It was not easy for a middle-class, ordinary, Bangladeshi, Muslim girl like me to come at the university of Tromsø for graduate studies. My journey towards higher education is a story of struggle, frustration, and getting my strength back. During my childhood, I grew up with a dream of being pilot. However, despite having a huge motivation and working hard, the vast financial requirement for the position in Bangladesh shuttered my dream. I did not stop there. Rather, I replaced the dream to be a pilot with an aim to be a doctor. Unfortunately, this dream also faded away when I saw that my high school results did not meet the minimum requirement for the entry test. I was, however, destined to study a discipline of social science in a public university. My transition from a student of medical science, with high hopes and aspiration, to a subject of social science was not easy. I could not love the topics I had to read, think and write about. I did not study much and in the first two years, I did terrible in examinations. It made me more frustrated.
Gradually, I became aware that I was drowning in a deep darkness. I thought that the way I was behaving and wasting time was very unlike me. I realized that I needed to get out of this darkness. A new journey started thereafter. I started to work hard and dream big again. I did better academically in my latter semesters and completed my undergraduate with a decent CGPA. At that point, I was not academically ready for my dream, to do something extra-ordinary. To chase my dream, I felt I needed a better academic understanding. With that in mind, I began preparing for my overseas education. It was another struggle. Socially, it was hard to convince people of my conservative Muslim community that there is nothing ‘wrong’ for a girl to be ambitious and go study abroad. Personally, it was hard to manage all my admission requirements without much guidance on the one hand and manage finances to fly on the other. Nevertheless, I am happy and proud of the fact that after all my struggles, I am the first girl of my family and first female student of my department to study overseas.
Finally, my dream to study abroad was fulfilled with the admission to the university of Tromsø, in Norway. I chose Norway for two reasons. First, the country has a policy of free college tuition. For a family like my own, it was not possible to bear the high tuition fees charged in other countries. Second, Norway is known for its culture of non-discrimination. After living here nearly one and half years, I can say that I never thought that I am in a different social and cultural environment. People here are so helpful that I feel at home. An entirely different culture or language has never been an obstacle. My big fear that my wearing hijab (headscarf) would be troublesome for many proved wrong when I noticed people respect me and my religion. I found my hosts are always careful of my eating habits.
However, I have had some personal struggles to cope with. I have always been a shy person. It was a struggle for me to get acquainted with this new environment. Initially, I felt isolated and became lonely. To overcome this, I decided to join ISU Tromso (International Students Union’) and eventually, became the president of the organization. It offered me a unique experience. It became a platform to transform me from a shy and withdrawn person to a spontaneous, confident leader. ISU gave me opportunities in many capacities to manifest my talents and put them to work. It helped main developing qualities of leadership, socialization and running an organization. I understand that this isn’t the end but it’s just the beginning. Every day, I learn new things. I get challenged and develop capacities to surpass my own best previous accomplishments.
Today, I can confidently say that my decision to come in Norway for my higher education was a worthwhile one. I learn every step of the way. When someone asks me about my future now, I say that I live for today. I have stopped thinking about tomorrow. I will take every opportunity that my life showers upon me. I am happy with what I am. I honestly believe that it is possible to start dreaming and work for it in any level of life. Today, I am not a pilot to fly from one part of the world to the other,nor am I a doctor, serving people. But I feel that it is very much possible for me to be a doctorate. It is what I want now.
In the end, based on my life experiences and struggles, I would say, never give up, never stop dreaming. If plan A doesn’t work, there will be always plan B or C or D. Just fight to grab it. Don’t lose hope. When one plan doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world. There are a lot of things to do in your life. Live your life with a big smile and keep chasing your dream. If you really want something by heart, God will help you fulfill it. If an ordinary girl like me could struggle and break all the taboos of the society just to live her dreamland become self-dependent, then why can’t you?