Senior Spotlight: Sameer Niaz


A Photo of Sam(Sameer) posing back in Hong Kong

Sameer Niaz is a senior at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School. He is a transfer student from Hong Kong who only recently moved to the U.S. this year and is now attending JFK as a senior. I had a chance to ask him about this major transition and his life here now.

Did you always know you were going to come to the U.S.?

I guess I have always thought of working at Apple or Google (in the US), but never would I have thought I’d be here right now.

Has the faculty and staff made your transition easier here?

Yes they definitely did. Without them, I’d be completely lost in the American High School environment. On my first day [Sept. 17, 2021], the guidance department showed me around the school, how to get to classes, how the bus system works and how to reach the guidance department for help. Additionally, they helped me meet some people who are now my first few friends in the United States and that was really important in lifting my mood during these difficult times.

Did you find it hard assimilating to the different cultures here?

Not really. Though my parents are Pakistani, I was born and raised in Hong Kong where I was naturally exposed to a lot of different cultures. Moving here and assimilating was not difficult because not only am I fluent in English, I also had mostly accurate assumptions about the culture and how things go around here. In fact, I was the one who had to help my family members assimilate.

What were some of your big worries after finding out you were coming here and how did you deal with them?

My biggest worry had to do with university. To begin with, I’d like to clear up some confusion by stating that grades are organised similarly to the British system; 6 years in primary school and 6 years in secondary school. Leaving my country during the last year of secondary school (high school) meant that all my university plans have been invalidated.

In Hong Kong, our entrance into universities is completely and only determined by one singular exam called the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). This means that what you do during secondary school has little effect on your chances of entering the universities. As such, I was really bad with handing in assignments on time and getting good grades in in-school exams, but I thought it wouldn’t be too big of a problem as long as I excel in the DSE.

Well, here I am in the United States, where GPA and extracurriculars are everything when it comes to entering university. Because of my attitude towards school in Hong Kong, I transferred here with a very atrocious GPA and lack of any significant extracurriculars. This is going to make university applications very difficult and it is something that worries me a lot.

There isn’t much I can do about it. What happened has happened. I’m gonna do community college for 2 years and try to transfer to a 4-year college to chase my Bachelor of Computer Science.

What has been your most memorable experience here thus far?

Going out for ramen with friends after school and just generally messing around with new friend groups. I’ve been really fortunate to find a group of friends here that cares about me despite my usual shyness.

How did your covid experience change from your different environments?

Covid regulations back home were way more strict; I couldn’t imagine the regulations here being applied there. Even to this day, everyone continues to wear masks outdoors as well as indoors.