Ever since BSAUS President Hasnat Zahan came to Canada last year to pursue a master’s degree in computer science, he has known how important it is to make international students feel like they are “part of a family.”
“Whenever a new student comes to Canada, one of the first things they feel is, ‘I don’t have anyone here,’” Zahan said.
The Bangladeshi Students’ Association at the University of Saskatchewan holds an annual Freshers’ Reception and Farewell to connect new students with one another, resources and the Saskatoon community through Bangladeshi culture.
“The main point of doing this is just to let a Fresher know that you are not alone,” Zahan said.
On Nov. 9, students in the BSAUS and families who live in the city packed the Education Building’s Quance Theatre, welcoming students who recently moved to Saskatoon to study at the U of S and to give awards to graduates belonging to the ratified student group.
“Freshers” are considered to be any student beginning their first year of an undergraduate, master’s or doctorate program. Any newcomers can join the nearly 270 members of BSAUS. The program included celebrating graduating students’ successes and Bangladeshi culture through traditional songs and dances.
The event was primarily spoken in Bengali and included games testing the Freshers’ knowledge of the language and its alphabet for prizes. Zahan does not want the language to be lost in Canada, so the decision to hold the event in Bengali was an important one.
“English is the most important language in the world but what I feel is sometimes people forget their own language,” Zahan said. “What we want is to give them a feeling and a sense that, yes, Bengali is still alive.”
The association also invites Saskatoon’s Bangladesh community to join the fun and games. This event is not only an opportunity for new students to connect with residents but also for the BSAUS executive to make its presence known in the city.
“The community people, they love it,” Zahan said. “Through this function, everybody knows our names so if they need to talk to someone who represents the student community, they can call us.”
For the event, the executive prepared choreographed re-enactments and lip-syncing of scenes from Bangladeshi musicals to celebrate their culture’s cinematic history by highlighting how styles have changed.
“For the last one-and-a-half weeks, I came home each and every day at 3 a.m. because I was rehearsing in the education lounge,” Zahan said.
Zahan says an improvement to this year’s event was connecting students to more groups by featuring speakers from the International Student and Study Abroad Centre, the Graduate Students’ Association, and the Arts & Science Students’ Union.
Since August, the BSAUS executive team has launched quite a few new projects. These include having a booth at Welcome Week that offers information to students and holding a Freshers and executive meet and greet. The BSAUS also offers additional arrival accommodations for Bangladeshi students alongside those provided by ISAAC. Zahan says this is done out of a sense of “duty.”
Before the event moved to dinner and dance, the BSAUS honoured two people with a Lifetime Achievement Award who “had done a lot for the community.” Zahan is thankful to the performers, volunteers and community who supported the event.
“Without the help of all the sponsors, the GSA and ISSAC who helped us financially — as well as the volunteers — this event would not have even been possible,” Zahan said.
Noah Callaghan/ Staff Writer
Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor