Neamat Ullah came to the United States knowing little to no English but started high school within a year. Four years later, he graduated with advanced courses on his resume and a dozen community involvement opportunities under his belt. In his story, he shares his experiences in Bangladesh, his transition to the U.S., the changes that has brought and how his family’s unwavering support has gotten him this far. This story is part of MALA’s scholarship essay contest. To see more scholarship essays, click here.
Life is like a stock market. It has many ups and downs. When stocks do well, the stockowner is happy. When stocks unexpectedly crash, the owner is disappointed and loses money. When we live in a good environment and have no troubles, we become happy, but sometimes, like the stock market, those conditions can quickly change.
I am from Kachua, a village in Bangladesh. I went to a religious Islamic school where I learned Urdu, Farsi and the Quran, but never in my first language, Bengali. My school in Bangladesh was very different. It focused solely on Islam, and I wasn’t exposed to other subjects. I didn’t get a chance to go to a school that taught other subjects because my dad wanted me to learn about Islam. I was really interested in learning about religion, but I never knew I would like science, technology, English and math until I moved to the United States.
The first time I set foot in the U.S. in December 2011 changed my life. Coming from Bangladesh, I only knew how to say, “Hi” or “How are you?” in English. I knew the alphabet, but I did not know its order. After nine months of arriving, I started high school. In order to learn English, I had to stay after school with my teachers for extra help. I read a lot and checked out books from the library to help improve my language skills. I invested time at every opportunity, even on the weekends. I am also extremely proud to say I enrolled in two AP (advanced placement) classes and one IB (international baccalaureate) computer science class my senior year.
I have an amazing family where I get a lot of love and support. I live with my two brothers and my parents. My dad’s highest education level is 5th grade, and my mom’s highest education level is 6th grade. That said, my parents want to see me succeed and grow up differently than they did. They have a dream that one day I’ll graduate from a reputable, four-year university. My dad works 70 hours a week. He has many health problems, but he still works and lets me go to school because he wants to see his dream come true. He doesn’t go to the doctor because he thinks it will cost a lot of money and that might hinder him from helping pay for my education. My parents have sacrificed a lot for me and my two brothers, and I am forever grateful for their support.
Doing extracurricular activities is my favorite thing. I love helping and meeting new people. During my sophomore year, I joined my first club, Bengali Club, where we learned more about Bengali culture. It was then that I realized how powerful community and club involvement is for an individual in high school.
That activity was the first of many. I will never forget the day when Dr. Robertson called me to his office. I was nervous because I had no idea why my principal wanted to see me. Dr. Robertson wanted to invite me to be one of the student advisory board members. I am honored to have had an opportunity to work with him and to be a part of the student advisory board. In addition, I did 150 hours of volunteer work at the Arlington County Fair, and I am now a board member there as well.
In last two years of high school, I started to get more involved. During my junior year, I joined three more clubs including world dance club, international club and LASA. I performed at the heritage assembly, international night and the talent show. Later, I performed at chaturanga, an organization from my country, prio bangla and FOBANA, the largest cultural organization in Bangladesh. I also joined outdoor cross-country and indoor track and field.
During my senior year, I decided to start an international dance club that would perform at school assemblies and evening events throughout the year. The club grew that year, and I anticipate it grew even more after I left. With my involvement in my community, school and passion for success, I know I will be successful and I look forward to a bright future.
My education is really important to me because without that I cannot reach my goals. I have been going to North Virginia Community College (NOVA) since I graduated from high school. I started at NOVA to save money and experience higher-level education. After two years, I will go to George Mason or Virginia Tech where I will pursue a degree in business. I plan to get a master’s degree in business. I know it will cost a lot of money, but that will not slow me down. I will apply for scholarships to offset my college expenses and reduce the burden on my family. Watching my parents work and my 16-year-old brother sacrifice his education to help our family has inspired me to focus on my own education.
In conclusion, life is like a stock market. Life is unpredictable. Life isn’t always perfect. Life is like riding a bicycle — to keep your balance, you must keep moving. We have to be strong because things will get better. It may be stormy now, but it never rains forever.