Moving to America was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but it was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I ever made. Sounds cheesy, but I can promise you it’s so much more than that. Growing up in a Bangladeshi, Muslim, middle-class, conservative society gives someone very rigid expectations of what girls should be doing and should not be doing.
It seemed like every decision she ever made had someone’s influence on it, be it her mother, father, brother, sister, husband, aunties and uncles, and whatnot. What to wear, what to say, where to go, who to go with, who to not go with, what time she should be back, and on and on. Needless to say, when most people outside of my immediate family got to know about my departure from my homeland of 18 years to a foreign destination all alone, optimistic and excited was the last feeling they had. “What do you mean alone?” “But she’s just a child!” “They don’t know what people over there will do to them!” “Have you heard of the drugs people of there do all the time?” “How can you even think of doing this to yourself?” And my personal favorite, “You’re just going to send her there without a husband?!”
Thankfully, I have been blessed with the most loving and supportive parents I could ever ask for, who believed in me and my potential and my dreams rather than the extremely worried thoughts others tried to feed them. No, that doesn’t mean they weren’t worried or terrified – they were probably the most anxious people in this whole situation because they had to learn how to deal with their only daughter, who lived the most sheltered and protected life they could give her, leaving them and going off to live her own new life halfway across the world. For me, I have always wanted to go abroad for my studies after high school, and I made sure all throughout my school life that I eventually turn my dreams into a reality, and I did. I got accepted into one of the best tech schools in the nation with a 70% tuition scholarship, and I knew this was something I would regret for the rest of my life if I didn’t pursue it. Of course, it was far from easy. As a girl who barely traveled alone to go to her best friend’s house 15 minutes away, I was beyond scared when thinking about how I would survive all alone in a new place with no one to guide me.
And when I did get here, my head was swimming with all these thoughts and questions I thought I’d never find the answers to. “How do I use the public transportation?” “Wait, I don’t know how to handle a bank account.” “What do you mean I have to pay my phone bill???” “Oh my word, how do you use a debit card?” “Why are there so many people here; I can’t possibly make so many friends!” “What happens if I get lost or worse, robbed at gunpoint?” And the list is endless. But time and strength and determination had slowly answered all my questions and my worries dissipated day by day. My family and friends back home served as an endless source of support and encouragement and gave me the power to not break down and keep on moving. It breaks my heart to see parents and other relatives stopping girls in the society I grew up in from following their dreams.
True, I understand the trust issues and concern for safety, but think of what she might be able to do with her life if she just gets the opportunity to work on her ambitions and become the independent human being she always wanted to be. Instead of forcing her into the life of a wife or a mother or an life she does not want for herself, let her live her life on her own, make her own choices, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, love who she wants, do what she wants, go wherever her mind takes her, and most importantly, be the person she always dreamed of becoming. If you truly love her or care for her, let her move on in life instead of holding her back. Raise your children into thinking that they can become the heroes they dream of, and be there to support them every step of the way.
They will fall time after time, but it’s how they get back up, brush themselves off, and move ahead is what truly matters. It was an ordeal to uproot my life from Bangladesh and start a new life in America at a raw age of 18. I had my doubts on whether I would make it, and so did a lot of people. I tried my best, and I will honestly say that the last 5 months has changed me in so many ways. I grew mentally, physically, and spiritually and matured in my thoughts and ideas about a number of different aspects of life.
I did things I never did before and never thought I could do, but there is something pretty great about being your own boss and taking charge of your own life. I met people I will remember for the rest of my life, and made memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. I learned how to handle money, stress, pain, loneliness, and the hardest thing of all, PUBLIC TRANSPORT! I have grown as a person in many ways, and I know I will continue to do so, and I am forever thankful to everyone who has helped me become the person I am today. Moving to America was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but it was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I ever made.
The writer is currently a student at Illinois Institute of Technology.