Bright runway lights and the buzzing of Piper Warrior III single-engines are a source of inspiration for University of Oklahoma junior Sadaf Imani. However, choosing the right major wasn’t always so clear or obvious.
Even though Imani went to high school in Norman, just a few miles from Max Westheimer Airport, it wasn’t until Imani thought about her past, could she determine her future.
“Before I applied anywhere to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had all of these ideas of what to study, but looking through major lists, I had to ask myself, ‘do I really want to do four years of that?’”
Imani’s favorite childhood memories eventually helped her choose her major.
“Dubai is a really nice place to visit – only about a two-hour flight from our home in Iran,” Imani said. “I loved traveling there by plane, it just made everything easier and faster.”
Imani lived with her family of four in Iran until she was 11. Getting from place to place in the region was made convenient via airplane. After a nine-year wait, her father and mother both finally received Green Cards that would allow them to permanently relocate to The United States. And it was an airplane ride that eventually changed her family’s future.
Sadaf’s father had always wanted to take his family to the United States, and while pursuing a college degree in America didn’t happen for him, he wanted to give that opportunity to Imani and her sister.
“I think it’s really important to think about your end goal and nothing else. There are always going to be obstacles, and there are always people who are going to doubt you. But if that’s what you want to do, you have to do it for you.”
After looking into a wide variety of potential majors, aviation stuck out. Maybe it was the memories traveling as a little girl, or the flight to America, but Imani had discovered her passion. Thanks to her supportive family, especially her father, she gained the confidence and courage to not only commit to her decision, but to reach her true potential.
“My Dad has always said, ‘Do whatever you want, but be the best at it.’ I know a lot of kids struggle with people telling them, ‘you should do this or that or become an engineer.’ My Dad said whatever you do, just make sure you’re the best at it. Don’t be lazy or just get the grade. That’s not enough in the real world – if you don’t have the experience, the self-motivation, it’s not going to work out.”
Now, the same airport that’s always been practically in her backyard serves as a second “home.” This home is where she receives guidance and support to help her reach her goals – one flight at a time.
“When I first came [to Max Westheimer Airport], no one really knew me, but I learned that almost everyone is working towards the same goal,” Imani said. “If I see somebody studying, it’s probably something that I know about and I’ll be able to help. And the advisors are great – they’re always there to help me even if they’re busy doing other things. They always put their students first, and that’s what I love about it.”
This semester Imani is participating in American Airlines’ flight intern program and is based in Fort Worth, Texas. She looks forward to attending the 2017 International Women in Aviation Conference in Florida in March with the American Airlines recruiting team.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be a part of someone’s happiness. By flying I get to help people. I’m able to reunite them with their family and friends. It’s a great experience.”
Keep reading below for more about Sadaf’s flight journey and the OU Aviation program.
What has OU Aviation helped you with the most?
Ken Carson, the Director, teaches a really helpful class that’s an overview of aviation, so he brings all kinds of guest speakers from airlines that talk about the different areas that you can go into. That class was really helpful, I didn’t know about all of the career opportunities for pilots before that class.
One of the guest speakers was a lady and she talked about her experience at OU and how she studied in London for a year. I relate to her because I’m a Global Engagement Fellow, and I’d like to study abroad in South Korea.
There is also this program that I learned to use on my iPad that helps me prepare for flights. I used to prepare for 8:00 a.m. flights starting at 3:00 in the morning to do all of the calculations and planning. However, now this program does a lot of the work. I take it on airliners – so I usually have someone see me using it and they become curious – they ask, “Are you a pilot?”
What kind of opportunities do you have to see “real world” career opportunities?
We do day trips every semester to different airlines and other aviation-related events with Sooner Aviation Club. Last semester we went to Southwest Airlines headquarters, and then last fall we went to American Airlines. Everyone that went loved it because they got to fly the simulators that pilots use to fly. In March, we’re going to the National Business Aviation Association in Fort Worth, Texas.
What about other women in aviation at OU?
My friend Keisha and I came to the program at the same time and have gone through everything together. We support each other when faced with a challenge. She is so self-motivated and just got her Certified Flight Instructor rating.
Any advice out there for students still trying to choose a college or a major?
I think it’s really important to think about your end goal and nothing else. There are always going to be obstacles, and there are always people who are going to doubt you. But if that’s what you want to do, you have to do it for you. The hard times and the struggles will not seem so significant if going through them means that you will reach your goals.
This story was republished with permission from the Office of Admissions and Recruitment after it originally appeared on the OU Admissions and Recruitment website.