Cal State Fullerton business grad Sidra Syed posts in cap and gown ahead of the 2019 commencement,

Sidra Syed

A first-person account of overcoming life’s challenges, by Sidra Syed ’19 (management), one of Cal State Fullerton Mihaylo College’s 2,688 graduating students in 2019.

When I was young, I didn’t know that I was different. It was so hard to attend school because, compared to other students, I was different, and they made fun of me and my height. Every time I went out, they made fun of me. Even adults. So many people have made fun of me. I thought it was going to change as I grew up, but it only got worse.

Even today, it is so hard to go out there because they still make fun of me …everyone…kids, adults.

I am very happy that I am graduating. When I was young, I didn’t know that I was a short person – a midget, a dwarf. Many people told my parents not to send me to school.

Why? Because, they said, “It’s not worth sending her to school.”

But just because I am short does not mean I am not capable of anything. I can see, think, feel, walk, run, my brain works fine, and I can do many things that others do. However, others don’t think like that. We are in a world where everyone looks for outside beauty. Every time I think I am “normal,” they remind me I am not. By making fun of me.

My parents ignored these people, and they sent me to school. When I started, my classmates made fun of me. It was so hard to attend the school because, for other students, I was different, and they made fun of me and my height. Every time I went out, they made fun of me. Even adults. So many people have made fun of me.

I used to cry a lot, but my parents told me, “You are normal, you can do anything you want to do. You can achieve anything in life. We are here for you. You just have to ignore these mindless people.” I started ignoring the negativity and, believe me, it was very hard to do.

I was raised in Pakistan, where I passed an admission exam in a popular and famous school, but didn’t get accepted. When they saw me in person, they didn’t take me in and told my parents we don’t take such people. I didn’t understand their logic. They were taking students based on how they look rather than how they do on the exam. I think we all want everything perfect in our lives, but reality is always different than what we want.

Sidra Syed poses in cap and gown at Cal State Fullerton

When I moved to the United States, I was shy and nervous because I had no idea how people treat each other in this country. I started to notice that everyone treats each other nicely here.

However, when I started high school, one of my teachers told me that I didn’t belong there, and she didn’t let me take the math and English exams that every student has to take to graduate. She told me to find a school where I can find people like me. I was heartbroken, but I didn’t tell anyone at the school.

The exam organizers told my teacher that I needed to take the exam, and she needed to send me right now. I didn’t give up because other faculty members showed positive behavior towards me.

Now, years later, I am so happy that I am graduating from Cal State Fullerton. All the faculty members here have inspired me. I would like to thank them for their time. They were always willing to help me.

I would also like to thank Marina Zarate (a senior undergraduate advisor) for supporting me and letting me know that I am no different than others. I would like to say thank you to Ellen Kim (associate professor of management) for supporting and listening to me. Because of her, I got to meet the vice president and general manager of a five-star hotel. Even though I had no work experience, he offered me a job. I have a job waiting upon graduation and attending the annual Hello Hospitality event led to the opportunity. I hope other students understand that attending these events can benefit them and open many doors.

I would like to say thank you to Rommel Salvador (assistant professor of management) and other professors for taking the time for all of the office meetings. I would like to say thank you to all of my classmates and friends for accepting me for who I am. Cal State Fullerton is a school for everyone. You don’t feel different here, instead you become part of it. I was scared in the beginning because of my past experience, but I became part of it from the start. My friends and professors have told me that I am kind and polite, and I really appreciate them for acknowledging me as who I really am.

Now I am graduating with all the “normal” people, and I can’t wait to show my diploma to that teacher who didn’t think I could succeed.

My parents and siblings believed in me, and they told me to believe in myself. And I did! They told me that I am not different, I am just unique in my own way. I am happy that I am short, because I can feel the same pain that other people feel, and I always think twice before passing any negative judgments on anyone.

Education starts from your home, and your parents play a huge role in it. To all the people who have made fun of my height, I feel pity for them because they didn’t get the same education I did. Their parents didn’t do justice with them. Even though they too may have college degrees, they don’t have the right education because they don’t have respect for others.