My journey as an international student

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Tartela Tabassum
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I came to the United States from a small country in South Asia called Bangladesh. Coming from a different country, my story of getting a higher education can be classified as unlike many students in college today. 

After high school, I decided to take some time off to help with my family’s financial condition. When a year went by, I felt like it was time for me to continue my education. But sickness and lack of preparation prevented me from passing any of the required entrance exams. It was too expensive to take them a second time. Instead I got married in order to remove some of the burdens of my family.

I never gave up on my dream.  Even with a husband, I still wanted to continue my education. Being from a Muslim background, I had to face a lot of barriers of negative reactions from my family, friends, and even my husband in the beginning. My story continued when I came to the United States at the age of 18 with hopes of going to college. My husband thought it would be impossible and that I wouldn’t fit in, but I showed that I was willing to work. I began learning English by going to the library, doing volunteer work, and just talking to people. When my husband saw this, he started to believe in me and to support me.

Two and a half years after high school I finally got into the Community College of Allegheny County as an international student. Even though I should have been rejoicing, I felt there was a sigma about community college. I was told that no one wanted to go there and it was people’s last option, but for me it was everything. I ignored the negativity. I am the first person in my family to go to college and particularly the first girl in anything STEM related. Sometimes a lack of self-confidence and language barriers can get me down, but wanting to make my family proud is what helps get me through it all.

When I first began taking classes I had no friends and I always felt alone; I was desperate to make a connection with people. Also, as an international student my tuition was higher and so money was an issue. I worked hard to earn good grades even though I worried my education might end because of my low financial condition. I even thought about dropping out, but then I got an invitation from Phi Theta Kappa. I took the first steps and joined PTK so that I could talk to people and make friends. I became involved in PTK activities, which helped me make a connection with people and also helped relieve some of my financial hardships by helping me apply for scholarships. 

Even though it seemed like there was little chance for me to become a success in college, my positive attitude and patience have made it possible. I’ve learned that by cooperating and communicating with others more, I improve my ability to become both a compassionate leader and learner, and also to make connections with people. When I’ve thought of giving up, I learned to take a step back and look for a way move forward with more energy. I am proving everyone wrong who has doubted me.