So, my first day that I remember vividly was going to college. For the first time. In Massachusetts. In the middle of nowhere. In western Massachusetts — Mt. Holyoke. And I’d come from this big city, Dhaka, right? So, fourteen million people, lots of noise, even at two in the morning, et cetera. And on the way there [to South Hadley], all I could see were, like, cows and fields and things. And it was just really… frightening, actually.
My first night, once I got there and we’d dropped off my things and I got out my bedsheets and I was settled in, it was pitch-dark outside the window and completely quiet. I kind of understood the term ‘thundering silence’ for the first time. ‘Cause, where I grew up, I used to hear rickshaws ting-tinging outside and prostitutes fighting and things, you know? And now, nothing. Just quiet!
I think I cried that first night [laughs]—I’m pretty sure I cried, like, all night that night. It was pretty scary. It was, oddly, the loneliest I’ve ever felt because, having grown up in such a big, busy city, and I was 17. So, that was the first culture-shock moment.
And a lot of that initial student orientation stuff was about getting familiar with the US, and it was kind of nerve-wracking because so many of the videos were about, you know, how Americans are super-friendly but they don’t necessarily mean it. It was kind of odd. It was stuff like, “Oh, they’ll ask you how you are, but that’s just their way of saying hi —they don’t really care.” So, that stuff was a little bit nerve-wracking.