It’s midnight in Lahore, Pakistan as Gulab Malak describes his experience as a CCV student. Staying up all night is normal for him—he’s been working Eastern hours since he moved back home from the U.S. in 2004. “Even my wristwatch is on Eastern time,” he says. Outside his window, the air is still hot after a day that has reached 110 degrees. “You could boil an egg,” he says. “You really could.”
Gulab was born in Kuwait and moved to Lahore with his family at a young age. Growing up, he attended the Lahore American School, where he learned about American culture, worked with teachers from around the world, and soaked up ideas that inspired him to travel.
When he graduated from high school, he knew he wanted to come to the U.S. for college. “The level of education, the exposure, the quality of education—there’s just such a vast difference between where I live and the States,” he said. His older brother was already here, in Vermont, studying at CCV, and he encouraged Gulab to join him.
Gulab moved to Rutland in 2001, and took a full-time course load at CCV. Living with his brother, just two years older (“we’re the best of friends”) was a huge help. “A lot of the challenges I could have faced…I did not face because he was already there, and he was there to help me out.”
But life in Vermont wasn’t without hardship. Gulab says he did face discrimination because of his background and culture. “I made it through…I’m thick-skinned.” He describes himself as an introvert, and says he knew when he needed to take time to just be alone. He also made frequent trips to Boston and New York City, where it sometimes felt easier to fit in. And he stayed focused on his academics. “I didn’t let any of that stop me.”
At CCV, Gulab thrived. He says the students and faculty in his classes “gave me just a lot more confidence…to face some of those challenges. I made some of my closest friends to date…in Rutland.” He says the community he found there was supportive. “I was accepted. I was encouraged. I was motivated. I was taught so much. The list is endless. It really is.”
He also had support from his advisor, Tammy Howard, with whom he developed a close relationship during his time at CCV. She helped him find the courses that would be most beneficial to both his personal and academic growth, and tailor his schedule to meet his specific needs.
At the end of his first year at CCV, the Subway store around the corner from CCV-Rutland went up for sale, and Gulab and his brother managed to buy it. When he wasn’t in class or studying, Gulab ran the store. “That opportunity was a gold mine,” he says. “That taught me about business, about managing employees, about conflict resolution, supply and demand, customer service…it taught me so much, and starting at a young age.” He says it laid the foundation for working in the client and customer service industry, where he still is today.
Since returning to Pakistan in 2004—unexpected circumstances brought him back when he was just 16 credits short of finishing his degree—he’s worked hard to build a successful career. He is currently the director of client services for a California-based financial tech company, where he manages a team of over 200 people, and was previously head of sales for a scheduling software company. “The experience I’ve gained from work, from travel, from university…that’s been recognized at the corporate level, and I’ve been able to progress.”
Gulab says of leaving Vermont, “I was like ‘okay, we’ll get back to this chapter when we can.’” And as the pandemic dragged on last year, he realized it would be a good time to finally pick up where he’d left off. “I reached out to Tammy and I just said ‘I’m so close. It’s a chapter in my life that I want to complete.’ Tammy said ‘let’s start and see where it takes us.’” He started classes again last fall (and was named to the Student Honors List, with a perfect 4.0 GPA, for both the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters). He’s finishing up his final two classes this summer. He says the flexibility of CCV’s online courses has helped him stay on track; this summer, he’s taking a traditional online class as well as a self-paced Flex class. “I promise you, had there not been these options, I would not be speaking to you or enrolled right now.”
He also credits his CCV education with helping him develop valuable workplace skills. “I’m able to express myself better, I’m able to write better, I’m able to communicate better. I’m getting better at building relationships, personally and professionally…these are things that I’m learning at CCV,” he says. “At work, I’m able to implement, practice, the processes and theories that I’m learning from CCV…it makes my job more seamless, it really does, the knowledge that I’m gaining at CCV.”
“I’ve really really felt a lot of love from CCV. And it comes from the heart. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here right now…This is something I am extremely extremely proud of. I’m just very happy that CCV has been able to accommodate me.”
After finishing his associate degree in liberal studies, he wants to keep going. His plan is to start with CCV’s Prior Learning Assessment program, where he’ll be able to earn credits for his many years of work experience. “I’m even getting goosebumps here, but I’m gonna finish my bachelor’s, thanks to the platform CCV has provided me.”