Here I am Bangladesh!

I always believed that if a person can dream something, she also has the ability to achieve that dream. Not all the dreams might come true, but dreams can certainly guide you through the path of life and might turn into reality. I always had a dream of studying abroad and now I am writing this article from a foreign university’s dorm.

I study in the department of Disaster Science & Management at the University of Dhaka. Last year while surfing through the internet, I saw an advertisement for the “Global UGRAD Scholarship” and decided to apply for the program. Currently, I am studying Environmental Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University.

This program is a lot about becoming independent. In the first few days, I had to learn everything on my own. From morning until midnight, where everything, every system is new and different. There are no Bengali people and I am not around those who speak the Bangla language. I had to start learning from the beginning with zero knowledge and through this I came to realize my strengths and weaknesses. I believe it’s really important to get out of my comfort zone to discover my inner strength, capabilities, and most importantly, discovering myself.

The first thing that amazed me here is the education system. It is totally different from Bangladesh. Classes are mainly discussion-based which allows students to express their opinions, questions, and thinking. Courses are comprised of various quizzes, poster presentation, projects, and different activities. Therefore, students are obliged to study regularly to comply with the curriculum. So, it helps to keep the students on the track. Although the education system is quite hard, they offer many learning opportunities.

Sumaiya (far right) holding the Bangladeshi flag with fellow international students

Here, professors give sufficient time to each student, which helps to build a good relationship with them. It is a comfortable environment for discussing study related problems with the professors. During any social, economic or cultural discussion one of my professors always asks me; “You are the representative of the world outside of United States. So how would you like to see this matter? What’s your opinion regarding this?” It really feels good when I am treated with importance.

After coming here, I got to experience culture from different countries along with United States. I have made good friends from Albania, Uzbekistan, Tunisia, and China. I always try share my own culture and distinct features of my country with them. Whenever I go out wearing my traditional dress, they say “I love your outfit, it’s so unique.” This makes me feel really good and proud. I feel like my identity is now identical to Bangladesh for them. Basically here, I am ‘Bangladesh’ to them.

The compassion and love for own country and mother tongue is a kind of feeling that can be only be felt while living in a foreign country since that’s when we miss the country people, language and culture the most. That’s why taking part in this kind of exchange program is important for knowing oneself, realizing the value of one’s own identity.

Sumaiya (far right) with fellow Global UGRADs

This article was written by Sumaiya Tabassum, a 2018-19 student at Florida Gulf Coast University. To see the full article in Bangla, please visit Prothomalo, one of Bangladesh’s highest circulated newspapers.