Finding my BASHA (Home) at Harvard as a Bangladeshi

Category Student Spotlight


Samia Afrose Class of '25
Authored on June 22, 2023


I remember in my elementary school we had character day where we dressed up as a character from one of the books we were reading at the time, so I strategically chose to read a chapter book about a princess. Although I enjoyed reading about the princess, I was most excited to dress up as one. To me, a princess is not necessarily someone who wore a tiara on their head or glass slippers on their feet. It is someone who twirls in her lehenga to reveal the elegant material and moves her wrists to hear the clashing bangles.

My South Asian identity unequivocally influenced my childhood and life as a student, especially in elementary school. For lunch, I would bring sandwiches from home, but I would also bring aloo bhaji and paratha or desi-inspired noodles, not caring about the prevalence of its aromatic spices in the cafeteria. While kids would typically run to the TV to watch PBS Kids or Disney, I would run to the computer to watch the next episode of a serial or a Bollywood movie with my Ammu (mother). 

Samia Afrose and Rana Albaadani at the BASHA Pohela Falgun Dawat

However, as years passed and I became increasingly busy with school and extracurriculars, the opportunities to strengthen my connection with my culture decreased. There was a lack of motivation to further immerse myself in its rich history and news. This was the case until I arrived at Harvard. When entering Harvard I was elated to connect with the various affinity groups on campus such as the Harvard Islamic Society, and the Bangladeshi Association of Students at Harvard (BASHA). What I did not expect as an outcome of my journey here so far was my growing passion and curiosity to learn more than what I already knew about Bangladesh.

I was previously not very aware of the history or politics of Bangladesh and was instead more familiar with the vibrancy, spices, attire, and traditions. It was partially due to my friends, who were curious to learn about Bangladesh's politics and history, and hearing my peers speak about their cultural history and political status of the state, that motivated me to take the time to understand it. I am fortunate enough to have friends at Harvard who appreciate my food during Eid when I invite friends who are too far from home. Everyone is cracking jokes and conversing over biryani, bhurtas, shashlik, cha (tea), and mishti (sweet). My friends’ fascination extended to appreciating Desi clothing by wearing a salwar kameez to the various BASHA events as well. It is the diverse Harvard community I surround myself with that has not only enlightened me about their culture and history but has also been just as excited to learn about mine. 

As an executive board member of BASHA, I am constantly surrounded by high-spirited, loving Bengali peers who help me strengthen the connection to my identity. We reminisce about the relatable memories that have occurred in our lives, the unique cuisine of Bangladesh, and the struggles in both Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi community we experience. This is a space to inform each other about the latest news in Bangladesh, wear our salwar kameez, lehengas, and saris to the various BASHA events, and catch up over warm, comforting cha.

I am grateful to my parents for raising me to love and embrace my Bangladeshi identity, as well as the welcoming community I have found on campus. These are the people who constantly motivate me to educate myself not only about other people’s cultures but also my own. Although I was raised around Bangladeshi traditions, I acquired knowledge far beyond its rich spices and vibrant culture. I have learned to love bhindi (okra dish) and not be intimidated by the bones in ilish maach anymore; I have learned more about the history of Bengali and the struggles the people of Bangladesh faced in order to preserve this sweet language; most importantly I have learned more about my roots. I look forward to continuing to learn more about my culture, teaching Bengali to my friends, asking my abbu more questions about Bangladesh’s history, and learning how to cook various Bangladeshi dishes from my ammu. It is spaces such as my home with my family and Harvard with my friend that have enabled me to further explore my cultural identity and inform others.


Samia Afrose Class of '25

Hi! My name is Samia Afrose.