Pouya Ahmadi – Portland State University
Pouya graduated PSU with a degree in International Studies and then went on to obtain a master’s degree in International Economics at American University. He is currently a Juris Doctorate candidate at Georgetown Law School.
Portland State University, Class of 2013
American University, Class of 2015
Georgetown Law, Class of 2019
Degrees: BA in International Studies, MA in International Economics, JD Candidate
Why did you pick your area of study?
I was committed to public service and a career in the legal or the international sector and thus thought International Studies and Economics would provide me with a good broad understanding of issues relevant to those sectors.
How do you think being a first-generation student affect your college experience?
The most pressing barriers for first generation students are lack of hope, low trust in yourself and your abilities, financial difficulty, and not having an immediate adviser that can help you make rational decisions about the future. Renaissance Scholarship was able to help me overcome many of these challenges. It gave me hope about my future and made me believe in myself and my abilities. The fact that they chose me made me feel worthy and accomplished. It also helped me financially enabling me to put school first ahead of all else. Finally, it gave me access to mentors and advisers, without whom I would not be in top law school right now. I cannot express how important these factors were to my academic and professional success and I am beyond thankful for it.
What do/did you love about your specific university or college(s)?
I loved the support that I received from my instructors and faculty at the Portland State. Whenever I went to them with a predicament, they always showed me a way solve it. I never felt unsupported and alone, which was absolutely wonderful.
Were there any people along your collegiate journey that made a special impact on you?
My biggest role model along the way was my mother. She raised me as a single mom and deprived herself of everything for me to have the opportunity to a bright future. She came to the United States without any technical knowledge or understanding of the English Language yet through her compassion, resilience and hard work she was able to always make me feel secure and supported. When things got difficult, I would just think about my mom and what she has accomplished with so little resource and then all of the sudden no mountain was impossible to climb.
What was the most impactful experience during your time in college?
While at Portland State, I volunteered for a non-profit organization called Human Solutions, in Portland, Oregon. A major component of my service was to help refugee families obtain necessary language and social skills in order to find better employment opportunities and sustain a long-term income. Because I speak Persian, Arabic and some Kurdish, I was assigned to work with a group of female Iraqi refugees, mostly from the Kurdish region. The goal of our program was to help these women establish Iraqi food carts across the city of Portland. The main focus was on customer-care, transaction handling, tax advice, and also overcoming any language or cultural barriers attached to running a business. The project turned out to be a huge success and the refugees were able to get their business running a few months later.
It was absolutely life changing to see how my volunteer work helped to enhance these refugees’ lives. Witnessing my academic knowledge put into practical use made me determined, more than ever, to continue seeking additional ways of utilizing and expanding my knowledge. This is precisely why I decided to eventually to go law school.
How did you adjust to life post-graduation?
Post-graduation life was difficult because I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I had general ideas and interests, but it was hard to pin down what it was that I wanted to do. It was ultimately through networking, further education and many internships that I figured out my path. My advice to is not to panic and just follow your heart and signs that the universe sends you. trust in yourself and the universe and all will work out.
If you have ever attended our scholarship brunches, how did those go for you? Any specific memories?
They were lovely. The was absolutely inspirational to meet the people who believed in me and wanted nothing but my success. It also a great networking opportunity. I am still in touch with quite a few people from the program and very much enjoy catching up with them from time to time.
Any advice for students applying for the Renaissance Scholars program?
Just be yourself. Often, we want to change and conform to our surrounding and forget where we come from. My advice is “Never forget where you came from. Embrace your diversity. It is your strength not your weakness.”