Shifti Kamal ’20 (right) and her Sweet Briar friends at Opening Convocation 2017
Wanting to leave home and travel 8,000 miles for college cannot be a spontaneous decision. There was a lot that went into it for me. Would I get to study what I want? Would I be able to follow my professor in class? Would I be able to make friends? How would I live without the best food in the world?
My experience at Sweet Briar College made me realize that this was exactly what I was looking for all along. All I ever cared about was to find a place that would push me, make me work, and help me discover myself. I was never looking for comfort; I was looking for a challenge. And this is it for me.
My first semester here was a roller coaster ride. Not only did I have to adjust to a new country, but also to a new academic structure. My curriculum back home was entirely different from the U.S. It was different to the point where I did not even know how credit hours worked. I had never written a paper before. I was still using British spellings and the “wrong” date format.
Kamal (sitting, right) and her high school friends in Dhaka, Bangladesh
I knew I had to speed up in order to keep up with all my peers. But of course, it was more stressful than I anticipated. I was scared to share my problems with anyone. Until one day, I bumped into my yoga professor, and I know she could tell I was nervous. She asked me to calm down and not be so hard on myself, and that it was okay to talk to my professors about my difficulties. That was all I needed to get back up and remind myself that this is the challenge I had always asked for.
Since then, I have gone to my professors without hesitation for anything I need. My professors have always been there for me. Sometimes they explain an entire class’ worth of topics to me over email on a Saturday morning, sometimes they ask me to join them in taking their dog for a walk while they help me with a case briefing, and sometimes they just want to check in on me.
It is indeed a home away from home. To me, home is where your family is. And I found my second family here.
Kamal and her class at Fall Step Singing, one of many Sweet Briar traditions
When I was upset about spending a religious holiday without my family for the first time, my hall mates surprised me with desserts, incense and random music they got off the internet thinking that was what I listened to. When I was worried about my finals, my friends left me encouraging notes on my whiteboard. Whenever I missed breakfast because I was running late for my 8 a.m., the cafeteria staff saved me some waffles.
Being an international student at Sweet Briar is not an experience found anywhere else. Here, you will find a home, no matter where you’re from. You will find your voice — I know I have. At Sweet Briar, you are a leader. You are a woman with vision. At Sweet Briar, you are fierce.
Shifti Kamal is an international affairs and psychology double major with a philosophy minor from Dhaka, Bangladesh. She’s a resident advisor and was an admissions ambassador. She also serves as the international students representative on campus, is president of the Model UN club and loves teaching her friends weird words in Bangla.