Fariha Kazi

Sun Dec 20 2020 05:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)


I was born and raised in Hawaii, and was the only Bengali-Muslim girl in my high school. The first day of every school year began with a familiar pause, like a teacher trying to figure out how to say my name or a guy asking me, ‘Which Indian are you? Pocahontas or Jasmine?’ I was shocked at how close-minded people could be, especially considering that Hawaii is one of the most diverse states in America. I always felt like an outsider growing up there.
In 2012, I visited New York City (NYC) for the first time. I was a freshman in high school and fell in love with the city and it’s communities full of unique people and families. The Bengali community in NYC was much larger than the one in Hawaii. I knew this was where I wanted to go to college. Most people in Hawaii don’t go anywhere too far for college. They usually end up in California or Washington, but I was determined to experience a new life and surround myself with a diverse crowd of people I knew I would never meet if I stayed in Hawaii.
I had always wanted Bengali-Muslim friends growing up. It was hard growing up with no one to relate to about my culture. Although many Bengalis attend the University of Hawaii as international students, we would eventually part ways. I wanted that stability, connection, and sisterhood that I saw among East Coast Bengalis.
Four years later, I was accepted by St. John’s University in Queens, NY. I attended a campus tour and immediately felt at home. This was where I wanted to be, but it would also be the hardest transition I’d make in my life. I was coming from a small community where people went to the beach and relaxed all the time to a bustling city. I didn’t know much about dorming, college life, or honestly, myself.
I endured, and am stronger for it. To this day, everyone I meet asks me, ‘Which place do you like better? New York or Hawaii?’ I don’t think I’ll ever have a straight answer, but I will always be ‘the girl from Hawaii in love with New York.’