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Ferdaws Rashid (Community Spotlight)

Growing up I was obsessed with Encyclopedias. Other kids would get toys for birthday gifts and I wanted encyclopedias. I’ve always loved opening books and finding facts about the world that many would disregard today. As I went into college, I wanted to explore more about the world that we live in but while doing so, I realized that I wasn’t exploring myself. I was growing up in a box. This standard brown kid, trying to please his parents and there is nothing wrong with that but I wanted to do more. I wanted to create my own shadow rather than stand in others’. My parents realized this and provided me with the environment to understand things by myself while also keeping some respectful boundaries as they should. I believe that with great communication, we can solve a lot more problems than creating them and I’ll always love my parents for teaching me how to communicate openly with them.

As my love for earth sciences continued to grow, I went through a phase of applying my contemporary research skills through a humanities lens. I started studying Islamic law and theology which provided me with a new appreciation for the world as I learned how geofencing and data science work together with Islamic tradition and history. I believe that having some sense of perturbation in our psyche gives us a better foundation for understanding who we are and what we want to be. In school, I realized that I didn’t want to just read about rocks and minerals but apply mathematical and scientific theories to the field of geology. It was these tiny perturbations that allowed me to dig further rather than be content with the basics. I didn’t even know a field known as ‘geophysics’, yet when I discovered it, geophysics became my passion. Berkeley gave me the opportunity to explore beyond what the “three types of rocks'' are or “the types of layers of the earth.” I learned about lava flows, volcanoes, black hole radiation, star data, and so much more intriguing content. Being able to apply all my skills and expertise at Berkeley made me realize how fortunate I am to be given this platform and be able to contribute to the environment through my research.

As a Bangladeshi, I’ve always been active in my community by learning the language, dressing in my traditional clothes, partaking in festivities, and learning about the food but as I grew I wanted to contribute to my community through an academic lens and being able to research that aspect of preserving this lovely Bangladeshi culture. At Cal, being part of the BSA allowed me to build a community around this culture and have people come together and talk about our traditions and love for Bangladeshi food and the Bangladeshi vibes. On the other hand, being part of the MSA board, allowed me to create strong relationships with other Muslim brothers and sisters and be vulnerable with them. As a result, I grew out of my introverted shell and became motivated to contribute more to the Muslim community and offer any help or guidance to anyone Muslim or non-Muslim alike. MSA and BSA are more than just communities and organizations to me. They are the introductory stepping stones to making friends and building relationships that will last a lifetime and it truly is a beautiful thing to be a proud Muslim Bangladeshi.

My advice for other MEMSSA identifying students is to find who you are based on what you feel like you want to be, and it does not necessarily need to reflect your upbringing. It's an abstract way of thinking, but it allows you to look beyond the psychological boxes that we were born in. Once we start breaking these barriers, we can start figuring out who we are based on our actions and then make sure to explore the world from that lens and trust me, you will find something that clicks. Don’t ever let the obstacles in your life take control of your narrative. It's part of life to face challenges and find different directions to solve them. There is no such thing as one answer. There’s an infinite amount of possibilities that you can choose from. I started out doing engineering but realized that my narrative was set in Geophysics so I made sure not to conform my true identity with the one that was pre-made for me. Just like that, you're not picture-perfect, but you're worth the picture still.

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