Hometown: Dhaka, Bangladesh Major: Global Islamic Studies, International Relations Minor: Arabic Studies Center: CISLA Activities: International Student Association & Student Government Association
Favorite aspect of Connecticut College: It’s normal to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone. Regardless of whether I’m standing in line at Harris (our main dining hall), passing by the post office or even racing up the stairs at Fanning Hall, there will always be someone who says “Hi,” or smiles in acknowledgment.
Favorite memory at Connecticut College: I spend Thursday evenings in the library with my friends from Arabic class where we hang out and work on new vocabulary. In the midst of the intercontinental adjustment, I had to do as an international student, this unspoken habit of ours makes the end of the week so much better.
Favorite activity in New London or the region: Trying out new types of food in the numerous cafes and restaurants around New London, Mystic and Groton with my friends!
I have been dreading but also looking forward to this day. After four years, this is my last blog post for The Experience. I joined The Experience on my second day at Connecticut College and coincidentally, it was my birthday! The primary goal for this blog is to give prospective students a small glimpse into what life at Conn feels like.
In my selfish way, I have used this platform to reflect on some of my most monumental moments at Conn. I had many firsts here. There was my first snowman, my first time at the beach, and my first time trying lobster! I documented some major milestones: my CISLA internship, my All-College Symposium experience, and declaring my majors! I also had the opportunity to talk about more overarching experiences that heavily influenced my time here, the most notable being my journey as a student leader. I also tried to give prospective international students some tips to acclimate themselves to the US and Conn. Many have had the same experience as me — they did not visit Conn or the U.S. before starting the semester. Hence, blogs written by international students was one of the best ways they could get some practical advice before they arrived. I spoke about what I pack, what I like to eat in the dining halls, and how annoying long plane rides can be when they are delayed.
As an international student, I never had a chance to do in-person visits to any college. I think being able to see the place where I would live for four years would have helped calm my nerves. Although I did not get this chance, Camel Days, days in which admitted students are invited to campus, are still one of my favorite times of the year. The sense of community on Camel Days is different. There is something energizing in the air. In the spring of my first year, I had the chance to interact with numerous accepted students as a student adviser during Camel Days. Unfortunately, the 2019 Camel Days were the last in-person ones due to COVID-19. So when the Office of Admissions announced that in 2022 Conn would be welcoming accepted students from the Class of 2026 to in-person Camel Days, I was thrilled; and, when they asked me to speak to students in the morning, I was honored.
Sometimes right before the weekend starts I realize that I don’t have much work to do. This usually happens in the first three weeks of the semester before all my papers are assigned at the same time. I have no doubt that many people face this dilemma. Hence I have brainstormed some fun activities people can do on-campus during their downtime!
Samirah Jaigirdar ’22 - The Experience, Samirah Jaigirdar '22
In my first spring semester at Conn, I went to Palmer Auditorium to watch CCEmpower’s annual show. The purpose of CCEmpower is to perform a show that represents women and non-binary students across varying identities through unique, but unifying voices. CCEmpower's show involves Conn students submitting monologues that showcase their lived experiences. The goal of this organization is to create an inclusive space to bring students together and reflect on their lived experiences, while also raising money and awareness for Safe Futures, an essential service in Southeastern Connecticut that provides support for survivors of domestic abuse.
As an international student, it can be hard to figure out what you need to pack into the two suitcases your airline allows you to carry. Over the years, I have forgotten many key things at home which I realized midway through the flight. Hence, I have come up with a list of things you should bring:
This winter break, I did not go home to Bangladesh. Instead, I stayed in the U.S. and visited my friend in Los Angeles. After my brief trip, I came back to campus early. Most students were not back and the quiet serenity gave me some time to reflect on the parts of Conn I will miss the most as I start my last semester here.
Getting Mozzarella Sticks from Oasis Nothing can quite live up to an impromptu Oasis Cafe visit with my friends at midnight. Whether it’s after a hard night in Shain Library during midterms or on a Saturday during a hangout, the Oasis mozzarella sticks hit all my salty and cheesy cravings.
Sprinting to Tempel Green to take photos of the sunset I have lost count of how many times I have spied a sliver of either orange or pink from the windows of Shain Library and I raced to Tempel Green to take a photo of the sunset behind Harkness Chapel. As I grew up in a crowded city, I rarely saw such a magnificent sight. Thus, Conn sunsets hold a special place in my heart.
Getting a mid-afternoon coffee from Coffee Grounds I like to use our student-run coffee shops as a study break. I particularly like visiting Coffee Grounds as a lot of the baristas and bakers are my friends. My recommendations for CG are their matcha lattes and shaken espresso with a cinnamon shot.
SGA General Assemblies on Thursdays Throughout my junior and senior year, I have been heavily involved with Conn’s Student Government Association. We usually hold our general meetings on Thursdays, hence, it has become a weekly constant in my schedule. It’s a great forum for students to make their voices heard, get involved with a co-curricular activity, and an opportunity to make friends who are not in my class year or major.
Cooking with my roommate in our on-campus apartment In my senior year, I was lucky enough to get an on-campus apartment with one of my best friends. She was my roommate in my first year of Conn. We wanted to come full circle and be roommates in our senior year too. Having a kitchen to cook in at the end of the day has been a great stress reliever after a long day of classes and SGA appointments.
Late nights in Shain Library If you couldn’t tell by this blog post, I spend a lot of time in Shain Library. But I don’t study all the time there. Shain first floor is my second home on campus. I hang out with my friends and occasionally, do some work. We have two tables we always sit at and we run into the same groups of people which makes Shain the most comforting place on campus.
My Professors I always say that “the people make Conn.” Throughout my time at Conn, I had the pleasure of working with numerous professors who I have depended on heavily. Starting from getting help outlining my papers during my first semester to advising me on my graduate school applications, my professors have made my Conn experience so much better. Conn’s small class sizes and the frequency of office hours have ensured that my professors know me well. These relationships served me well for graduate school applications as they advised me on whether a particular program was suitable for me.
These are small snapshots of the things that have made my Conn experience memorable. In my last semester, I intend to enjoy all of these while eating as many Mozzarella sticks as possible.
It’s been two years since I attended Conn’s first All-College Symposium, where seniors present their integrative learning in the Connections curriculum. At that time, I found it hard to believe that I would someday have a cohesive senior integrative project (SIP) for the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA). In a SIP, seniors integrate their major, coursework, research, and internship experience in the form of an honors thesis or an independent study project and then present it at the symposium. It is a big undertaking and as a sophomore, I felt quite overwhelmed thinking that I’d have to have a perfectly finalized idea for my SIP by the time I would present my senior year at the symposium.
I have not been on any kind of vacation since the pandemic started. So when Fall Break rolled around this year, all I wanted to do was go somewhere. I did not care where as long as I didn’t have to think or talk about my academics. For my final Fall Break at Conn, a couple of my friends and I went to Washington, D.C. I had two goals: visit as many museums as possible and try as many new foods as possible. I definitely excelled at the second goal.
When I was accepted into the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) in the fall of my sophomore year, I never thought I’d be forced to search for my international internship (which is a traditional part of the CISLA program) during a global pandemic. I also did not think I would be doing a remote internship. I was excited about furthering my Arabic language skills during my study abroad semester in Morocco and then a summer internship, also in Morocco, where I would be strengthening my professional linguistic skills. However, Covid-19 forced me to change my plans.
It’s hard to believe I am a senior at Conn. I still remember my first few days here like it was yesterday. I arrived at night, geared up for international student orientation the next day. I had never actually been to campus prior to my arrival, so I didn’t really know where things were except my residence hall and the dining hall. So when my schedule told me to go to Tempel Green for ice-breakers and the start of Odyssey, I was quite lost. I meandered around trying to find Tempel Green until a very kind person pointed out that I was actually walking around it. Mortified and embarrassed, I remember uttering a thank you and running away. This was pretty much me the entire orientation.
No human likes doing laundry. It’s cumbersome, time-consuming, and annoying but, once in a while, we must. To do laundry at Conn, Camels make the trek down to the laundry room in their residence hall. Doing laundry can sometimes be a struggle in a shared space. But there are a few ways we can make it smoother.
Although I have been living in the US for nearly three years, I generally go home during winter break so I have not had the opportunity to see an abundance of snow. But this February, New London received a large amount of snow so many international students, like me, had the chance to learn how to make a snowman.
We were still in onboarding quarantine at the time and COVID-19 protocols were in place so my friend and I masked and booted up to head outside and finally fulfill my wish of making Olaf. We walked to Tempel Green, which had accumulated a good amount of snow, and saw many students who had started to make their own snowmen. Growing up, I had seen children on TV making snowmen. Thus, I naively thought making Olaf would be quite easy. I was so wrong! I started telling my friend that we should have bought a carrot for Olaf’s nose from the dining hall when the ball I had been rolling started to disintegrate. I tried again and it broke again. On the third try, I had a semblance of a big ball of snow but I accidentally kicked it. The attempt at making Olaf was not going well.
So we improvised. We made a big blob and then made a smaller blob for its head. The blobs definitely weren’t representative of Olaf or a traditional snowman. When we made its face using twigs and leaves, he got further away from innocent Olaf. Our blob, affectionately named Snow Chucky, emanated some scary vibes especially as it was surrounded by happy snowmen. But Snow Chucky proved to be quite resilient as he lasted three days!
A year and a half ago, I wrote a guide on how to hack the dining hall at Conn. Today, I will explore how to hack Harris in the age of hand sanitizers, take-out containers, and temperature scanners. Here are some quick tips and tricks I learned.
Growing up in Bangladesh, one would assume I live for the beach and the ocean. Bangladesh is home to one of the longest natural sea beaches in the world. But I hate beaches. It’s too humid, the sand gets everywhere, and the seagulls are too loud. Hence, I don’t seek out the beach in any of the places I visit. In my two and a half years at Connecticut College, I have never visited the numerous beaches around. I have sampled lobster but going to the beach never seemed like a fun activity although countless Camels go there often.
During my first semester at Conn, I underestimated how powerful culture shock can be. American culture is so different from my own. But I also thought that I was immune to culture shock. I spent the last two years of high school in Eswatini at an international boarding school where many different nationalities were represented. Based on this experience living away from home–I’m from Bangladesh–I thought moving to the United States for college wouldn’t be that big of a change. However, it was harder than I expected. It got harder when I realized that my birthday was on the second day of classes and I knew absolutely no one (read all about it: 7,790 Miles, a Birthday, and a Camel Moment).
As an international student, I do a lot of traveling to and from campus. I have missed flights, lost items, been stuck in snowstorms and more. I’ve learned a lot from these experiences. And I want to share some of that knowledge with you. Hence, here are some of my tried and tested travel tips:
When an admission representative from Connecticut College came to my high school, two things struck me about their talk: the College’s Honor Code and the Integrative Pathways in the Connections curriculum. I remember thinking how cool it would be to self-schedule an exam and learn about sustainability without necessarily majoring in it. When I later figured out that I no longer wanted to major in STEM, I was pleased to find out that Conn’s curriculum is flexible for everyone to find and construct their own niche. Connections is Conn’s liberal arts curriculum which aims to give its students an integrated approach to learning.
As I moved through my first year, I increasingly started exploring Conn’s surroundings. In the beginning, as I didn’t have a car, I thought it was going to be hard to run any errands or even leave campus, but the Camel Van made it easy to reach downtown New London, the train station, Target/Walmart and even the bank. I began to discover hidden nooks and crannies around the area with my friends, which made our weekends more eventful.
One of the fun parts about going to college in a different country is all the new food I can sample. A friend of mine was shocked to discover that, even after being in the United States for a year and a half, I had never tried lobster. Hence, a trip to Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in New London was planned.