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South Asian Student Association panel inspires students to pursue their interests

The South Asian Student Association and Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers teamed up to host a panel to inspire students to pursue their interests. The panel was hosted Wednesday, April 12. RAYIA HABIBULLA/THE STATESMAN

A diverse group of successful panelists in the fields of journalism, technology, engineering, business and finance joined together to speak to students on their career experiences and give advice on how college students can make the most of their pursuits on Wednesday, April 12 at 6 p.m in Frey Hall.

The event was hosted by Stony Brook University’s South Asian Student Association (SASA) and Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE). 

A central theme was the importance of not only classwork, but real connections.

“Networking in college, building relationships, hosting events, understanding what a budget looks like for a group like SASA now helps me day to day with all things Brown Girl Magazine-related. It gave me the foundation I need to run a business,” said Trisha Sakhuja-Walia, CEO and founder of Brown Girl Magazine and an Stony Brook alumna herself. 

It is a cliché amongst families in South Asian culture for parents to be demanding of their children to go into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and study to become a doctor. This diverse panel of different fields displays that success can be found in any field of interest with dedication and perseverance. 

A word of advice from Deepti Sharma, CEO and founder of FoodtoEat, was to follow your personal pursuits and interests aside from expectations put upon you by family.

“Take a class that your parents would look at you and be like, ‘What are you doing,’” Sharma said. 

Shaheer Khan, the founder of the South Asian flavored bubble tea business called Pyo Chai, faced extreme hurdles along the way of bringing this brand to life. Opening in a culturally homogenous area on Long Island, there were threats made to try to demolish the business around its launch.

“We finally got approved, our logo went up of a man with a mustache and a turban, very recognizable, but then all of our work permits were pulled out and we had to go to a town hearing to prove that Pyo Chai would be able to fit into that area,” Khan said.

Barriers such as this can be a major setback to a startup company. But Khan did not give up, and climbed to achieve his initial goals for Pyo Chai. 

The mission of this Desi-fied boba company was to spark conversation about cultural inclusion and enjoy a twist on your average boba tea.

“A couple of months after we opened up we got a lot of harassment from people in the neighborhood. One time we were even threatened by someone that they were going to call the police and say Pyo Chai is selling drugs to the community,” Khan said.

Even though it was a process, after passing through obstacles, the business is now flourishing, and its clientele demographic continues to expand.

“That’s why we opened up Pyo Chai with the intention to create a safe space for people to interact with South Asian culture in a large, impactful way,” Khan said.

These speakers serve as noteworthy figures of what students could aspire to perform like. Alena Koshy, SASA’s treasurer, resonated with the panelists.

“A few of the panelists were actually a part of SASA, and they’re now super successful, so it gives me encouragement and validation,” Koshy said.

“The most important thing I learned today is to take advantage of being a student. This is a very pivotal time for us to explore our interests and what we want to pursue,” Jesse Wang, a member of SASE, said. 

SASA continues to host general body meetings regularly that allow students to learn about South Asian culture, participate in social activities and meet new people. One of their wide scale upcoming events is Sholay, their annual dance competition against other schools in the tri-state area. 

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