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J1 Student’s Grandfather Inspires Her Doctoral Journey

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2016 at 4:33 pm.

By Samantha Chaitram, J-1 Doctorate Student from Trinidad and Tobago

Older man and young woman stand side by side

Samantha and her grandfather Emamly.

When my dad passed away in 2001, my grandfather became the single most important person in my life. He became my father and my grandfather. When I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 2012, I asked my grandpa, what should I do? His response was, “Islam teaches that we must seek as much knowledge as we can find.”

My grandfather is the reason I am here today at the University of Miami pursuing doctoral studies. An Indian Muslim born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1931, my grandfather Emamly Hosein spoke English, Hindi, and Urdu – and read Arabic. He was one of the few of his generation who was literate, and while he never had the opportunity to attend high school, he read everything he got his hands on. While many Indian men of his era only educated their sons and married off their daughters, he broke that tradition. He educated as best as he could his sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters equally. His dream was to see me graduate from an American university with a PhD, write my first book, and see my picture on it.

Man sits in front of river holding fishing stick

Samantha’s grandfather doing what he loved most, fishing!

The advice I would give any father is to give your children a lifetime of commitment and support in whatever they do, to let them know that nobody or nothing else is more important than family. I return to Trinidad every holiday because no matter where you go, home is home. My home with my grandpa and my family gives me a space to rejuvenate, to get a feeling of belonging, love, and security. There is no greater comfort than knowing that your father or grandfather loved you unconditionally – and more than anything in this world. While he is no longer here, he lives on in my heart, as my guiding voice to complete my doctoral journey. I hope to make him proud – as much as he made us proud of him.

This story supports the State Department’s #DadsAndDaughters campaign, a global conversation that shows how dads and daughters buck stereotypes, change cultural attitudes, and support each other by advancing gender equality.

Samantha and her grandfather at their home in Trinidad and Tobago.

Samantha and her grandfather at their home in Trinidad and Tobago.

On July 25, 2016 my grandfather passed away at the age of 85. He did not live to see that dream, but he knew at least I was almost there. I learned so many lessons from him, but there was one thing he always repeated. He told us that we needed only five things in life: health, strength, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. If we are healthy and strong we could seek knowledge, and with knowledge we could find wisdom and understanding. His life was one of pure love, personal sacrifice and devotion to his family. It was during his last days and his moment of death that I was most proud of him. He lay on a hospital bed praying and blessing his family with God in his heart to the very end. His every act on this earth was an act of worship. His reward was the joy he gave his family by taking care of us.

Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

G. Kevin Saba

G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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