The University of Texas at Austin wordmark
Small handwriting sample of C.J.'s First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page


trophies and medals


Major: Government/Texas Interdisciplinary Plan

College/School: College of Liberal Arts

Hometown: Austin, Texas

High school: McCallum High School

Facts about your family:
One adventuresome dad! (my father Hassan, whom I call “Baba”, has great enterprises like hiking to the base camp of the seventh-highest peak in the world (Nanga Parbat in Pakistan) as well as crazy experiences such as being the member of his college’s crew club without knowing how to swim). One inspirational mom! (my mother Shahnaz, whom I call “Meme”, is among my biggest source of learning and inspiration. Apart from some spectacular others, she also has the great ability of going to sleep within 20 seconds of being in front of the TV, regardless of the broadcast). And One and only bro! (my younger brother Bilal, whom I call “Big-B”, is very resolute and strong, had enough strength and dedication to carry him into the high school’s football team with only three years worth of knowledge and almost no background of the sport).  

Why did you choose to attend The University of Texas at Austin?
I never had to decide, choose or select The University of Texas as the school to attend. I knew that UT was, is and will be MY school… (perhaps that is why I applied to UT and only one alternate school). I simply wanted to be a Longhorn and nothing else, although the challenge of being at a vast institution of such magnitude and the city of Austin were among a few other factors. More importantly, I wanted at least half of my family to bleed orange and be a genuine part of the rich tradition of UT and wanted complete right and authority to make the “Hook ‘em” sign, attend football games as part of UT and wear the Longhorn-orange every now and then without any reason. And because…it is The University of Texas at Austin!    

What do you want to do when you graduate from the university?
I am a freshman and it would be extremely bizarre of me at least at this stage to have plans after graduating from the university… (I have to state this to keep and uphold the integrity of the institution of freshman student body). In any case, I would very much like to measure up or come even remotely close to the meaning of my name “Zaid” which in Arabic means “an individual or one who progresses and makes other people advance and progress.” This is what I want to do when I graduate from university or more simply, this is my goal: live up to the expectations and standards set for me and measure up or attempt at getting close to the meaning of my name in any or every field of life.

If you could choose one personal object to represent you (an item you brought to campus with you), what would that object be?
I gave the speech at the baccalaureate ceremony (it is a farewell address in the form of a speech delivered to a graduating class) at the end of my high school to my graduating class of 2005. The speech I gave that day in front of at least 500 people, which brought me into limelight for a few minutes and became the cause of standing ovation and a prolonged applause, literally contains information of my past, present situation and my future ambitions. Not only does it contain pieces of information about me, it also carries what I then perceived to be deep and effective messages for my audience. That speech is the source of very cherished times for me and undoubtedly is the best personal object that can indeed represent me. Again, the baccalaureate speech I gave to my graduating class is one personal object that effectively represents me as it basically summarizes and presents everything about me.   

If you had to choose one thing about yourself to share with the university’s Web audience, what would it be?
I came to the United States precisely three years ago from Pakistan, only had three years in high school and even then was the “Prom King” of my class.

Who are your heroes?
Meme, Baba and Bilal. And…YOU, ME, HIM, HER, THEY, WE or in other words, basically everybody or the entire human race.

If you could travel to one spot anywhere in the world, where would you want to visit?
I would love to go all the way up to 8,850 meters or 29,035 feet at the top of the world and be at Mt. Everest in Nepal. Caribbean Islands and Hawaii are also among good options.

What are your current favorite books? What books would you recommend to someone you just met?
Two of my current favorite books are “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn and “Life’s Greatest Lessons” by Hal Urban. I would also recommend these two books upfront to anyone without hesitation.

What pushes your buttons? What are your pet peeves?
(I didn’t really understand this question and actually had to ask a person sitting in the chair right next to meJ. Yep, there are a lot of things in the American society that I am unsure about and continue to learn such things on a day to day basis in this society). Anyway, not knowing or not having a certain direction to work for and wasting time and not using it wisely are the elements that really “push my buttons.” Not being able to give my 100 percent effort where I could is also another thing that frustrates me. And, people chewing food or eating food so loudly that I can hear the sounds irritates me to death and is my biggest pet peeve.

What music are you listening to currently?
My iTunes is fueling me up with the great music of Coldplay. Pink Floyd/ U2. Junoon. Arcade Fire. Jane. Noori. The Clash. Guy Forsyth. Motion City Soundtrack. The Postal Service. Phoenix. Vital Signs. Dave Matthews Band. The Shins and blah blah blah. [Although Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic” is my song of the year].

Favorite colors?
Happy grassy green. Pure enlightening white. Cool mystifying black. Cherishing sky blue. And of course Longhorn orange.

Favorite Web sites? Why?, the greatest source of information;, most reliable source of news;, the best, funniest and very creative Web site; Webscape , this section on refers to my other favorite Web sites.

Favorite foods?
The spicy Pakistani-style chicken my mom (Meme) makes (you have to try it and it will become your favorite as well). I am not very selective or picky about food and, so, like almost everything.

All-time favorite movies? Why?
“Shrek” series, for the sheer sake of laughing; “Life is Beautiful,” the name tells it all; “The Lord of the Rings” series, for wonderfully bringing a book to life; “Harry Potter” series, because it is Harry Potter; “Hotel Rwanda,” for bringing such pain and harsh reality into perspective; “A Beautiful Mind,” for demonstrating the complexities our minds can reach.

Favorite artists?
Coldplay, David Lowe, Dave Matthew’s Band, John Williams, Junoon, The Shins, Phoenix, The Postal Service, Vital Signs, Denzel Washington, Jim Carrey and Rowan Atkinson (a.k.a. Mr. Bean) are my favorite artists.

Favorite academic subjects? What are you interested in studying in the future?
All social sciences and humanities subjects are my favorite… (I still cannot add 2 and 2 and so run away from mathematics otherwise that would be my favorite subject as well). As far as studying in the future, I am very much interested in law, public affairs and subjects related to the field of government. 

Favorite spot on campus?
The open space of the LBJ Library and Museum (or could it be called the courtyard?) facing west toward the university.

Favorite places to go in Austin? Favorite things to do in Austin?
Mozart’s Coffee at Lake Austin, Little City on Guadalupe and Mt. Bonnell located in West Lake Hills are among my most favorite places to visit in Austin. I am a distance runner and exploring all of Austin on my own feet is my favorite hobby and favorite thing to do. Searching and finding peaceful and “close-to-nature” places, attending the Texas football games and participating in running events around Austin are also among my top choices. 

Favorite free-time activities?
Learning about new things, reading, running, music, sleeping and thinking a lot about what I will do when I run out of my free time.

Interesting facts about you:
I was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and spent almost all my life back in Pakistan except the last three years which I have spent in the wonderful city of Austin. I came to the United States and joined Austin’s McCallum High school from sophomore year and graduated from McCallum in 2005. Throughout high school, I was scared to death of the fact that I might not be admitted to UT. Urdu is my native language. When I was new here, I went to all the football games of my high school even though I did not understand the game (I have learned all of them now, by the way). I like to run when it is 105 degrees outside or when it is extremely hot. Likewise I love the hottest of weather and run away from the winter season. I am left-handed, super ambitious and super competitive. I have a sign on my bedroom door which reads “DO NOT DISTURB DURING SLEEPING HOURS. SLEEPING HOURS: 24 HOURS.” I came up with my favorite quote: “If you can imagine it…and really want it, you can do it” (and so all I usually do is imagine or dream a thing, go crazy about it if I really want it, work for it day and night and get it if I truly deserve it). My best ever time for a 10K yet: 43:48.08 (and this is 43 minutes and not what you are thinking of)…and yes I run a mile in about 5:10.05).

I am ambitious to the extent that even my own ambitions frighten me. And lastly, my hope is to make the most of what has been allotted to me in this short life. I try to find sources of happiness in whatever I encounter and really hope (and consider it a dream) that I will be at least a small factor in somehow bringing positive change to the world.

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