Last fall, Md Harun Ur Rashid left his home country, Bangladesh, and traveled to the United States for a year. He lived with a host family in Michigan. Here, he writes about his experience learning about the United States' diversity, the importance of volunteering in American culture, and his time teaching students in his school about Bangladeshi culture.
“The spirit of seeking understanding through personal contact with people of other nations and other cultures deserves the respect and support of all.” Gerald R. Ford remarked to foreign exchange students on July 13, 1976.
The quote above reminds me of why I became a Youth Exchange and Study (YES) exchange student. It was a major decision and I never imagined that I would be blessed with such an amazing opportunity to visit the United States and lead a new life like as average American teenager. Ever since I stepped into this new country, I have had opportunities to learn new things everyday, to make life in this world better, and to connect to people around the world through getting to know each other better by sharing our cultures with each other. When I started getting along with the people of United States, I got to know how diverse and unique this country is. I met a lot of people from different backgrounds who hold onto their traditions, but share American values and beliefs, which truly made me realize how the United
States can be a "melting pot" of different culture and people. These people are taking part in each other's every day lives, live peacefully, and share their happiness, sorrow, and emotions with each other despite cultural differences. This really amazes me when I think about it in the context of my country, Bangladesh. These things taught me how I can take initiative to let people in Bangladesh know that a country can be really diverse but still be peaceful with people sharing same beliefs and attitudes. I have gotten the love and care from each and every person I met in the United States. The way people greeted me here and helped me made me feel really good. When I talked to them about my goals, they gave me suggestions on how to achieve them. I shared my Bangladeshi culture in my high school in US and was really amazed to see how eager the students were to learn about and practice it; I got the feeling that they enjoy different cultures and learning new things. I tried sharing my language and its basic to the students and teacher and was so surprised to see that they asked me to correct them if they had any errors while speaking my language in the following days.
In my journey, I promised to see how the American people help those around them solve basic social problems and satisfy the basic needs of the people to keep the society neat. I learned that volunteering can be one big solution to simple social problems. I got to see how people help their communities stay clean, free of hunger, joyful, and supportive. I also participated in these volunteering activities – as a part of my program requirements, I've already done 120 hours of volunteering service in my community, Cheboygan, Michigan. My host mom is a coordinator of PAX, so she helps me find volunteering services in the community. Also I get information about volunteering services on my school's volunteering bulletin board. I have worked for my family's community church's Cheboygan Community Food Bank Service. I helped the church package and distribute food items to the needy people of the community every month. I also helped the church during its Fall Harvest Fest 2012 by serving food to the people there. For Christmas, I decorated the church and rang bells for the caroling on Christmas Eve. In addition to working at the church, I have also volunteered for an organization that helps girls and women with pregnancy related complications. I helped it cater for its dinner night with a bunch of other volunteers. I had a great night helping and serving people that night at the "Crisis Pregnancy Center.” There, I got to know how the organization is helping these women in bad condition to raise their kids with proper facilities, providing for their every need, and collecting donations for them.
To help my community know about my culture and its importance of hosting foreign exchange students, I took part as a volunteer in the "Annual Homecoming Parade" at my high school. During International Education Week sponsored by The US Department of State, I presented about Bangladeshi culture, language, tradition, sports and arts to the students of mt high school to help them know more about my country. I held 4 hour-long presentations in 4 different classes in my school. The kids enjoyed learning about my country and showed their curiosity about its position and living conditions. I made them aware of the family life and relationships and the traditional outfit that we wear everyday. From talking about the government to discussing tourism, I tried sharing every single detail that I think a person from a foreign country should know regarding to my country. I loved the response from the students and teachers and their collaborated support toward my journey as a “Youth Ambassador of My Country Bangladesh".
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