In September 2013, Anika Mysha and Mehdee Hasan set out to create a home away from home for Bangladeshi students at the University of Saskatchewan: the Bangladesh Undergraduate Student Federation. Fast forward five years, and the BUSF has become a well-known student group.
On March 3, the BUSF hosted the International Mother Language Day celebration on campus, an event that allowed Bangladeshi students as well as students from many other cultural backgrounds to share their heritage with other students, staff and faculty. Pritam Sen, a fourth-year engineering student and the current president of the BUSF, recalled that roughly 80 per cent of those who attended stayed for the duration of the event.
The group received a great deal of positive responses to Mother Language Day, but to founder Mysha, the simple recognition of Bangladesh’s independence was the most rewarding aspect.
“When I first came [here], a lot of people didn’t even know that Bangladesh is a country and thought it was part of India, which it is not. We have our own language, we have our own culture, [and] we have our own heritage… Now, when I talk to them, they know where Bangladesh is.”
Initially, the goal of the BUSF was to provide a platform from which Bangladeshi students could share their culture. Since then, the BUSF has made it their vision to expand their initiatives beyond the borders of just their own federation.
“We came here to get to know other people and work with other cultures,” Hasan said.
The BUSF strives to work alongside other groups, such as the U of S Students’ Union and the Modern Language Association, to make things like Mother Language Day into campus-wide events. Hasan believes that, to create change, you need to step outside your comfort zone and take advantage of networking opportunities to increase public awareness of your group’s existence.
Members of the BUSF are proud of the substantial progress they have made in educating fellow students about the history of Bangladesh, a goal they could only have achieved by working together and motivating one another to see the bigger picture.
“Being part of a student group gives you a voice. It allows you to do more things and create a larger impact,” Mysha said.
Like many blossoming organizations, however, the BUSF has faced its fair share of setbacks, a fact Hasan reflects on.
“Of course, there were ups and downs. You cannot start something and think that it is going to take off right away. It doesn’t happen,” Hasan said.
However, Hasan, Mysha and Sen agree that there have been more ups than downs, and although it is hard work, seeing the impact their group has made on students’ lives has been one of the greatest rewards.
“The number of Bangladeshi students on campus is increasing every year. This year, we have had the largest number of new members join our group. I can only see this group growing and getting bigger and [more] well-known across campus,” Sen said.
As this semester comes to a close and student groups prepare for the next academic year, I think they can take away one important message from the BUSF: success within a student organization comes from efforts to create inclusiveness with promotions and events and from working alongside others instead of operating independently.
The founding members of the BUSF believe that their collaborative efforts and the relationships they have built have contributed greatly to their success thus far and that it is important for them to pass down this vision to the next generation of BUSF members.
Photo: Bangladesh Undergraduate Student Federation / Supplied