UW–Madison grad Shehrose Charania featured on NPR

Shehrose Charania, a recent graduate of UW–Madison’s Health Promotion and Health Equity program within the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology, shared her remarkable story on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

A first-generation college student whose parents immigrated from Pakistan to Chicago, Charania spoke about her dreams for her senior year of college, and how the pandemic upended those plans.

After UW–Madison shut down its campus during her junior year, Charania lost her job as a resident advisor and returned home to take classes online.

“We have three rooms in the house,” said Charania. “Finding space to do school was difficult. I didn’t have a desk or a chair. And it was really hard because I used to get a pillow and prop it against the closet, and I would sit on that pillow and have another pillow for my back and just have my laptop open on the floor.”

Charania’s family struggled during the pandemic. Her father lost his job as a waiter, and her mother — who works at O’Hare Airport — tested positive for COVID-19.

“My mom started to feel sick. She got tested, found out she’s COVID positive. One of the things about virtual classes, or remote learning, is that you could do two things at once. And so I would make food for my mom while I was still in class. You know, if she was coughing, if she was not feeling well, giving her the proper medication. I got COVID as well. You know, I would get up in the morning. I would make myself some lemon tea, drink that, making sure I was OK, go to class.”

Charania returned to campus last fall, and continued to help her family even at a distance.

When she graduated on May 8, family and guests were not allowed into the stadium for the commencement ceremony at Camp Randall. She therefore met up with her parents and sister afterwards: “I saw my dad cry, which I’ve never, ever, ever seen,” she said.

“Seeing him tear up, just seeing my mom there, healthy and alive, and my sister there just cheering me on just made everything so worth it. It’s something that I can never let go of.”

Listen to NPR’s interview with Charania.