“Over time you make that journey through the three, four, five stages of culture adaptation. Initially you’re excited…then stage two, you take a dip and you’re homesick and you hate it…and then you kind of begin to struggle to make sense of things and make that journey and then finally you integrate—that’s stage four.
“I wanted to make that journey very quickly.”
Adeel Hasan has been a SelfScore card holder since November 2014. In that time he’s moved from Orange County to Seattle, where he’ll begin an internship with Amazon while his wife applies for medical residencies in the United States, all in under one year—we’d agree that his journey has been quick. SelfScore is proud to have helped him access and establish US credit for his needs along the way. Read on below to learn more about Adeel and his unique journey.
Tell me a little about yourself, Adeel.
I’m 30. I’m married and my wife is in the US. My wife joined me here recently. I came to the US for this degree at the end of August / early September [of 2014]. My wife is a doctor so she’s studying for her licensing exam so she can practice in the US. She joined me last month and she’s now doing her Step Two. Her residency starts right about the time that I graduate. I did my undergrad in 2009 and was working for a little bit.
Where did you do your undergrad?
In Pakistan, at Lahore University. I majored in anthropology and was working towards a role at AIESEC which is actually the world’s [biggest] student-run organization. And I kind of took a full-time role with them as the HR head at a startup for a chapter in Mauritius in Africa. I did that for about a year. Then I went back to my hometown and worked for a development consulting firm. Worked with them for about five years. And then came here. So I moved here last year and my brother has been here since 1990.
What was your experience like in the United States now that Americans have more cultural awareness and are more likely to find Pakistan on a map?
I guess there’s both sides to that comparison. Because there might have been…for an international student now, it may be harder but it’s also easier. You know how it is: we’re exposed to American television shows and [we have] the ability to speak the language and people are more aware now here. The generation that preceded us may have had a separate [experience]. For me, the insight that I’ve gathered from myself and other international students is that [there has been a] change of context.
For example, I studied anthropology. So anthropology is based on the idea of the self and the other. You know everything about yourself, and how you think, and your whole value system and the language you speak and that’s your reference point. The other is alien to you and you don’t fully understand it. You’re on the outside. When you come into this new reality, you’re the “other” for [Americans] and there’s this great dissonance. Over time you make that journey [through] the three, four, five stages of culture adaptation. [Initially] you’re excited and that lasts however long depending on who you are and what your personality is like. Then stage two, you take a dip and your homesick and you hate it and that lasts however many days, weeks, months for different people. And then you kind of begin to struggle to make sense of things and make that journey and then finally you integrate—stage four. I wanted to make that journey very quickly.
Some other [points] that might be relevant in this context to SelfScore or what have you: a large part of your activity and life in the US is income, right? Transactions, credit, and credit history—all these things that you or other people who have grown up here, you may not be an expert, but it would give you some kind of tacit understanding growing up in a household where your parents are talking about this stuff. Or it’s considered a rite of passage, if I may use that expression. So you don’t have to look through books, or do Google searches for “how to build a credit history,” or seek out guidance to understand this stuff.
So that was my experience: grasping the street wisdom [like] “the 20% rule,” and this is how much you should pay at the end of the month, and don’t pay as you go. Everyone is an expert and everyone gives you advice how to go about this stuff. [Laughs]
Tell me about this experience of educating yourself. When did you realize you needed to start establishing credit?
Growing up in Pakistan, everyone has [a relative] in the West. And they come back for holidays, you hear stories of cousins and aunts and uncles [talking about] mortgages based on credit and credit scores and things like that. Everything is based on credit. There’s something called “credit history.” So I got here and everyone was like, “Ok, now you’ve got to start practicing [building] credit because when it’s time for you to make big transactions or if you want a car or an apartment—any kinds of transactions, [credit] plays a part in it.” And I don’t fully understand, even now. [Laughs] So these kinds of things I’d hear from my brother, from domestic students, basically [it all means] that you have to start building credit. And they give you these examples of transactions and approvals [based on credit].
Right now, I’m gonna be interning in Seattle with Amazon. I’m looking for short-term housing for three months up there. If you’re [renting] officially, and it’s not a sublet or student housing, they will do a check.
So, again, to answer your question, [being here] was the first time I learned about building credit. I found out about SelfScore from another customer, Abhishek. He asked me, “Dude, do you want a credit card?” I said, “I can’t. I don’t have a Social Security Number.” He said, “Just check out this link,” and he sent me the application link to SelfScore. So I filled it out. I thought it was a survey or like a preliminary questionnaire. But that was the application. Then I quickly found out I was approved and I got the SelfScore card a few days later. It was very easy. It was all online—they [had a tool] to scan my documents.
Whenever someone wants to get involved in your finances, it’s natural to be wary or even suspicious. Did you feel that way in the process of applying for a card?
Not really; I’m kind of naive that way. [Laughs] But no, no red flags. At no point in the process was I asked anything significant or concerning. I think having [a friend] who’d gone through the process gave the whole thing credibility. He was like, “I’m using [the credit card].” So that made it real. It wasn’t a scam. The fact that someone vouched for it gave the whole thing credibility.
In my case it was completely advantageous to start building my history early. I recently applied for a Citibank student credit card. I got a pretty quick approval and it was in my mail within ten days. The bank called me a week later saying it was approved. By that time, I had already been using the Selfscore card [for a while] so I guess it did play a role in my approval. Again, this is something I’m learning that’s normal since I got here [to the US]. Many people have 3 or 4 credit cards and in some instances they say you should.
What is your system for managing expenses? Do you pay a certain amount per month? What is your payment philosophy.
That’s been an evolution as well. I’m not very savvy with finances or credit products. [Laughs] Whatever little tacit understanding or knowledge I had, that’s gone. So I was kind of just being a good boy: the day I made a transaction, I went online and paid it off. Until someone—I can’t remember who—was like, “Dude, you can’t do that. You have to wait until the end of the month.” And that’s when someone told me about the Golden 20% Rule or the 11% rule—it changes every time I talk about it. [Laughs] [They say] “use the credit like credit so they know you need it. Leave 10% or 9% and pay that at the end of the next month.” Or, “Pay it all off at the end of the month in one big chunk.” So I’m no longer paying off each payment [one by one]. I’m usually paying [the card] off once a month.
Tell me how this compares to Pakistan, where one would not necessarily use credit or use it as extensively.
Cash is virtually [absent] from everyone’s pockets in the US. In Pakistan, if you’re making small transactions that’s pretty much cash. Groceries are cash, even bigger convenience store [transactions] or [shopping at] the equivalent of Walmart, under a certain amount, that’s all cash. That’s the case for students, as well. Only when you start working or after you reach a certain income level do you [start using credit]. So, having a credit card is a bigger deal in the US and in some cases it’s the only way to do things. I was trying to make a transaction to pay for my wife’s exam which she needs for residencies and the only way I could do that was with a credit card. I couldn’t use a debit card, nothing else.
Tell me about your upcoming internship at Amazon and what your status will be employment-wise. Will it be paid?
Yes. So it’s a 12-week long internship starting in the middle of June and it will go until the beginning of September. They call it the HR: LDP [Human Resources: Leadership Development Program] internship role. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to be doing. I’m going to be having a conversation in the next couple of weeks to figure what exactly I’ll be doing but it’s HR so I’ll probably be doing something around employee engagement or data [analysis] around retention—that’s what HR is worried about these days at Amazon.
Will you use your skills as an anthropologist there?
[Laughs] Well, anthropology has a way of creeping into everything.
And your wife will find work in a hospital in Seattle?
For the summer, she’s gonna be joining me [in Seattle] and then we [both] come back to Orange County. Now she can’t really start working because she has to do a bunch of these exams—those are licensing exams. Then once she gets the license she can start applying for residency programs. Residency programs match you to a hospital where you [work] for four years. And that’s not always a hospital or a place of your choice. They can just stick you somewhere. Then we have to see where she gets matched and I’ll probably follow her to that place.
What if Amazon wants you to stay in Seattle?
Well…we’ll [cross] that bridge when we get there.
If you get offered a job in Seattle and she gets offered a job in another American city, that’s a good problem.
Yeah. On her preferences, she will put down Seattle and then hopefully I get the job, and then no problems, no dilemmas.