“Our foreign exchange students are vital to our mission to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding, diversity and respect.”
Henry Principal Yusuf Abdullah
Patrick Henry High School welcomes Mehsan Mararib from Bangladesh (officially the Peoples Republic of Bengladesh). The name Mehsan means a good, honest person. Nearly 8,000 miles away in the beautiful city of Rangpur, Mehsan was a 12th grader in the same school he had attended for 13 years, ever since nursery school. In this private school the curriculum is mostly taught in English. A typical school day begins at 8:30 a.m. with seven 40 minute classes that end at 1:30 p.m. Students do not choose their classes; they are assigned classes according to one of the three programs to which they are selected: science, commerce or art. Students stay in the same classroom all day and it is the instructors that revolve between classes. Since there is no movement between classes students do not have lockers as they do at Henry.
At the end of a typical day Mehsan returns home, spending time with his family and working with two tutors who come to his house for sessions. Tutoring is common for city students; however, in the countryside a village will have a master who tutors five to six students in his home. For the most part, students in the city are more educationally prepared. Other inequities between city and village students include a limited amount of Wi-Fi in the country and fewer human services.
Clubs and sports are engaged outside of the school day. Mehsan has participated in soccer which is played on the school field.
He is passionate about students taking a stand on issues. He tells of his country being the only one in the world to fight to keep their mother language; this was accomplished on February 21, 1952. On that day students in Bangladesh took a stand and rebelled to preserve the right to speak their language, Bangla. Mehsan talks with pride about family members that fought in the war for Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistani rule–independence was attained on December 16, 1971.
Mehsan’s immediate family includes his parents, both English professors at very well-reputed institutions, a 12-year-old sister and a 3-year-old brother. They enjoy trips in the park, to the capital city of Dhaka, and to Cox’s Bazar Beach. His family dines together every night. Supper, one of four daily meals, is never before 9:30 p.m. which is typical for Bangladesh. Special holidays in Bangladesh, a country of 90 percent Muslims, are Eid-ul-Fitr (marking the end of Ramadan), Eid-ul-Azha and Pohela Baishakh. His family, like most city dwellers in Bangladesh, have no pets. In fact, the group of foreign exchange students from his country had an orientation to cats and dogs when coming to the U.S. — touching and petting them for the first time. His host family has two cats and two dogs and he loves them!
Mehsan has many other loves about the U.S. and Henry High School. “I love waking up every morning and coming to school here!” One of the reasons for Mehsan’s excitement is that he has an interest in robotics—an option unavailable in his home school. He joined the cross-country ski team, despite the fact that his first experience with snow has been here, adding, “I enjoy trying out new things and going out of my comfort zone and I’m really liking the snow so I figured I would enjoy skiing too!”
Mehsan was selected by the YES Program (Youth Exchange And Study Program), which comes from a U.S. grant available in 40 countries. The process of application is very competitive with extensive exams resulting in only 4 percent of applicants (29 persons) to represent Bangladesh. Meshan’s reaction to the acceptance call? He screamed!
When he returns to Bangladesh, Meshan will join the YES alumni association. He will continue to be a 12th grader, and like his peers, he will take exams to determine his future—a future that he hopes will include attending a university and becoming a mechanical engineer with a focus in aerospace engineering. He also plans to continue community service, especially to help support youth who are active in making a positive change. He is hopeful his future will include a return trip to the U.S.
“I love Henry. Henry already feels like Phamily,” reports Mehsan. “Before I came here I was worried I wouldn’t fit in or belong, but ever since I came here I have felt like I found a new home away from home! I love the people and the diversity here. It’s fascinating being able to see so many different cultures, and, also, experiencing them!”
Two first floor hallway displays at Henry High showcase Mehsan and Bangladesh. One display was prepared by Mehsan from Powerpoint presentations he has shared with classes and other groups. The second display, prepared by Ms. Breedlove, chronicles Mehsan’s life in Bangladesh and his immersion into the life of the Henry High community.
This article was written by Susan Breedlove and Tom Murray