Story and Photo by Taylor Jacobs

Syeda Hussain is a 20-year-old Sophomore residing in Jamaica, Queens who is originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and majors in mathematics education. She has been a resident here now for three years and says the transition here was a culture shock.

Seyeda says, “I went to primary, middle and high school in Bangladesh. My first language is Bangla and English was a subject for us. I know the grammar and I can write it well but speaking is the most difficult because the pronunciation of certain words varies and accents as well. Your first language influences the way you speak your second language.”

When asked about the process to start attending school in the states, Seyeda says that the overall process was a long time coming because prior, her parents went through a twelve-year wait to get their visas. It started with her uncle who won a lottery for a program that offered individuals from third world countries the opportunity to live in the U.S. After a probationary period he was then able to file for Seyeda’s parents and the rest was history.

I applied to 6 Cuny colleges and was denied by all but Medgar and York because I wasn’t a citizen and my education history was out of the country. I was conditionally accepted at York but required to take an assessment test. The first semester was a struggle because I had to wait until I lived here for 12 months before receiving financial aid. So to pay for school I got a job at Dunkin Doughnuts. The hardest part of the job was the cash register. The bills are easy to understand but the coins were a little harder to get. Often times I would get rude customers,” Seyeda says.

Though life in the states still comes with its challenges, she concludes that overall it is still a worthwhile experience. “What is considered a traditional classroom setting here is much different from what I am used to back in Bangladesh. Here teachers speak and students engage in a discussion. There, a classroom consisted of at least 165 students. The teacher lectures and your opinions are not very important. I have never experienced as much diversity as I do here. There were times where I felt I don’t belong and that none of this belonged to me but after joining the Trio program offered here for first-generation students I have gotten a whole new outlook thanks to Mr. Walter. Whether you say something first, he greets you every day with a hello” Seyeda says warmly.

As the semester comes to a close Seyeda says the course load is heavy especially given her current internship at a middle school in Forest Hills. “Majoring in a subject means you have to teach at some point especially to gain a Ph.D. Our requirements include learning about the students on a personal level though and how they receive information. Engaging with the students and learning all of this gives you a different insight on the student and an appreciation for teachers because they go through a lot as well,” she says.

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