top of page

Finding your place in an unfamiliar space: Safi Waqas

WED. | 01-05-22 | FEATURES

     Sometimes in life it can be difficult to find where you belong. It could be for a number of reasons such as not feeling welcomed or being unable to connect with the environment or anyone in it. Rose senior Safi Waqas found themself feeling especially out of place when they attended a private school for the 9th and 10th grades.

     “It was very stressful and not just the academic culture, but especially the social culture,” Waqas said. “Everyone already had their thing and most people had been there since they were little [so] it was very cliquey.”

     The main reason Waqas felt so out of place at private school was because of the importance placed on conformity. Waqas thought a big majority of the school shared the same beliefs and were unwelcoming to those with different beliefs which made it hard for them to make genuine connections since they did not share those beliefs. Waqas is a big people person, so not being able to make those genuine connections was rather difficult for them.

     “I was pretty much that one really weird gay kid that everyone would talk about while [I] could hear them and when [I] would turn around and look at them, they would just laugh,” Waqas said. “I was just not treated like a respectable person.”

     Waqas stayed true to themself, but that didn’t make the things that people said or did any easier to experience.

Safi Waqas.JPG

Photo by Kemorah Ullah

     “I never did anything wrong to anyone; I just didn’t wear, do or like some of the same stuff that most people did,” Waqas said. “I had this flower sweater and overalls I would wear a lot and people would say I looked like a farmer.”

     This importance placed on being what society perceived as normal was something Waqas noticed immediately. In their eyes, it was as if they had a class system and if a student was not what they thought was normal, that student was not going to be anywhere near the top.

     “You can’t ever just walk up to someone and talk to them at that school; you are where you are and that's it,” Waqas said. “Especially as a brown, Muslim and gay person, that was just way too much for them, so I was instantly out of place.”

     Feeling out of place was unexpected for Waqas as they went to public school their whole life before going to private school.

     “I always went to a public school, so those two years of private school were like a culture shock,” Waqas said.

     Waqas’ time at private school had a negative impact on their mental health.

     “I was really stressed and I had really bad anxiety because I had so much baggage from those two years,” Waqas said.

     After the two years Waqas spent at private school, they decided to come to Rose because of COVID-19. Coming to Rose proved to be one of the best decisions Waqas made for themself as they almost instantly felt more comfortable.

     “There are infinitely more opportunities [at Rose] than there are at Parrott,” Waqas said. “There are so many clubs, organizations, teachers and people that genuinely want to include you and want the best for you.”

     People at Rose were so willing to reach out and connect with Waqas, which instantly pulled them in. On only their third day of school, a teacher recommended them to join mock trial which they ended up doing and is still in to this day.

     “I was online for my first semester at Rose because there wasn’t an online option at [private school],” Waqas said. “Even over a computer it was instantly inviting and just an amazing atmosphere.”

     The amount of diversity at Rose is another reason Waqas feels much more at home.

     “There's not just diversity in race, but in literally everything; there is just so much more,” Waqas said. “There's the art club, different clubs for music and there’s so many different people within it and different interests everyone has.”

     Although feeling out of place during their time in private school was very difficult for Waqas, they believe that it has paid off by molding them into the person they are today.

     “It taught me that you’re not always going to be welcomed everywhere, but you can still push through,” Waqas said. “Sometimes it's scary to really be and express yourself but you have to, so it definitely taught me resilience.”

     While Waqas did not have a positive experience at private school, they do not intend to give the school a bad image. Waqas believes that there is a place out there for everyone, and private school just was not theirs.

bottom of page