Fahmida Zaman sometimes missed her family in Bangladesh during her Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) experience. She spent the better part of 2012 at St. Catherine University in Minnesota, well removed from her home. But, she is thankful for the connections she made with professors, her “friendship family,” American and international students, and one very memorable meeting with another Bangladeshi.
“I had a hard time adjusting,” says Fahmida. “But one thing about Minnesota is ‘Minnesota niceness.’ Most of the people here are really nice. They smile at you and are there to help you.”
She especially enjoyed her time with her ‘friendship family.’ A friendship family offers the support and family environment of a host family for Global UGRAD students who live in dormitories. Fahmida saw her friendship family about two to three times every month.
“The family environment they provided me made me feel better,” says Fahmida. “I missed my family, but seeing this American family environment was really great.”
Fahmida would cook with her friendship family and learned about the importance of food within a culture.
She said, “Whenever I missed home, I told [my friendship mom], and I went over to their home, cooked food, and spoke about my country, culture, America, and especially Minnesota.”
One particularly memorable experience for Fahmida was meeting the Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Previously, Zaman had received a Muhammad Yunus Fellowship to study at the Asian University in Bangladesh.
“When I went to meet Dr. Muhammad Yunus, I was confused as to whether I should speak my language or whether I should speak in English,” she said. “But when I entered the room, he was so excited to see me and said how proud he was of me.”
“There will be so much cultural difference, but if you are open-minded, you will learn so much,” says Fahmida. “You will be so grateful to come here. Always be open-minded, but always let other people learn about your own culture.”