Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Outside her comfort zone

Abdul-Musawwir heads to Bangladesh with a Fulbright award

Rasheeda Abdul-Musawwir grew up as a minority within a minority. Her family, American Muslims among Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia, immersed themselves in a diverse community.

That background, she said, prepared her to take intellectual risks in college.

Abdul-Musawwir plans to continue her educational journey next year in Bangladesh, where she will be teaching English as a Fulbright Scholar in the English Teaching Assistantship program.

"Teaching English in Bangladesh will allow me the chance to do two things I long for: teach young people English and become part of a community of people I want to learn more about," she said.

A native of Boston, Abdul-Musawwir identifies her decision to major in women's studies as a turning point.

"Prior to Wheaton, I found myself often questioning gender stereotypes, however, I was too shy to be expressive about my opinions," she said. "Women's studies challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and learn to be an active feminist."

Having taken courses in education, she finds welcome challenge in teaching. She has built up a resume of teaching experience with volunteer opportunities on campus and having spent several summers as a teacher with the non-profit Breakthrough Collaborative program in Cambridge, Mass.

"Teaching provides you with constant feedback, which is determined by how receptive students are to your performance," she said. "This requires a teacher to constantly look back on his or her work and reevaluate."

When Abdul-Musawwir heads to Bangladesh, it will not be her first trip abroad. She won an award from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which enabled her to spend the spring semester of her junior year in Morocco.

"During my time in Morocco I studied transnational identity and migration and  modern standard Arabic. In addition, I wrote a thesis on migration and the feminization of poverty in rural Morocco," she said. "Aside from doing research, I spent a majority of my time traveling throughout the country, practicing Arabic and trying to explore new areas every time I got the chance."

In some ways, Abdul-Musawwir's Fulbright year in Bangladesh will be a return home. Although the women's studies major has never visited the country before, her parents hosted a Bangla family in their Boston home for three years.

"Everyday life was hectic. However, we found beauty within the miscommunication and language and cultural differences," she said. "Through nightly gatherings in our living room sharing stories, our love for genuine connections and family was not lost in translation."