Student Maryam Khan’s experience as an immigrant in the US


OU senior Maryam Khan during her recent trip to Pakistan.

Oakland University senior Maryam Khan grew up in Pakistan until 2011. When her parents separated, Khan’s mother decided to relocate to the U.S. — not only because her family resides there, but because she wanted to support her daughter as a single parent.

“[In Pakistan] —  being a single mom is kind of looked down upon,” Khan said. “[My mom] wanted to move and give me a better opportunity to learn and become somebody.”

Khan’s mother was a housewife one day and the sole provider of her daughter the next, which made Khan more confident in herself as a young girl and gave her someone to admire. 

“[Living in the U.S.] taught me and my mom to learn how to be more independent and take care of ourselves instead of being taken care of,” she said. 

The experience was anything but easy. Khan and her mother had to leave behind the familiarities of Pakistan for a foreign land with a different language and an entirely different governmental system. 

“In a [middle school] class, I had no idea what the two main forms of [political parties were],” Khan said. “[My teacher] got so mad at me. She said, ‘this is basic knowledge.’ It took me a few years to catch up.”

Khan didn’t have help in learning about America’s government, but she did have a secret weapon when it came to learning the English language — television. Specifically, Disney Channel shows such as “Hannah Montana.” 

“[Watching television] was really helpful, because you can pick up on accents and the way you pronounce certain words,” she said. “I would watch with subtitles and I would read what they were saying and listen to how they’re saying it.”

Khan believes the most difficult challenge she had to overcome was the pressure she felt — not only as an immigrant, but as a preteen — to conform to society’s standards in the U.S.

“I still had an accent, which is not the end of the world, but to me — it was kind of making me stand out, and I did not want to stand out,” Khan said. “I wanted to blend in, so I worked so hard to get rid of my accent — which is sad.”

After moving to the U.S., Khan thought she would never travel to Pakistan again. That was until her family decided a reunion was long overdue, and Khan returned to her homeland during the first two weeks of October 2022. 

“[We reunited with] my aunt, my cousins,” she said. “We saw some extended family members that we haven’t seen in years [and] old neighbors we lived near, because [my extended family and I] all grew up in the same area.” 

Much like how she felt moving to the U.S., Khan was nervous to go back to Pakistan. 

“I was nervous at first because it’s been so long for me,” Khan said. “From what I was hearing in America, [Pakistan] is so different now than it was back then. I was nervous that it wasn’t gonna be what I thought it was gonna be.”

Khan’s fears were partially proven wrong when she saw how much Pakistan had changed — as she says, “for the better.”

“[In the U.S.] we work to live, and over there people live to work,” she said. 

Visiting Pakistan made Khan reminisce on her days as a child before moving to the U.S. to become the person she is today. When Khan first moved to the U.S., Miley Cyrus was her hero. Today, Khan realizes that the heroes of her childhood have changed. 

“[My mom] is my hero, because she came to a foreign country and despite all the hardships, all of the discrimination, the language barriers and the cultural differences — she managed to still stay strong and raised me to be an independent woman,” Khan said.