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False her Caucasian mother who allowed Melissa free reign over her decisions since there was always an understanding of openness between the two. Growing up in a more conservative setting that thrived on Pakistani traditions, Ali followed his own unique path, but never pushed the limits of change within his household. Despite coming from similar cultural backgrounds, these three young professionals have grown into their own unique cultural identities, blending aspects of both their Pakistani and American ethnicities. Ali was born in Pakistan; his parents wanted their children to be born on Pakistani soil before they began their lives in America. In fact, that was one of the main reasons why they returned to Pakistan after coming to the United States on their own. After Ali turned three, his parents moved to Southern California. His father has always been the head of the household and the more liberal of his parents, although a conservative lifestyle was expected at home. High school was just as Ali expected it to be. “ I knew I was going to be the only ‘ brown’ kid at my school and it never bothered me,” he said, “ I left my culture at home and made friends with white, upper- middle class kids that attended my school.” His Pakistani cousins joke that he is an ABCD, which stands for American Born Confused Desi ( Desi is a slang term for someone from India/ Pakistan). “ I don’t cross too many barriers though,” Ali said, “ even though I have assimilated into American culture, my Pakistani culture still influences my behavior. I don’t drink, or party too hard,” he added, “ I know my limits.” Ali graduated two years ago with a degree in Computer Science, but instead of working a typical 9 to 5 IT job, he decided to carry on the family business. “ I own a 7- Eleven and I plan on buying more and to keep on opening convenience stores,” he said. He is hoping to buy a store in Orlando later this year. Ali is aware that his profession may seem stereotypical. “ The Simpsons” has commercialized Pakistani and Indian- owned convenience stores, coining the phrase “ Thank you, come again,” as patrons leave the store. Ali laughs when asked about this, having repeated the phrase numerous times to his friends as they leave his store. ME241

False ME242 Subtle parts of the Pakistani and American cultures have simultaneously driven parts of Melissa’s life so much that diversity has become something she naturally embraces. From an early age she mixed both parts of her culture. As a child, she interchanged English and Urdu words, sometimes not even realizing that she was speaking two languages. Feeling comfortable in any kind of outfit, Melissa wasn’t afraid to mix American styles with Pakistani accessories and vice versa; she often incorporated colorful bangles, ornate anklets, embroidered tunics or silk beaded flats in her everyday attire, complementing her diverse taste and embracing her Pakistani roots. The language, music, food, family and fashion are all facets of the culture that have most intrigued Melissa throughout her life. Yet, the largest influence that Melissa’s background has had on her life has been her social interactions and the people she has met as a result. “ I have always had a tendency to gravitate towards people of different cultures,” she said, ” that’s why I loved where I grew up - it was a very diverse community.” She was raised by her Caucasian mother and not fully immersed in the Pakistani culture at home. This occasionally caused a disconnect for Melissa as she recalls childhood memories of feeling shy at Pakistani get- togethers. At the same time, having a mother who wasn’t bound by the traditions of one culture also helped her; Melissa found herself exploring more than just her own heritage in college. “ I never thought I was one or the other [ white or Pakistani]. I just always assumed I could be myself with whatever friends I made through the years.” Melissa became involved with two cultural associations in college: first the Society of Indian Americans ( SIA) and in her last year, the Filipino American Student Association ( FASA). She always felt at home with both groups and attributes this to her upbringing and the role that culture and diversity has played in her life. Melissa considers her upbringing to be a liberal one; in a society where being unique can be both a blessing and a curse, Melissa always rejoiced in it. “ Whether I stood out from the crowd because of the way I dressed or looked, it was always a positive experience for me,” she said, “ I feel very fortunate for my Pakistani roots and what they’ve helped bring to my life.”