process. “It has been so exciting to see Macomb be a part of each new milestone in my life.”
While living in Pakistan, Shah, who loves to read, found an expressive outlet in creative writing. After taking Marketing, her first class at Macomb, she hopes her passion for words will translate into a communications or marketing career. Now in her second semester at U of M, she is availing herself of all the cultural opportunities the university and Ann Arbor have to offer, as evidenced by the photo of her in front of the Michigan Wings mural in the city’s downtown.
“Macomb taught me how important is to get involved, which is something I regret not doing when I lived in Pakistan,” says Shah. “There will be no more missed opportunities and for that, I am forever grateful to Macomb.”