Hometown: Dhaka, Bangladesh Major: Global Islamic Studies, International Relations Activities: Honor Council, International Student Association, Connecticut College Mock Trial Center:
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!
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.
Last fall, prior to my arrival at Conn, I spent weeks browsing the College’s course catalog and reading the various major descriptions on the website. There were many interesting classes, but my curiosity was piqued by the College’s language requirement. Every student must complete at least two semesters of a foreign language, regardless of how many languages they already know. Over the summer, we received emails with a language study brochure (Connecticut College Language Study Brochure), which I read multiple times. The Dean of First Year Students, Emily Morash, told us that we were not required to take a language course in our first year but it is recommended so that we don’t have to worry about it in our junior or senior years. I studied French for five years and knew I wanted to start something new. But the question was: Which one? Currently, Conn offers courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian and Spanish.
When I was 5, I wanted to be an astronaut. At the age of 8, I declared to my mother that I would be as famous as Demi Lovato, disregarding the fact that I could not sing to save my life. As my career aspirations went from astronaut to black hole specialist to journalist, I entered high school and got into the sciences. If someone looked at my high school transcript, they would assume that I was headed toward a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) major. They would be correct. In high school, I took advanced mathematics, chemistry and physics. I wanted to be a materials scientist. Back then, nothing excited me more than spending hours in a chemistry laboratory seeing what obscure material could oxidize lead.
For international students, choosing a college is a lot like throwing a dart in the dark. We don’t know what the college atmosphere is like. We don’t know how accessible the location is, and, most importantly, we don’t know what the weather is actually like. Why? Because we’ve never had a campus tour. Chances are the average international student has never visited the United States before either. When trying to find the right college for us, we’ve had to depend on the College’s website and whatever location-based information Google can provide. I was fortunate enough to be enrolled in an international high school in Swaziland that was on the visit list for a number of liberal arts colleges. I got to hear from admissions directors about their school’s programs, how each college environment differed from others, and what student life was like on campus.
Growing up bilingual, I don’t remember learning to speak either English or Bengali. I don’t know if I learned the alphabet first or how I knew to tell the difference between the words for a lamp and a lightbulb or how the two languages differed phonetically from one another. I don’t know how I learned and I could surely not advise someone trying to acquire a new language.
As an international student, there are days when I miss a simple home-cooked meal. There are also days when I miss the freedom of being creative and whipping up recipes from the Food Network. However, I can personally attest that getting creative in a college dining hall isn’t impossible.
Sitting on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport, I was frustrated, tired and jetlagged. I had been traveling for nearly 27 hours and plane food has never cheered me up. I was heading back to Conn after one month of winter break and my plane had been diverted to Philadelphia because of the winter storm. I was supposed to land at JFK by 8:30 a.m. and catch the Flying Camel (the College bus between JFK International Airport and Conn) at 1 p.m. It was now 11 a.m. Would I even make it?
Experiencing any phenomenon for the first time is always fascinating. However, experiencing something for the first time and being cognizant of it comes with its own set of feelings. For me, this happened when I first saw snow. Growing up in Bangladesh and then eSwatini, I have experienced temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to 110 Fahrenheit. But I had never seen snow.