Side by side: American and Bangladeshi flags.
CIANA provides free civics courses for immigrants seeking to learn more about the United States’ history and prepare for their citizenship interviews. Hamida Begum, a CIANA civics program student came to the United States three years ago and is eager for the day she gets her citizenship. Communications Intern Rozina Zeidan sat with Hamida to speak more about her past experiences in Bangladesh and her current experiences in the U.S.
Rozina Zeidan: What were you doing before coming to the U.S.?
Hamida Begum: I was a teacher. Our main education system is in Bengali and English, but mainly in Bengali. I was a teacher for middle school and college, and a senior teacher for 20 years.
RZ: What was it like when you first came to the United States? Was it a big difference from before?
HB: Of course. It is a big difference from my country. My country is small, but America is a big country.
RZ: What was the biggest difference you noticed when you came here?
HB: A lot of things are different here: culture, education system, lifestyle -it’s almost a fast lifestyle here. In my country it is slow -economic, culture, education, business, social life - all of it is slow, but it’s because we are a developing country.
RZ: Did you ever visit the United States before coming here three years ago?
HB: No, my first time was three years ago. I visited India, Thailand, and Singapore before, but not America.
RZ: Have you only been in New York since you came here? Did you visit New Jersey, California, or other states?
HB: No, I have only been here. But I want to visit Florida. My aunt and cousin live there. I have a friend who lives in Georgia. I will go there for a visit.
RZ: What do you think about CIANA and our citizenship classes?
HB: It’s good. I knew some things before, but I didn’t know about American culture, history, and civics. Sometimes I use the internet so I can try to learn about these topics, but CIANA is more helpful to me.
RZ: How long have you been coming to our classes?
HB: First time I come here is in 2019, then I went back to my country and came back. I’ve been here at least two months.
RZ: When you do become a citizen, what are you most excited about doing since you’ve learned a lot about civic duties, voting, and participation in American democracy?
HB: Voting is exciting. When I become a citizen, I want to vote. It would be a great opportunity for me.
RZ: Do you have any advice for someone who is new to America?
HB: America is a big country and the people are good, but life is still so fast and very costly. It is good, but it is a faster life. Sometimes I feel frustrated. It is so expensive.
If you have money, you can afford everything. I like this government, mainly Astoria is a good place, no violence. I can talk freely, do everything freely, no one bothers you.
I like this country for education, freedom, religion, democracy. Then I advise you to come for your better life, you build up your better life from education. If you have the effort, money-you come. This is a nice country. You say opinion, with no issue. So that’s why you come, you can do anything here.