Reflections from Bangladesh Six Months Later
July 11th 2012
This trip to Bangladesh means the world to me. This trip has opened my eyes to a world that is far beyond my borders. The beautiful people that I have met, the cultural and traditional experiences that I have learned about, and the prosperous land and nation that I had the experience to travel has changed my life for the better. When I first heard about the opportunity to go to Bangladesh through my academic resource college track, I went all in. However, I didn’t know what to expect let alone if I was going to get selected. To be honest I thought it was going to be just like the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Through pushing past my fears I submitted my application. Feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and stress fell upon me for about a month as a waited for the inevitable. When I got the email from Laura hat I was selected to attend the interview process I was ecstatic, however having surgery that same week, I had to be interviewed via Skype. This was disappointing because I felt like I let Laura, my family, and myself down by not attending the interview in person.
But through favor, it all worked out, and I was one of the thirty students picked to go to Bangladesh. Going to Bangladesh has changed my life because it took me away from my comfort zone that consisted of my family, my friends, and my interests such as playing sports. But instead of being shielded away from everyone, I decided to reach out to people and that is when I started to make a strong connection and friendship with my host brother Mashfi and his family. It’s because of him that I love soccer and his favorite team FC Barcelona. Its because of his family that I no longer feel like an outsider wherever I go because they treated me like I was a son, not just a guest or a burden that they were obliged to deal with for four weeks until I left. They even gave me presents and flowers on Christmas day. I was in tears because they made me feel like I was back home with my own family.
My Service Learning Project humbled me in such a way that couldn’t be explained. I worked with the villagers in the chars of Sirajganj elevating school structures and planting fruit-bearing trees. During my time working in the chars I learned about the struggles that the villagers go through every day and how the home gets flooded every couple of years. These living situations make it hard to raise a family and to stay together as a village and as a community. But through all the heartache of losing family and friends, the villagers still had smiles on their faces. And even though I felt like we could’ve done more to help them, I know that they deeply appreciated our hard work and effort. On the last day of working in the chars the head villager apologized for anything that they could’ve done to make us feel uncomfortable. This blew me away because it should have been the other way around; we were the guests in their village.
The main lessons I have learned are to always be open to new things and new challenges. This is important because you get exposed to new things, people, and cultures. New challenges will better you as a person as well. I challenged myself by having a strong voice in every discussion that we had on this trip. My experience in my school's leadership class trained me to be a good speaker and facilitator. However, my voice in the class wasn’t always heard and fell on deaf ears or was not taken seriously when we talked about things that could make our school better. Going on the trip challenged me to speak up and to be the leader from the front of the room, as well as the back. My behavior has changed completely especially when dealing with climate change. At school, I now help the janitors pick up trash after school as well as after lunch. At home, I get on my family members for leaving the lights on when they leave a room or keeping appliances plugged-in unnecessarily. And through my senior project and my Social Action Project with my college track friends, people are comprehending the message that climate change is major problem and it has to be stopped.
2011-12 American Youth Leadership Program Participant