From Bangladesh to UMass: a graduate’s reflection

Who knew going from urban to rural could be so beneficial?


Joshua Murray

(Josh Murray/Amherst Wire)

When I first moved to the University of Massachusetts, into the land of Seven Sisters and the orange mountains, I knew of not one soul in the entire state of Massachusetts. I was 18 years old and I was from an urban megalopolis, more than 7,000 miles away from here.

I was from a tropical country, a different language; a city with dirty streets and ten buildings to every tree. I was from Dhaka, Bangladesh, a place which is bound by the confinements of oppression in the name of tradition. And I came here, all by myself, into the cold, clean, liberal and rural hilly terrain, of an isolated corner of a country vastly different from the one that I was from.

I can tell you that I was not scared, for when you are 18 and coming across the globe to pursue your dreams, you believe nothing can ever go wrong.

So much went wrong, but so much went right as well.

Of all the things that went right, perhaps my favorite is that I found my home and I found a family. Home is not just where I was born by chance in the grand scheme of the universe; home is a place that I created from scratch. Home is where I invested time, energy and effort, and home is where a piece of my heart will always reside.

That home for me is the UMass Amherst.

Experiencing UMass has been the single most powerful and life-changing experience for which I am eternally altered and forever grateful. I am grateful to my teachers for opening my mind to a grand spectrum of thoughts and ideas that made me question the very institutions that I grew up being accustomed to.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to study in Malaga, Spain and live there for four months completely immersing myself in Spanish culture, Spanish language and European politics and art. That experience during my sophomore year truly made my global education first hand and compelled me to analyze the variation of the cultures that comprise the world.

These cultures are all so different from one another, and so different than the one I was born into, yet they are all intertwined and related. Despite the variation in culture and language, I have learned we are all connected through the same blood that flows in our veins and the energy that makes up our souls.

When I minored in psychology, I understood the notions of conditioning and how the way we act is not entirely our independent thought processes but rather the accumulated effects of all the exposure that we have been subjected to for the entire course of our lives.

When I studied journalism, I understood objectivity, and how there is no such thing as real objectivity because we are all compelled by our interests, whether real or imagined, to act in the ways that we do even when lack of objectivity is not a decision made by our conscious minds.

In political science, I understood the depths of the flawed system that we live in, and how we are sabotaging the very things essential to our being, through global warming, through warfare, through our lack of everyday kindness.

But amidst it all, I found hope. I found hope in two things, and two things only: education and hard work. No dream is unattainable or off limits if we empower ourselves with education and embody the essence of hard work in our everyday lives.

If I did not come to UMass, I would not have been the person that I am today. I would not think so critically and progressively of the world, and my value in it, and my ability to make a difference. At a time when people claim that the American dream is dead, that was my American dream; for the American dream was never about monetizing on capitalism to begin with.

UMass has made a woman out of the naive little 18-year-old girl who came here without a single clue for what life is.

Today I am 22 years old; a feminist with a college degree, who is politically aware and spiritually trying and undeniably happy.

And who is in a relentless pursuit to make the world a little bit better with the skills and knowledge that she has acquired here. That was my American dream.

And if you are a first-generation college student in America, if you are someone who gave up everything to be educated, to be here and to stay here, and to be better, then I applaud you.

I applaud all of you who have left your homes for a chance to education, for a chance to lift your families from poverty, for a chance to make your parents proud and make all of their countless sacrifices worth it.

You have done it, and your strength and your success are undeniable.

Email Nujhat [email protected].

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