Life in Foreign Campus
An experience of a lifetime
22nd June 2006 Seven students from Bangladesh start off on their journey to the USA where they'll study the State, History and Culture of the United States under a program called SAUSLI South Asian Undergraduate Student Leaders Institute sponsored by the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It will be a six week intensive program emphasizing primarily on building and developing Leadership skills of these students (seven each from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan) who have been selected carefully from a probable list of hundreds of candidates. All of them are looking forward to their first trip in the US.
Aungshuman Zaman (Physics, Dhaka University), Mashookur Rahman (Telecommunications, North South University), Mohammed Yasin Khan Chowdhury (Law, Chittagong University), Nehreen Salaudin (Economics, East West University), Punny Kabir and Quazi Shahreen Huq (Media & Mass Communications, Dhaka University) and I made up, what later came to be known as 'Team Bangladesh'.
Dickinson College, one of the most prestigious Liberal arts Colleges in the USA played host of the program for the second consecutive year and Professor Robert Winston of the English Department was the Academic Director of the program. Tony, a Spanish Major and Shannon a History Major served as the two coordinators of the program and were always on their feet to help us in any of the 20, 000 or so weird problems the twenty of us came up with.
Although Carlisle was a small college town with very hospitable and amiable people, things seemed to be very different in the big, urban areas of Harrisburg, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Washington DC. Big cities were full of busier, fast-paced people. One thing which truly amazed me was the respect Americans showed to pedestrians Cars would always stop no matter at what speed they are in once some one gets on the crosswalk. In fact, it's very common to see the car drivers smiling at you and waving their hands as well.
Although most of the theoretical studies of American History and Politics and Religious structure took place in the form of lectures & workshops in the form of very interactive sessions in classes, we were also exposed to different aspects of American Culture including Jazz concerts (Jazz Music is one of the few things which is entirely American), a baseball game, drive-in movies, bowling among many other things. The way in which the Americans involve themselves in different sorts of Community Service is very appreciable.
We went to the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen and Project Share which serves free food and meals to all the poor and homeless people, to Habitat for Humanity which gives away free homes (Yep you read that perfectly free homes!!!) to the underprivileged and a whole lot of other places where 90% of the people who work are volunteers who do not take any money for the social welfare they are involved in. The visit to the Carlisle High School was an astonishing experience as well. With a 1 kilometer long campus, the government funded public high school boasted of having around 1700 students from many different countries including Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Other than the regular courses, students have a whole range of elective subjects to choose from including Film-making, Culinary arts, Cosmetology and a lot more. Each of these subjects has their own state of the art labs for students to practice and learn the techniques properly. The trip to the fruit-processing factory and the beautiful fruit orchard is worth mentioning as well.
One of the most important things we did there was to do a presentation on our home countries, and that kept us busy during most of our free times. Although it carried no marks or credits, all three of the groups tried hard to excel in it, thus resulting in three absolutely wonderful presentations. I remember how we spent sleepless nights before the big day, rehearsing, making test runs, advising and peer commenting, so that things are nothing but perfect in the final day.
We also had directed tours to different museums all across the north-east belt of the US including the Museum of Television and Radio, Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art and National Air Space and Museum in DC and many others. For the first time in my life, I saw creations of the legends Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Michael Angelo. Ginevra de' Benci, a timeless creation of da Vinci was the one I liked best among all the paintings that I saw in all the museums. For a few moments, I was so awe-struck that I couldn't really decide whether it was a painting or a real person in blood and flesh it actually was that vivid and detailed.
Other than the regular planned lectures and visits, we also ventured out ourselves and tried out many different things during our free times (although we didn't seem to have much of that free time….). This included trying out different food chains (Hard Rock Café, MacDonald's, KFC etc. ), Swing dancing (first time for all of us), following the rail track to a distant place and then almost getting ourselves lost in the middle of the night the list would probably go on forever… The girls of our group were always into shopping spree and Wal-Mart happened to be the favourite hunting ground for the purpose. Inspired by them, we (us guys) also ended up doing a lot of shopping as well. The best shopping experience was of course at Macy's New York, the largest departmental store of the world.
Surely and inevitably, the complete tour wasn't a bed of roses for us.
The cafeteria, where we had our three meals everyday, served dinner between 5-6 pm, which happens to be our tea time back home. The first few nights, we went out to eat outside but then we took matters into our own hands and started cooking rice, pulse and chicken 'pura Bangalee style' in spite of the complete inexperience on our part. Our special thanks goes to the girls of our group, namely Punny, Nehreen and Shahreen, without whose contribution, I'd've remained 'The Hungry Man' on the countless number of nights in Carlisle, PA.
We also had visits to some places which are politically very important in Pennsylvania - The State Capitol in Harrisburg, The Constitution Centre in Philadelphia, where we saw the very inspirational and motivating documentary about the constitution 'Freedom Rising', the crunch line of which was, very precise and complete 'We, the People'. In DC, we went to the White House, the famous Capitol Building situated on Capitol Hill and last but not the least the United States Department of State Department of State (Yes the same building where Condoleezza Rice has her office), where we had a meeting with Mr. John A. Gastright, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs. We also happened to meet Mr. Harry K. Thomas, Executive Secretary of State, former US Ambassador to Bangladesh there.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006