In her room, Palo Alto High School junior Aqsa Siddiqui sits on her bed with her light yellow embodied hijab covering her head. The iPod earphones in her ears stream music of a Pakistani singer as she finishes her English homework.
Siddiqui was sitting in her classroom in Pakistan one day when the principal approached her and said she had been chosen to apply to the Yes! Foreign Exchange program to go to a school in the U.S.
The selection process was not easy at all, Siddiqui said. Siddiqui had to first pass an exam and then have an interview from which only 57 students were chosen from the whole country.
Siddiqui, the highest scoring student in her school, easily passed the exam but had difficulty convincing her parents, who were worried about her departure.
“My mom said, ‘No, I won’t allow you to go to America,'” Siddiqui said. “She did not want me to go alone somewhere, but my principal really wanted me to apply, so my parents finally agreed.”