Senior informatics student finds home at IU, 7,000 miles from her family in Pakistan

"Being a Hoosier is in your blood."

This is what Rumsha Khan's grandmother, Barbara Ayisha Mustafa, told her when she was a young girl growing up in California.

Mustafa is one of seven of Khan's relatives who have attended Indiana University, along with Khan's father and older brother, and Khan always felt like she was destined to become a Hoosier, too.

And even though her parents decided to move their family back to Pakistan right before Khan started the eighth grade, attending IU remained part of her plan, even if it meant it would take 24 hours of travel to get home for breaks.

Now a senior, Khan is studying informatics in the Luddy School of Informatics, Engineering and Computing, with a cognate in business and a minor in marketing from the Kelley School of Business. While Khan has found her place as a leader on campus, the transition to IU wasn't as easy as she had expected.

Rumsha Khan is a senior studying informatics and marketing. She plans to relocate to Seattle and work in tech marketing after graduation. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

"My first semester on campus was the same semester as the 2016 presidential election," Khan said. "I had grown up surrounded by family in California, then moved to Pakistan, so it was the first time I'd really been exposed to people who aren't fans of my faith."

But seeing people misunderstand her faith as a practicing Muslim also made Khan realize that she didn't know much about the Christian viewpoint, either, so during the fall of her freshman year, she started participating in Cru, a Christian student group on campus. She was welcomed with open arms and found that differences between religions, ethnicities, nationalities and the like are not as black and white as most believe them to be.

"How can I expect people to understand my religion if I don't understand theirs?" Khan said.

Khan also found a home in the Pakistani Student Association, eventually becoming the culture and social chair before taking over as president this year. Through the organization, she's been able to connect with other Pakistani students on campus and make home feel not so far away.

"I literally will approach every brown person I see and ask if they are Pakistani," she said.

Each time she travels back to Pakistan, she takes an empty suitcase to fill with flags, treats, games and other goods that she shares with fellow members of the group when she returns to IU. She also gathers supplies for the Pakistani Student Association's biggest event of the year, Mock Mehndi.

Mehndi is the first of the three events that comprise a traditional Pakistani wedding and is a colorful celebration filled with music and dancing. To share this tradition with the campus community, the Pakistani Student Association hosts a fake wedding each spring, complete with a fake bride and groom.

Seven of Khan's relatives attended IU before her, including her grandmother, father and older brother.  Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Khan is also an International Student Ambassador with the Office of International Services, where she connects with prospective international students via email, phone calls, skype chats and webinars. She has also given presentations about IU to students at her high school in Pakistan as an ambassador.

"ISA is truly one of the most interesting and impactful groups of people on campus," Khan said. "All of these people are representing their country, but at the same time are representing IU by helping prospective students and freshmen understand how to make that huge transition."

The all-campus choir and a stint as a resident assistant at Eigenmann are also on Khan's resume, preparing her for what comes after graduation.

Though she plans to relocate to Seattle and work in tech marketing this summer, Khan said she -- like her grandmother, father and brother before her -- will feel nostalgic about Bloomington when she leaves and get emotional when she returns to campus.

"IU offers so many opportunities that there's really no room here for someone to feel left out," Khan said. "It makes it so easy for you to make memories that it's hard for you not to call this place home.

On Jan. 30, join us as we follow Rumsha Khan through her day as an IU student as part of our One Day/One Hoosier series. Look for her story through @IUBloomington on Twitter, @iubloomington on Instagram and iu_bloomington on Snapchat as it happens live starting around 9 a.m. EDT.