Opening up new realms of study

“Being part of the dance team, I get so immersed that I just let all of my stress and anxiety go away because you have to move and jump so much from one part of the room to another, and you work with amazing dancers that go along with it.”

Born in the United States and raised in Pakistan, Hayam Daudzai ’24 always knew she wanted to go abroad for college.

“I just wanted to get out of the confinement of my own country, and I wanted to see different cultures and how people interact with one another,” she said. “Because I lived in the U.S. for only five years, and I knew that it was quite different. My parents always used to talk about how different it was.”

She prioritized getting good grades in high school to convince her parents to let her study abroad and spent time researching different international colleges and universities. She hadn’t even heard of Mount Holyoke until someone randomly asked her if she had applied. Once she started researching about the College, though, she knew it was the place for her.

“I was very captivated by the cultural values of Mount Holyoke, diversity and equality. So I think that was the primary reason for me applying here,” she said. “Being a psychology major, they offer very good research experiences as well.”

Daudzai came to Mount Holyoke intent on wanting to be a clinical psychologist. However, she found no scope or courses in the psychology field back in Pakistan. “There weren’t any kind of tools to study more about it, and I was very captivated because of the rising trends [in mental health disorders] that I’ve been noticing all over the country.”

At Mount Holyoke, Daudzai wanted to dive into it all. “I wanted to learn about depression, stress and all these mental disorders and how they can impact one’s individual lifestyle and find how our mind works and how our biological and social lives kind of interact with one another.”

Courses on close relationships with KC Hayden and psychopathology with Alyssa Norris have been among the most thought-provoking for Daudzai. Learning about eating disorders, in particular, fascinated her. “It kind of opened a new realm for me of psychology that I never knew about,” she said. “Overall, I just feel like there’s so much going on in psychology and with mental disorders that no one can even describe or know. We find something new every single day.”

The chance to continue learning and seeking beyond her expectations is also motivating Daudzai’s goals after she graduates. No longer adamant about being a psychologist, she’s curious to explore different areas of psychology, as well as careers that naturally encompass aspects of the field, such as human resources. “I just want to explore different parts of psychology and see where I want to land,” she said.

To let off some steam from her studies, Daudzai’s main co curricular activity at Mount Holyoke is the Raunak Bhangra dance team. According to Daudzai, one aspect of the team is a low-key general club, while another performs at competitions at nearby colleges. Sometimes the events can be quite zany — for example, recently, she said, the team performed at a “mock shaadi,” otherwise known as a fake wedding. It was a chance for Desi people to experience aspects of Desi weddings that they might otherwise miss in the U.S.

For Daudzai, being a part of Raunak Bhangra is not only a chance to connect with her Desi culture in the U.S. but also an opportunity to free her mind and body.

“Being part of the dance team, there’s a dynamic. It’s exciting, and it’s also very tiring,” she said. “And when you dance, I get so immersed that I just let all of my stress and anxiety go away because you have to move and jump so much from one part of the room to another, and you work with amazing dancers that go along with it. It’s like you can just express yourself by jumping.”

The high-intensity activity is quite relaxing for Daudzai. “I think this was the most exciting part of my life at Mount Holyoke,” she said. “It was something kind of memorable for me because I was able to be in touch with my own culture without feeling homesick.”

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Christian Feuerstein
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