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Do You Know What Breaking Free Feels Like?

Age 7: “Mom, can I go outside to play?”

“NO.”

Age 13: “Dad can I go hang out with my friends at this restaurant?”

“NO.” 

Age 17: “Can I go to this place with Aunt for a vacation? I will stay with her, and be back in two days, I promise.”

“NO.”

Sound frustrating? Too strict? Almost dominating? I used to think so too! I used to get so mad for not having the freedom to be on my own, to ask permission for this and that. Being a girl, living in a third world country, among conservative families and still getting the best education in the country. What else could I ask for? Shouldn’t I be content? Shouldn’t I be grateful that I was yet not married off? Yes, I was content, I was grateful but I never limited myself. I knew I couldn’t be stopped by the barriers the society would create for me, I knew I was meant to push the boundaries, all that confinement only helped to make me realize, I was born to break free.

Once I expressed my thoughts on studying abroad, the first thing I got was shocked looks and the second, a “NO.” Even you could guess that, right? I know! So did I. For my parents, that was like the end of this conversation, but for me, it was just the beginning. I did all the savings I could, tutored someone to get some extra money, bunked few coaching classes to save up the fees, and then, I applied. I applied to universities abroad. It was pretty hard at the beginning; sitting for exams, studying and enrolling for them, finding a way to reach the venue without letting my parents know, applying, checking back and forth with my counselors, looking for recommendation letters, and waiting for results and replies. Of course, there were always the chances of failures and/or rejections after all that. Nevertheless, I tried. Sometimes, I didn’t know where the money to send scores to the next university is coming from but I kept trying. For me, failing at this mission was never an option. The only choices I gave myself were to make it, or, to make it.

I applied to eight universities— Hofstra University, University of Dallas, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Tulsa, Stony Brook University, University of Maryland, Villanova University and Purdue University, among which, the first six I got accepted to and the last two got me wait-listed. I also got some scholarships offered from few of them. It took me by surprise that none of them rejected me! I wasn’t very confident about applying to highly ranked universities. In fact, I wasn’t even confident that the ones I applied to would take me. I applied to Purdue, only for the sake of my interest in studying Astronomy. However, once all the letters came by, suspicions and questions arose, and I knew it was time, time to confront, time to reveal. But could I just go to my Dad and ask him if I could go? What do you think his answer would be? Didn’t you guess that right again? It would be a “NO.” I had to find a way around and I did.

Fortunately, I was also working at my dad’s office at that time, helping him with his business. So, I knew a lot of people who were important to him; his friends, his business acquaintances, people whose opinions matter to him. And there it was, my way to convince him. All I had to do is, break the news to these people before directly breaking it to him. He can always say “NO” to my face and walk away without giving me a reason but he can never do that to them. Basically, I tricked my dad into this.

The environment at home got very tensed for days that turned to months. Thinking, rethinking, overthinking and all of that. I wasn’t getting any decision from them, they kept me hanging but I was still fixed on my spot, I am going. However, I was getting very restless day by day. All those suspensions and uncertainties were having their toll on me. I heard about my fellow batch-mates who got accepted to universities abroad, not to mention their parents were sending them and I was really happy for them all but every time I thought about my future, I felt a knot on my throat, that kept tightening more and more with every passing day.

After two months of silent mutiny, they gave in and I was going crazy out of excitement, shock, panic and what not. I rushed all the remaining paperwork in two weeks and also managed to get my F1 – Visa as soon as I could. Then, finally, it was time to say goodbye, time to leave. Farewell was a mixture of emotions— happiness, sadness, fear, panic, excitement. Few said, “Take care, you are going to be alone now, you have never been on your own before,” while few said, “you don’t even know how to cook, I don’t know how you are going to manage.”

I had the same questions too, but none of that mattered. I knew I will manage, somehow, I will. The only thing that broke my heart was the thought of leaving my family and friends behind; my parents, my siblings, my close ones. They are my people, the people I so dearly love, the people who love me. Nevertheless, it was time, and the day arrived.

I was aboard, for the flight that would take me to my destination, leaving behind my dear ones. Everyone was crying but the sight of my younger brother weeping broke me that night. For once, I felt weakness, but someone had to guide the way so that someday he could reach there too, and I knew it has to be me. So, there I was, the girl who was never allowed to go out alone, the one who was always accompanied by someone, the one who had never been on her own, doesn’t know to do much of anything, not even cooking, but was there on that plane that night, 11th August 2016.

I am now a Sophomore at Stony Brook University. A lot changed in this 1 and a half years, this is not the same me, I learned to live alone, I know how to manage my living and I also know how to cook. I have visited Bangladesh, my country, twice by now. It feels great to see those pretty faces again although now, I also look forward to returning to the United States when I am home because I miss the amazing people here whom I made friends with, and of course, the identity and the life, that I made on my own. Everything seemed so tough at the beginning but never impossible, things are hard but doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a try.  You have to will, and you have to make sure that your will is strong, really strong, strong enough to fight all the casualties in the way.

I am here, in New York, happily breathing in my air of freedom, knowing that life would throw something or the other at me every day, and still whispering: bring it on. I won’t say I am too great as I got here; I might not be the best one around but I will always give my best. Even if I graduate out of Stony Brook University with a GPA of 3.0 two years from now, I would still be glad I made it here because I know what I went through to reach this point, and what I learned after coming here. It’s all amazing. It’s worth it.

Will you blame my parents for being so hard? I will tell you they were trying to protect their only daughter from the outside world, not realizing their little one grew up. In fact, it’s them for whom I am where I am today; they gave their girl the best education in the country, in a society where people are reluctant to give girls even the primary education under the national curriculum, they made me work in the office and help with the business, allowed me to implement my ideas in a society where people tend to keep the girls busy with household chores. It’s my parents who taught me to break stereotypes, it’s them who gave me the strength and opportunity to stand out, it’s them who pays for my huge expenses even now that I am here. I learned everything from them, all I had to do is convince them.

My point is, never let anyone limit you, not even yourself. Yes, it’s nice to get some moral support from your family but it doesn’t mean you can’t make it if you didn’t get that support. Maybe if I had them, I would have had more confidence, would have applied to better universities, but didn’t I still make it here? I did and I am grateful. It’s you who needs to believe first before you made others believe. If the society tells you, you are a girl and you can’t do this and that, you just have to be that first girl to show them that you can. In fact, this is a reason why you should. Didn’t I feel low in all of that? Yes, I did. What pulled me? A good TOEFL score, acceptance letters, my best friend who was always there for me. I was determined on my goals and my will led the way.

Above all, I never allowed anyone to limit me. This journey gave me hardships but it let me grow, and the freedom is priceless. Whatever I have, it’s mine, and this was my journey, that amazing one of breaking free.

Her Campus Stony Brook Founder and Campus Correspondent Stony Brook University Senior Minnesotan turned New Yorker English Major, Journalism Minor
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