Rock on, Marzaan!
YES international student from Bangladesh experiencing Mexican culture at a Day of the Dead festival in Arizona
Marzaan poses with La Calavera Catrina (~"Dapper Skeleton") at a Day of the Dead festival in Arizona.

Unique cultural experiences in Arizona

I have been lucky enough to experience the Mexican culture very intimately. I went to my first Day of the Dead Festival. This is the day where families remember the loved ones who passed away. I also got to see my host sister perform a special Day of the Dead performance. In the photo, I am posing with La Calavera Catrina (~"Dapper Skeleton"), but this is really only the beginning of my many adventures in the U.S. so far...

From a girl who only imagined how the outside world might look to representing my country on the other side of it is truly exciting—yet terrifying. When you meet all these new people, all eyes are on you. I have been in Arizona for a bit over a month now. In this one month, I volunteered with the church, Salvation Army, and the Family Food Center. Most of the people I have met didn’t even know that a country named Bangladesh existed.

They were fascinated to know about this vehicle called a “rickshaw.” They were also intrigued by Bangladeshi street art—a topic on which one of my art projects focused. I feel a good kind of shock when I think that the there are people from the other side of this world, who don’t even know “Rick Shaw,” while I grew up availing myself of Rick’s transportation services. Never in my life did I think I’d meet so many amazing people, get to experience so many emotions, or start to grow so much confidence—rapidly, saying, “Yes” to every positive and challenging thing that comes my way.

I never imagined I would be staying in America. And having a host sister and dressing her up in Bangladeshi clothes was beyond my imagination. So giving her a Bangladeshi makeover along with cooking desi food for the host family is truly an achievement and an honor. Other than that, playing soccer, participating in a parade, going to the homecoming dance, going to the Grand Canyon, a Spanish arts and crafts village, jumping in a creek…doing all these in a matter of 30 days is something that the old me would have never believed I could achieve.

My school and community know that there is a tiny but beautiful country named Bangladesh. They know where it is and some of its characteristics. And they’ll know more about my country and religion over the coming months, insha'Allah.

The YES alumni group in Bangladesh have been doing some quite impactful projects in the country this year. Defense 101, Medical Camp for Flood Victims, Ramadan food projects—to name a few. An alumna even did a project where she applied all the skills she learned from Workshop for Youth Leaders in English Teaching to start her own workshop. Smallfoot is a very great project started by YES alumni in which they educate underprivileged students. The YES community in Bangladesh also roundly celebrated The International Day of The Girl Child, including the “3.5 billion reasons” to raise awareness about the importance of female education in Bangladesh.

But that’s just a tiny inkling of what YES Bangladesh has done, and still, they’re striving to make more opportunities for the people of our country in order to make them educated about the good and bad, health and equality. I still have a long way to go, and it won’t be easy. But I will try my best to make the best impact I can in my local host community—just as diligently as the YES community back home are trying. And if it wasn’t for the YES program, this determination and self-confidence wouldn’t have existed. So thank you YES for everything!

—Marzaan (YES, Bangladesh), hosted by the Kitterman family (AZ)