Ennis High School sophomore Muhammad Nizamani was recently awarded one of 25 scholarships from 400 applicants nationwide to attend a week-long technology camp this spring to learn about using social media applications as a means to bring about democratic change in their home countries.
Nizamani, originally from Matli, Sindh Province in Pakistan, has spent the year living with host Dave Kelley and attending school in Ennis. While his time here has been a unique and diverse experience, including learning to play basketball and seeing snow on the ground for the first time, Nizamani has kept his eyes open to the future as he makes the most of this time here.
When he travels to Vermont this April to participate in the Global New Media Lab Youth Tech Camp, Nizamani, who’s family back home are wheat farmers, plans to use Facebook to generate a dialogue with wheat farmers here in Montana. His hope is that the discussion will help facilitate improved farming methods and techniques back home.
“Wheat is essential to feed and clothe the people of Pakistan,” said Nizamani. “I want to connect people from MSU and Montana who are experts in agriculture to the farmers, because my family grows wheat and they are dependent on agriculture.”
“The Tech Camp will help me to exchange information, and they will let me know what are the efficient methods of growing wheat and other crops,” he said.
In addition to his regular classes and the tech camp coming in April, Nizamani has also turned out for basketball and participates with the speech and debate team. While he’s seen it played on television, basketball is foreign to Nizamani. Back home in Pakistan, traditional sports include cricket and soccer. But with the help of his teammates and coaches, Muhammad has learned the sport quickly and puts his full effort into drills at practice just like everyone else. And while getting up at 4 a.m. for speech and debate tournaments may wear him out a little, the program has also helped Nizamani improve his English language skill tremendously.
When asked whether or not he was nervous coming to learn a new culture in a different country half way around the world, Nizamani said he was not nervous but rather overwhelmed by a sense of curiosity.
“It was just to learn more about other people and cultures, to understand their feelings and to share my culture,” he said. “I was just curious to learn and to see a totally different world.”
Nizamani came to Ennis through an international exchange program with PH International, a non-profit organization that works to “build strong global communities by fostering civic engagement, cross-cultural learning and increased opportunities in the digital age,” according to the organization’s website. And as for why it is important to participate in such cultural exchange programs, the answer is simple to Muhammad Nizamani.
“The young generations of the present are the future of any country,” he said. “I’m lucky to be here because it’s a small town, and you can engage in the nature and it’s just totally beautiful.”