There was a lot of hooting and hollering in the magazine office the other day, when our student worker, Sidrah Baloch ’14, opened her email and learned that she had been accepted to Brown for graduate school. We didn’t have anything to do with her success, but the three of us beamed like proud mamas.
There’s genius in the student employment system here at the College. We get smart, savvy help; they learn new skills and office etiquette—in addition to earning funds. But in truth, we all get a lot more than that. In the best cases, the students get a home away from home in the office where they are employed, older adults who care about their lives. When we have a student with us over the long term, we ride the ups and downs of college with her—the all-nighters, the choosing of majors, the acquisition of a hoop for the big race. And we have a front-row seat on the lovely transformation that takes place in a student during her Wellesley education.
In Sidrah’s case, we’ve also had the pleasure of being included in her extracurricular life through annual invitations to al-Muslimat’s Eid al-Fitr dinner for faculty and staff. Wellesley’s Muslim student group has been an anchor for Sidrah, and this year, as its president, she was master of ceremonies at the celebration to mark the end of the fasting of Ramadan. Professors and administrators mingled as the students plied us with delicious Indian food and shared stories of how they celebrate the holiday at home with their families—whether home is in the US, Bangladesh, or Syria.
For Sidrah, who grew up in Newton, Mass., Eid has always meant a day off from school, morning prayers at the mosque, and happy time with family and Muslim friends—with lots of Pakistani and American food. “I was one of the only Muslims in my high school,” she says. “My parents really wanted me to have Muslim friends who were like me. And so Eid was the day when we would all dress up and get to hang out, and just have fun . … It felt very much like a community.”
Al-Muslimat, Sidrah says, has always wanted to re-create this community feeling for students who are away from home for the first time or who are experiencing Eid in a new way—in a country where not everyone celebrates the holiday. “This is a big deal for a lot of people,” she adds. And the dinners do deliver a wonderful sense of festivity and community—students in traditional dress from all over the world, lively conversation, henna hand decorating, and a lot of laughter.
This year, the dinner also delivered a feature for this magazine. Anisa Mehdi ’78, an Emmy award-winning journalist, spoke about her recent trip to Saudi Arabia, filming an American group on the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage—a group that included Amira Quraishi, Wellesley’s Muslim chaplain. Anisa’s fascinating stories pointed the way to our article “On Hajj.” Her insider’s view offers perspectives we rarely hear, and she shares the lessons she learned about “the self on the road of life.”
As for our Sidrah, she is only a few weeks away from graduation. We’ll miss her careful workmanship, her stories of family at home and in Pakistan, and her quiet, joyful presence in our office. As she heads off down “the road of life,” we wish her success.