Bangladeshis in America Increasingly Choose to Go to College

By Mohammad Hasan Shovro

The thousands of Bangladeshi people who have entered the U.S. have their passports and visas; they also have dreams of being successful and bettering their lives.

But when they land at the airport, their struggles start with cultural differences; new rules and regulations, language barriers, attitudes and so on.

Rashid Uddin, 70, a newcomer to Buffalo, said, “I had a horrible experience in the airport. I don’t know English. They asked me a question over and over again, which I couldn’t answer. I didn’t have any money to pay for the trolley. I felt like America is not ‘my cup of tea.’”

Coming from a small country with huge dreams, most Bangladeshi people focus on earning money rather than on education—that’s why many Bangladeshi people are working at McDonald’s or driving a cab rather than going to college.

“I need to support my family here and in Bangladesh,” said Helal Khan. “They expect a lot from me. I need to work hard. I want to study but when too many things are going on, you can’t concentrate on studies. Life is full of struggle here.” Khan is one of those who works as a cab driver.

Another man from Bangladesh, who is 60, said, “The ultimate goal of education is earning money. And it’s a long and challenging process. So why waste time? Start working, save some money and have some property in your own country.” This way of thinking reflects the reason for the low percentage of older Bangladeshi immigrants in college.

But things are changing for younger people. Some of them are keen to go to university and realize the opportunity to make a better future; to experience this new world.

Razul Sayem, a student at University at Buffalo, said he’s one of the many such students at his college. “We even have a Bangladeshi Student Association here at the university, so things are not like before,” said Sayem. “The mentality hasn’t totally changed, but some students are coming to learn.”

According to the International Institute of Buffalo, there is a growing population of about 20,000 Bangladesh people in Buffalo. About 7% of them are students. This is a good sign for the Bengali community.

Similar to other cultures, there are challenges for Bangladeshis who want to go to college. The challenges they face will make them stronger in the future to compete in the world.

Akter Shahanaz, 48, is enthusiastic about going to college, even at her age. “I’ve been in Buffalo for two years, and yes, I’ve faced problems getting to this stage,” she said. “My husband and my community didn’t warmly accept me going to college. But I love to go to college—it teaches me how to think; helps me think about who I am and who I will be.”

And, we continue to come to the U.S.—to make things better for ourselves and ultimately for our families “back home,” too. We don’t leave our country because we hate it; it’s the opposite. We’re following our dreams.

Md. Hasan Shovro is a sophomore at Buffalo State. He has been in the U.S. since late 2013, and in Buffalo since mid-2015. He is studying business administration.  K

Mohammad Hasan Shovro is a native of Bangladesh. He is a sophomore at Buffalo State College, where he is studying Business Administration. He has been in the US since 2013, and in Buffalo since mid-2015.

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