‘Wartburg is our village’


Greetings, Assalam-o-Alaikum, and a warm welcome to everyone gathered here today.

As we stand at this milestone, let’s face it, we’re about to become the world’s brightest minds to join the ranks of the educated, as of the day after tomorrow — we’re officially unemployed.  

I am Rahima Waheed, majoring in Computer Information Systems. And before you jump to conclusions, no, I am not from India; I come from Karachi, a city in Pakistan housing twice the population of New Jersey. Growing up in a family with limited economic resources on the outskirts of Karachi, the day started not with alarms but with the call to prayer, as we greet dawn with resilience and prayers for strength. Morning tasks that might seem familiar in various countries, like preparing breakfast. There’s no push of a button to brew coffee, but there’s the fanning of a flame to boil water. No cereal boxes, but handmade bread. Every bite earned is a cherished blessing.

As an ambitious brown Muslim woman, I was aware of the limited resources that surrounded me and the obstacles that I had to overcome. The lack of access to education for girls in lower socioeconomic is not just a denial of knowledge but a denial of opportunity, dreams, and a voice. Yet, it wasn’t just the scarcity of resources that constrained me, but also the societal expectations. Many anticipated that the most important role that I had in society as a woman was to grow up, marry, and settle into the role of a housewife. As a result, education, a right for every child, becomes a distant dream for many women. For me, and countless like me, completing my education at Wartburg College was the key that unlocked a future beyond the walls of expectation.

Attending an Evangelical Lutheran College as a Muslim, I was apprehensive. Would my faith waver? Spoiler: it didn’t. Thanks to courses like RE 102 and the college’s support for my spiritual journey, my commitment to Islam only grew stronger. And to my mother, who worried I’d marry outside our faith, —well, Wartburg kept me so occupied I accidentally earned a degree in bachelorhood! 

Enrolling in RE 102, Bible in a Diverse World, I encountered peers who embraced their faiths with passion and sincerity while remaining genuinely open to understanding others. This experience illuminated the profound role faith plays in shaping our lives and principles. It inspired me to explore the mosaic of religious beliefs, a journey that, rather unexpectedly, deepened my own commitment to Islam.

The college’s thoughtful gestures, be it the thoughtful gifts, the provision of transport to the mosque, or the stipend that lightened the burdens of fasting, went beyond mere acts of support. They were affirmations of a compassionate community that respects and nurtures spiritual growth. These experiences did not just support my practical needs, they reinforced my stance as a warmhearted guiding force, enriching my spiritual journey.

For me and many other international students from 45 different countries, Wartburg has been our arena of transformation on the horizon of finding a home away from home.

Wartburg’s education pushed us out of our comfort zones, making us sometimes wonder, “Why am I even here?” But it was in these moments of doubt that we found our strength. Take ID 321, Crisis Communication, for example. Initially, I wondered what a tech major like me was doing there. Now, I’m armed with the knowledge to manage any crisis—so, future crises, watch out!

Juggling academics and extracurricular activities, I discovered the true essence of balance and self-care, thanks to the supportive community at Wartburg. Wartburg wasn’t just a place of learning; it was a home that taught us the value of work-life balance, a lesson more precious than any textbook knowledge. My story is one of the many successful stories that all of us graduate students have achieved today.

Now that four years have passed, let’s treasure all the memories we have created at Wartburg. The laughter at Mensa, coffee breaks at K-Dit, late-night study sessions at Peer Learning Lab, procrastinating homework, performing at the cultural show, cooking delicious food for homecoming, and waiting for Outfly to happen, and so many other events.

My friend, Rabecca from Zambia once said, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” And Wartburg is our village. We are grateful to all our professors who inspired us, Mensa staff, dining services workers, managers, business office, registrar staff, student life, and supervisors who sustained us, and to parents, friends, and countless others who stood by us. We are thankful for everything that you have done, and I want you to celebrate this special day not only for our achievements but also yours. Without you, we wouldn’t have been here. And we wouldn’t have become a whole person.

To my beloved father, whose wisdom guides me from above, and to every soul that has been part of our journey, thank you. Our future is not just a path we walk alone but a journey we embark upon with the lessons, love, and memories we’ve gathered here.

Today, I stand before you, grateful and proud. A Pakistani woman, now a Wartburg Knight in STEM, who’s discovered that faith and learning coexist harmoniously, enriching each other in a community that embraces all.

As we depart, let’s take the spirit of Ubuntu with us, remembering, “I am, because we are.” Let’s go forth as Wartburg Knights, carrying not just a legacy of excellence, but a commitment to be the change, light, and hope wherever we go.

Thank you, and as we say goodbye, Allah Hafiz.