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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 137 | September 20, 2009|


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Learning more about an amazing nation

Md. Shamim-Ul-Alam

FROM July 28 to August 2, I had the chance to visit the United States of America. Participants from different universities of Bangladesh and from 12 other countries like India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt.

We participated in a program called 'Study of the U.S. Institutes for Global Student Leaders 2009' or SUSI 2009 sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State in association with the Academy for Educational Development (AED). It's a yearly program of the U.S. government to introduce university students from different countries to American culture, values, religious diversity, community services etc. and to help them build a positive perception about America. The five-week program included staying in a university dorm or in host American families for nearly four weeks and 3-day final stay in Washington, D.C. where the concluding ceremony took place. We had to participate in discussions, debates, seminars and finally prepare a presentation on what we have learned during our entire stay. There were 16 people from Bangladesh who got divided into two groups -one group went to Green River Community College in Seattle in Washington state and other group to the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in Alabama . I was in the second group.

As part of the program, we visited many places like Selma, Montgomery (center of Civil Rights movement), Memphis (Birthplace and museum of all-time rock superstar Elvis Presley), and Atlanta (Headquarter of CNN and Coca Cola Museum) to name some. In Selma, we visited Civil Rights Movement Museum. I watched and wondered how sophisticatedly history is presented by blending technology with it.

In UAH, there were 20 students - 8 from Bangladesh, 8 from India and 4 from Pakistan .There were six American SUSI student volunteers to help us with different matters.

I was living in a dorm called CCRH (Central Residential Hall) in UAH. UAH is not that famous compared to Texas A&M, Harvard but for students like me from Bangladesh, which has only one university within first 5000 universities of the world, is quite a big deal. The UAH campus seemed large to me. Huntsville itself is a small town with no heavy traffic and ritzy sky high shopping malls. We expected a partying student community from our American-pie experience but there was no such thing. Later we learned that partying is common mostly in big universities.

Dr. John Pottenger , the Director of OIPS (Office of International Programs & Services), is a professor of Political Science in UAH . He was a down-to-earth man and helped some of us with carrying our luggage. We also had two guest professors Dr. Phillip Kovacs and Dr. Slaughter. Sarah Hemmings, the Asst. Director of OIPS, was our leader. She led our whole team and dealt with our financial matters; sometimes we also called her the 'Pay Master'. There were also two nice ladies Anita Rathz and Kathleen Sobai from OIPS office.

We met some Bengalis there Arif bhai, owner of grocery shop 'Soruj', Parvez bhai, Mirza and Parizat -a Bengali student couple. There are approximately twenty Bangladeshi families in Huntsville and I feel proud to say that nearly all Bangladeshis are PhD holders and local Americans think very highly of them.

Americans are very reserved in nature. In Washington, when we were seeing off Dr. Pottenger, Anita Rathz and Sarah Hemmings, some of us burst into tears but they were, as I observed fighting very hard with tears and they just left as soon as they could. I sometimes think that one great achievement for me from this program was to get in touch with some good people like them .

(The student is from Dept. of EEE , BUET)

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