7 days ago

Fulbright scholarship

It was Nahida's dream come true

Nahida Sultana
Nahida Sultana

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In a world where dreams often remain just that-dreams-there are inspiring stories of individuals who transcend barriers to turn their aspirations into reality. One such story is that of Nahida Sultana, an assistant professor of English at Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET) in Bangladesh, who achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a Fulbright scholar and embarked on a transformative journey as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) at Cornell University, New York.

Nahida's journey began in her childhood when she harboured a deep-seated desire to explore the world and understand diverse cultures. This dream gained clarity and direction during her time as a student at the English Department of Dhaka University, where she was inspired by senior students and esteemed teachers who shared fascinating tales of the Fulbright programme. Determined to join their ranks, Nahida set her sights on the Fulbright FLTA scholarship.

In 2023, Nahida's perseverance paid off. After a rigorous selection process that included highly competitive stages and an intense interview, she received the email that would change her life: she had been selected as a Fulbright FLTA scholar for the academic year 2023-24. With her acceptance letter in hand, Nahida embarked on a journey that would take her to the prestigious halls of Cornell University, one of the Ivy League institutions renowned for its academic excellence.

From the moment Nahida arrived in the United States, she was warmly welcomed by the Cornell community. The support she received from faculty and fellow scholars made her transition to a new environment smoother and less daunting. As an FLTA, Nahida wore many hats. She was not only a teacher imparting Bangla language and culture to her students but also a student herself, learning from the diverse academic and cultural environment around her. Moreover, she served as an ambassador of Bangladesh, sharing her rich cultural heritage with the Cornell community.

Nahida's role at Cornell was multifaceted. She taught Bangla at the Department of Asian Studies, engaging students in the vibrant traditions, history, and language of Bangladesh. Her classes were more than just language lessons; they were cultural exchanges that fostered mutual understanding and respect. As the first Bangladeshi to inaugurate Bangla FLTA position at Cornell, Nahida set a precedent for future scholars.

Beyond her teaching responsibilities, Nahida immersed herself in the academic and cultural life of Cornell. She participated in international conferences, workshops, and various outreach programmes, broadening her horizons and building invaluable networks. Her efforts extended beyond the campus as she visited historical sites, museums, and other top-tier universities like Harvard and MIT, where she shared the diverse and colourful culture of Bangladesh.

Nahida's journey was not without its challenges. Adapting to new foods, and weather, and overcoming cultural shocks required resilience and patience. Yet, these experiences only strengthened her resolve and enriched her perspective on cross-cultural communication. The Fulbright FLTA programme not only honed her professional skills-such as teaching techniques, language proficiency, and leadership but also facilitated personal growth in areas like adaptability and self-confidence.

Among several United States cultural exchange programmes, The Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) is the unique one aiming at improving intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence between the people of the United States and other countries.

The FLTA scholarship is designed to develop Americans' knowledge of foreign cultures and languages by supporting teaching assistantships in more than 35 languages at hundreds of US institutions of higher education as well as by offering educators from over 55 countries the opportunity to refine their professional skills. Reflecting on her time as an FLTA, Nahida is filled with a profound sense of accomplishment and gratitude. The opportunity to teach and share her language as well as culture in such a prestigious setting was both challenging and rewarding. Nahida cherishes the pride of representing Bangladesh, the respect she garnered, and the extensive knowledge she gained about American customs, lifestyles, and the education system.

Nahida's story is a testament to the transformative power of the Fulbright programme. It highlights the importance of cultural exchange and the profound impact it can have on individuals and communities. Her journey has not only shaped her career but also inspired her to continue promoting cultural understanding and language education in her future endeavours.

As Nahida looks back on her incredible journey, she sees herself as a dreamer and a lifelong learner who has been blessed with the title of Fulbright scholar. Her advice to future Fulbright FLTA applicants is simple yet powerful: "Never stop dreaming, and make your dreams bigger than you."

Nahida Sultana's story is a beacon of hope and inspiration, proving that with determination, perseverance, and a bit of dreaming, one can indeed turn their aspirations into reality. For aspiring scholars and dreamers alike, Nahida's journey serves as a powerful reminder that the path to achieving one's dreams is often paved with hard work, resilience, and an unwavering belief in oneself.

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