The Journey to College

Farzana Priya confidently weaves her way through the crowded New York City subway, starting from the 6 line in the Bronx, transferring to the 4/5, then to the N/W and finally the 7 train to her destination: LaGuardia Community College. A few times a week, she treks from the Bronx to Queens to attend classes in Business Administration Health Care Management. Just six months earlier, this trek to Queens on public transportation would have been unimaginable to Priya.

“When I first came here, the biggest problem was that I didn’t speak much English and that I didn’t know how to find my way around the city,” Priya says. “Even up until a few months ago, the transportation system was confusing, and I was scared to go anywhere. Now I can go any place and I feel free when I go to college.”

Priya immigrated from Bangladesh to the U.S. two years ago, at the age of 18 with her mother and brother to come live with their father, who had moved here 10 years earlier. She had completed high school and a few classes at university in Bangladesh, however, once she moved to the U.S., her lack of English language skills and knowledge of the education system prevented Priya from applying to college at first.

Instead, she enrolled in ESL classes at Sapna, which she had found out about through her relatives. After four months of taking classes, Priya started to volunteer at Sapna.

“I learned a lot at Sapna, including how to use computers,” Priya says. “Also, the staff helped me with the process of applying to college. Filling out the forms was complicated because I didn’t know much English, but Sapna really helped me to understand.”

To expand this help to a larger audience, Sapna NYC is launching its ASHA program for young South Asian women who wish to go to college or are currently enrolled in community college. The program focuses on immigrants like Priya, who might be struggling to understand the process of applying to colleges and getting financial assistance. ASHA facilitators also provide classes on stress management, work balance, networking, mental health, and address many other important factors that affect enrollment for young women of color.

For Priya, she is very grateful that she applied for college and has found a lot of community and diversity in her classes. She has also joined the Bangladeshi Student Association, where she helps put on events.

“College is very important and classes will help you a lot,” she says. We make new friends and become comfortable with others. Also, I just completed one semester and I already know it is important for those of us who want to stay here. NYC has a lot of opportunity for all people, we have to recognize it and take this opportunity.”