In the 1931 best seller, ‘Epic of America,’ James Truslow described America as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” While Truslow’s book highlights the diverse history of America that has contributed to its status of ‘Land of opportunity’ until 1931, the theme of the book is relevant nearly 90 years later. A person who best exemplifies this is Hamza Hamid.
Hamid is a rising senior who is studying Finance at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management while pursuing a minor in Economics from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is also a junior analyst at the Orange Value Fund of Syracuse University as well as the President of the Pakistani Student Association.
Hamid moved to the United States in 2014. “Before coming here, the only thing I knew about America was from the movies. It was a lot of Christmas time and snow,” he recalls. Indeed, when he arrived from Pakistan in February of 2014, the cold and frigid temperatures of New York were an unsettling change of pace from the weather back home. However, the weather was not the only thing that Hamid found to be a startling realization. “It was a completely different culture, different members of my family and I knew no one here.”
Adding to that, Hamid was also a stranger to the English language. “It was very difficult for me. Unlike now, I had trouble keeping up with everyone because everybody spoke quickly, and I had to resort to observing their hand movements to figure out what they were saying. At times, I had trouble asking them where the bathroom was.” Despite the language barrier, Hamid was committed to taking advantage of the American education system, which was the primary reason for his move. “I didn’t care if I pronounced a word wrong, I took risks and I kept raising my hand.” He put himself out there and with the support of his peers, he was able to get the most out of his education.
As a finance major at Syracuse University, Hamid is able to gain a deeper understanding of finance. “I first learned about stocks in the eleventh grade and I didn’t even know that stuff like asset management or sales and trading existed, or that they were so vital”. Hamid was fascinated by this revelation and has since been curious about financial services, from different types of bank loans to trades and real-world effects on the capital markets. He is also a financial coach in the Whitman school, which allows him to work with individuals who seek financial guidance. “I had no guidance when I first came here. Nobody in my family was a finance major,” he shares. As a financial coach, he hopes to provide that guidance to others who are in a similar position as he was. As a financial coach, he has worked with students interested in investing money to people with negative amounts in their checking accounts. As a junior analyst at OVF, he furthers his understanding of the financial industry, which he shares by ways of being a financial coach.
Hamid is also the president of the Pakistani Student Association. He started the organization during the fall of 2019. “ I remember when I first got here, I was able to meet people like me, Pakistani students who came from a similar background, but I know of so many others and international students, who either transferred or went back to Pakistan because they could not assimilate into the culture and felt out of place.” With the Pakistani student association, he aims to ease the transition of international students, particularly Pakistani students so the culture shock that many of them experience is controlled. Furthermore, Hamid hopes for this organization to be a place where members form a strong support system for a multitude of challenges like preparing for interviews or educating members of the SU community to Pakistani culture.
Hamid is an individual who has continuously found inventive and intellectual ways of sharing his knowledge and experience with those around him. As a driven and ambitious student, he has also carved a path for himself, especially when no one was around to guide him to do so. “It is so rewarding when I sit down with someone and coach them for interviews or application processes and they come back and tell me that they got the job!”
For Hamid, the promise of a better education introduced him to the American dream to which he has been committed ever since he arrived in Syracuse. But for him, the promise of a better life is not enough. As a member of a community, he understands the importance of it and knows how challenging it can be to look in from the outside. “I know how it feels to be alone and without guidance.” He hopes to be able to provide advice and guidance to anyone who needs it, because for him, a better life is one where everybody succeeds.
Story by Blackstone Global Media Fellow Krishna Pamidi Photo supplied