Every Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) cohort includes students from around the world. This provides our participants with the unique opportunity to live and learn with people they would probably never otherwise meet. Close bonds form and NWCCI alumni often report learning more than they could have imagined about the places their new friends come from. Below Raju Pulivandlas, a 2013-14 participant who studied business at Edmonds Community College, writes about how his perspectives about Bangladesh and Pakistan changed as he became close to students from those countries and how he had to travel to the other side of the world to meet his neighbors.
Pakistan, India, Bangladesh: The entire world knows about the negative relationships between these three countries. Every time someone sees the news on these countries, people usually search for how many died or who was assassinated. As an Indian, every time I see the news regarding Pakistan there is usually a negative comment on the entire country. I used to blame the entire country for all that I see in the news, until I met those countries’ citizens.
My name is Raj and I am from south central India. The countries that I am talking about are my neighbors. Every time I see the news about some blasts happening somewhere in India, I used to hear news about my neighboring country’s citizens being involved. Sometimes, there were open statements threatening India by these countries. I used to think that I can be friends with any countries’ citizens except these couple of countries – until I met two people from these countries. These two women became like my sisters and are very close to my heart.
Nabila, Raj and Lutfun are the people in this photograph. Pakistan – India – Bangladesh – in that order, as citizens of our own respective countries. I never knew that I could be so close to people from Bangladesh and Pakistan after hearing all those negative news stories about these countries. I personally love Nabila from Pakistan and Lutfun from Bangladesh. I call Nabila “Bhaji” which means sister in Hindi – the language we both can speak. Lutfun is the lastborn, the youngest one in this program – however, I think she is also the smartest one.
Hindi is the Indian national language. I was surprised that both Nabila and Lutfun can understand the language and Nabila is fluent. We got connected as we were able to talk in language other than in the US. We used to spend hours together talking about our families, the culture, food, movies etc. Ironically we never spoke about the relationship between our countries. Our personal relationship had so much to share that we forgot that there are no proper relations between our countries.
While in the US we visited almost every day. I still remember the days when we spoke together for hours. Lutfun used to treat me like her own brother and she still does. I won’t forget the love and care she showed me when I was suffering with fever: medicine, scolding and hot Chai. Lutfun’s perspective on life is very interesting and that’s why even people who are older than her would take suggestions from her.
After meeting these people my entire perspective on my neighboring countries has changed. These countries are now my sisters’ countries. And my prayer is that our countries’ relationships would grow as strong as we three are.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.