5 Things I Would’ve done as a Prime Minister of Bangladesh for a Day!

Recently, I was asked to submit a write-up on this topic “What will I do if I were made the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for a day?” for a job application. So I became “Super-creative” and submitted a listicle (I have nothing to loose) instead. Later I thought, this could be a good post for my blog.

One day is quite a short span of time to get anything done in Bangladesh, but the scenario is superficial anyway. Below is a list:

1. Free lunch for everyone!

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Starting from something light-hearted: why not treat all the government employees with free lunch? This will make them remember the day for quite a long time. Actually, let’s mark that day as “Farah Day” when free lunch will be served in all the government offices every year (unless the “oppositions” cancel it being envious)! No hard feeling for the privet sector; it’s just logistically easy.

2. Initiate emergency helpline number

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Like the USA has 911, Bangladesh surely needs such an emergency helpline number which will be toll-free. This number will connect the caller to an answering point that will send emergency responder to the spot. The number will be used only for emergency purpose and any misuse of the number can be considered as a crime. And just think of the all the employment opportunities we can create through this!

3. Make streets clean again.

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Okay, I know it’s the job of the city corporation, but each time I see someone throwing some trash out the car window, I cringe a little. DCC has placed trash bin along the footpath which is great, but those who are commuting somewhere via car/bus/CNG/Rickshaw, almost never wait until they get down and find some trash bin. Therefore, I will enforce a law that no one can throw anything on the road while riding a vehicle. Those who will not abide by the rule will be fined 500 taka. Buses will be instructed to place trash-bins inside the bus.

4. Bio-Degradable revolution!

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Some of my friends and I have this brainchild aka social business plan of Bio-Degradable Bin Liners (BDBL). We made this plan during our senior year. Even if we graduated and got busy into other stuff, we still have this plan at the back of our mind and I think this would be a perfect time to bring that plan into reality. I will form a committee involving my friends, some scientists, consultants, and myself who will be taking the plan forward, especially work on the prototype development. Government will be taking care of the funding of course. If things work out, Bangladesh will never see a plastic bag in the long term. (Let’s face it; even if the Government banned plastic bags long time ago, it’s still there in some other form).

5. Change the Electoral System

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This is serious and next to impossible I guess. Right now the electoral system is First Past the Post (FPTP) where a candidate gaining the highest number of votes from a particular constituency wins a seat in the parliament. Number of votes that goes to other parties does not count. I would change the electoral system to Proportional Representation (PR) where distribution of seats in the parliament depends on the number of votes each party achieves. For example, a particular political party obtained 20% of vote in an election, so this electoral system will allow the party to hold 20% of seats in the parliament. If we really want democracy in the country then PR should be the electoral system that ensures strong opposition to the ruling party as there is a variety of political parties seen in the parliament, eventually making the ruling party accountable. Read the full argument here.

Quite a busy day, eh?

What would YOU have done?

10 Things I have Done Since my Graduation

Soon it’s going to be one year that I have graduated. So I pressed the rewind button, recalled everything I have been through, and came up with this list. I might look a bit lost, but hey, that’s not that bad.

  1. Haven’t settled down for anything

1.long-term commitment is a no-no

Isn’t it too early to commit for anything right now? I worked 3 months for the Foreign Ministry, 4 months for Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), 3 months for a startup and somewhere in between, 2 months were spent chilling, travelling a bit, and contemplating what I want to do next. I could have extended my tenure at VSO or continued my full time job at the startup, but who knows, I might be missing something out there which is more worthwhile! Or maybe I need a bit of more time to decide where I actually want to “settle down”.

  1. Tossed job offers

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I had one rule to follow in terms getting into a job (and basically anything): I am gonna get out of the restaurant if I don’t like the menu. I understand I might not get exactly what I want from a job, but it has to have at least some scopes that interest me, make me wanna try out. A corporate job with a good salary and possible increment that eventually will turn me into a slave with no weekend and late night office hours for at least 3 years doesn’t trickle my taste bud.  Rather, I loved receiving a nominal allowance, staying in a remote village, and actually doing something for the people out there. I worked on weekend there as well, but that didn’t feel like slavery to me. Weird, isn’t it?

  1. Traveled around Bangladesh

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Nothing posh. Traveled to some new places and some old. I went to the Northwest region of Bangladesh for the first time and stayed there for three months at a stretch with the local people. I won’t brag that I could come out of my comfort zone there because the home I stayed in was quite decent. I didn’t have to use a make shift toilet with no ceiling. I went to Chittagong back to my friends twice for a weekend and got to see some new places; like a river with knee-deep water, a tiny village by the river, an island with only one family living there, protecting a waterfall, and a restaurant serving tribal food. In between there 4 road trips to my hometown with family and with colleagues for project purpose.

  1. Met new people

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Another perk of not settling down for anything is meeting new people in each station. I met people from every sphere of life; from a serious foreign diplomat to a talkative school girl from the village; from a courteous British feminist guy to a friendly shopkeeper at a small town who would offer me tea each time I visited his shop! Each of the people I met taught me something new and that’s why I will never be able to forget them. Or might bump into them at some point of my life, who knows?

  1. Worked for development: Myself and others

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I had the experience of being part of a development project. A brand new project, with a brand new team, at a location that has never accommodated an intervention of any kind! The number of people we reached through the project work is countless and we could see the outcome even after our tenure ended. The time spent at the project area taught me about disparity and simplicity. The amount we spend to get a burger in the city could feed a family in the village for a week! It’s not a lot of effort to ensure basic needs to these people; it just needs equal distribution of resources. I was fortunate to be able to do the least for them.

  1. Learned to let go

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Okay, not talking about boyfriends here. I lost 4 elderly family members and I had to cope with the idea that we don’t have the luxury of keeping our favorite people with us forever. Likewise, I learned not to get emotionally attached with people real soon because it will hurt real bad when they leave. I loved my nephew even before he was born; I even imagined myself dancing with him in his birthday party! Since the day he was born, I had to take him in my arms at least once. Staring at his face while he’s asleep had become my favorite pastime. Suddenly, one day his parents had to take him away from me and I couldn’t even say him goodbye. And that’s okay.

  1. Adopted healthy(-ish) habits

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It’s not like I used to lead an unhealthy life, but I made some little changes that might pay off in the long run. I’ve stopped drinking fizzy beverages, and have started to drink green tea with no sugar, twice a day. Even if at times I fall weak under peer pressure, most of the time I just think of all the money I can save by carrying lunch from home to office! I drink a mug full of hot water with lemon twice a day for detoxification. No, I am not looking forward to writing a success story of losing a massive amount of weight. The internal organs in my body have always been nice to me and this is my way to give them back.

  1. Pursued my hobby

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My hobbies changed like seasons but one thing that could never change is photography. I felt the happiest when I had a camera in my hand. Each time I took a photo with someone else’s camera, I promised myself to get one for myself some day. I saved as much as I could. I had to look away from that sexy pair of shoes or that cool backpack on the online store just to keep my promise. And finally I could buy one, even better than the ones I used to borrow from others!

  1. Made travel plans for the year ahead

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After “investing” in my interest, my account balance is in the negative scale as I had to borrow a bit of money from my parents. But, making plans costs nothing. I made dozens of travel plans with friends and family; Bhutan, Kolkata, Assam, Mumbai, Goa, and what not. I have no clue how these trips are going to get financed, but what’s wrong with planning?😀

  1. Haven’t figured life out

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And finally, I still don’t know what exactly I want to do with my life. A full time job? Short term or long term? Which sector? I have a strong feeling towards development sector? So should I opt for an INGO or a national NGO? How about a donor agency? I sure want to pursue Master’s at some point, but I don’t know what kinda program I want to get into. 1 year long or 2 year long? Which course? Home or abroad? There are so many questions I need to answer before choosing one particular way!

I just have one fear: ending up doing something that will turn out to be a burden on me later on. After all, I need to adjust the seat and other settings first before taking off, isn’t it?

A Big Dipper Phase of Life That is Worth Living

Just four weeks ago, I was stuck in the traffic of Dhaka, commuting to my work. Life was stuck in a routine, a boring one. Get up at 6 am, slip into jeans and tops, drape a scarf around the neck, have breakfast while mom packs the same thing for lunch, hop into the car, finally reach office after a sweaty battle with Dhaka traffic, and coming back home after similar struggle. Hardship doubles up when it rains. I used to be the happiest on Thursday nights. Not like I planned a lot of stuff for the weekend, stuff that could balance my weekday struggle. The thought of sleeping a bit longer in the morning and not having to go outside of home energized me a lot. I avoided going out as much as possible. Surprisingly, my parents hate to see me at home doing nothing, even if it’s weekend. They would offer me to go take a walk outside, but my one despising look was enough make them realize how much I hate the idea. Catching up with friends didn’t count and was something I was always up for because that was the only time I could be ME, only time I could rant about anything and everything, only time I could find some solace, altruistically.

I was an intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dhaka for three months. It’s not as impressive as it sounds like. Ministry never had interns before; fortunately or unfortunately, I and one of classmates were the first interns (read guinea pigs). We didn’t even have a desk to work on. We just found ourselves a place in the corner of the library. So, the internship went more like a pilot project, an opportunity to make the pitch smoother for the future interns, our juniors at the university who can thank us later. At least in one case, I was lucky because this classmate-turned-to-co-worker is one of my dearest friends. She was the best person to help me out whenever we were asked difficult questions like, “What you want to do next?” or “Why are you here?”; someone with whom I had done multiple group assignments where I always tended to be a free-rider.

We were aliens. Till the end of the internship, we had to explain to the security guard at the entrance why we want to go in. Till the end of the internship, we explained at least one person a day about our position, our motive, our job description, and why we chose to intern here at the ministry rather than going for some other sector that would make a proper utilization of us. Nobody cared or even noticed if we bunked office or left earlier. For three months, we left no stone unturned in search of opportunity to work and receive exposure as much as possible. We met some extra-ordinary personalities who have been contributing with their brainpower in terms of forming foreign policies and building up foreign relations for the country. We looked for opportunities to work where the future interns can be engaged in.

Well, we also undertook assignments that we can boast about; for example, writing up statements for Bangladesh on international issues for the UN General Assembly, researching and reporting on opportunities of some proposed and existing diplomatic missions abroad, and developing resources helpful for day to day operation of the ministry.

Sudden change of backdrop.

Within one week, I am in a van, travelling to a remote village of the Northwest of Bangladesh, a place where I have never been to, with colleagues whom I met just a couple of days ago. I was going there for a field visit because within 2 weeks I was going to shift there with 18 volunteers and my UK counterpart for three months on a development project. In the meantime, I loaded my suitcase with clothes that are “village-friendly”. No more jeans and tops. My office is at ten minutes walking distance, an abandoned room with a tinned roof, broken windows, and doors with completely nothing in it, not even a chair and a table. The only market in the village only becomes alive in the evening for couple of hours where only men come and socialize. Mode of transportation would be 3 wheeler rickshaw van and only needed if I need to get out of the village for some reason. Traffic? Well, the van driver has to slow down or brake if only there’s a queue of ducks crossing the road or a livestock relaxing on it like he owns it.

I and my counterpart chaired a meeting with the people we will be working with in the village. Here, we, especially my UK counterpart were alien too. We were asked questions that are similar to the questions asked in the ministry. This time, it was easier to answer because the answer involved them, their well being. We were there to work with the youth of the village, mobilize them, make them aware and vocal about their rights, and train them for life skills, skills that would earn them livelihood. At the same time, we will be involving the local government and make them more responsive towards the community. They accepted us at once, without any further question or doubt. They said they’ll be waiting for the time when we finally shift there and get started with the project work.

We came back with hearts full of hope. We met our volunteers, shared all the information received during the field visit. Together we travelled for 14 hours to get to the community, dealing with all kind of hardship together, starting from flat tire to slow service of lunch at a highway restaurant. We got welcomed at our village by heavy rain almost at the middle of the night, yet all of us found our way to different host homes. “Tomorrow is a new day,” said my counterpart.

It had been just 2 weeks I know him. He is not a person to be judged at first sight. The only thought that crossed my mind when I first saw him is, “Whoa! That’s a tall one!” Within two weeks I realized I wouldn’t have gotten a better counterpart. He’s the kind of person who would have a definite direction and purpose before setting out for somewhere. He’s one of the few gentle men I have met in my life with all the British-like manners poured in. You know, adding sorry, thank you, please at the end of each sentence, holding up doors, always let the ladies go first and so on. He’s very focused and passionate about the project (so am I!). He’s a good listener which is much needed for making the leadership role more balanced. Most importantly, he has his share of humor when it’s needed, which is a big relief for me. Altogether, we have built a strong working relationship. We did a great job in terms of team building. Everyone seemed super excited to know their roommates and counterparts. We were so excited to get started with the project. Team Northwest was on!

Then everything got blurred.

On the night of our very first day in the community we got to know that my counterpart has to leave for the UK to resolve a menial visa issue, immediately. After a long day of orientation, me and my counterpart sat together to reflect back to what we did for the day and what needs to be done. That’s when I got a call from the Project Manager and was conveyed this news. He said not to be frustrated, but I know how hard it is to have a straight face. I am not fancied by the line “The show must go on”. I and my counterpart realized we have no control over this issue. So we decided to do what’s best for the project: I stick to the planned activities while my counterpart flies back to the UK to resolve his visa issue and help with the project work as much as possible from long distance.IMG_5801

So here I am, in a remote village of Northwest Bangladesh, with 18 people of around my age from two different parts of the world, standing in one leg like a flamingo, eager to put the first step towards the project, eagerly waiting for the return of the other Team Leader with fingers crossed. I and my team ARE a little frustrated, but we are not hopeless. We are still working together on building the pillars of the project. It’s a full moon tonight. All my team members came together to embrace the moonlight and suddenly I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful team!

All these changes took place within four weeks, just four weeks. I love my life!

28 September 2015

5 (or maybe 4) things I’ll do When I’ve Only 24 Hours Left to Live

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A few days ago, I saw an article online which was about thing someone would do if he/she gets to know that they have only 24 hours left to live. There are actually a lot of articles as such if you just google it. When I went through one of them, it made me think what I would do if I were in that very unlikely situation. So, I came up with this list as I couldn’t decide on one single thing to do. Surprisingly, while creating the list, the thought of death didn’t scare me at all. On the other hand, I felt the sheer happiness of carrying out all these things listed below.

1. Spend all my money eating at places I always wanted to but never could.

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2. Write letters/e-mails to the near and dear ones, write about my feelings for them, appreciating what they did for me, and apologizing if I have ever hurt them.

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3. A night out with my friends, drink and party hard.

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4. Give away all my belongings.

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5. I would love to experience one more thing which requires a partner, but for the lack of a partner, I’ll give up that wish.😉

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So, what about your list?😀

Sister Love

Reblogging because it’s sister’s birthday!

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keep-calm-and-love-your-sister-1140Do you remember when you were a newborn baby, someone took you in her small arms clumsily and you bitterly complained with a cry? You were brought up wearing her clothes which she used to wear in her childhood. You enjoyed breaking her toys that she had preserved with her life for years, but she never complained about that. She is no one but your sister.

A sister is someone who used to change your diapers when you were an infant and your mother was not at home.

A sister is when she took you to the playground obeying your mother’s order. Her peers used to play joyfully there, but she couldn’t help but see that from a distance, holding you in her arms. She couldn’t join them because she had to look after you.

A sister is someone who is born to create competition for you. Sometimes you think…

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Cut the Knots of the Corruption Web

Bangladesh is a champion of corruption and we, the Bangladeshis, religiously curse corruption at every point of our lives. When we are young, we promise ourselves that we will never engage in this heinous activity. We teach our kids that corruption is a bad thing to do and how it is being a blockade for our country’s progress. Do we realize that corruption is just like a web and we are just one of the knots that is keeping the web integrated?

A few months ago, I had to visit a government office for a particular document to make a machine readable passport. My parents advised me to slCorruption: A Way of Lifeip a couple of hundred taka notes to the government employee and get the document. I complied because my plan was to get the document in hand and ask the employee whether he gets paid by the government or not when he asks for money. My parents thought it to be a very bad idea and my dad decided to go fetch the document instead.

Maybe the government employee receives a meager salary which might not be enough to run a family. As he gets accustomed to the “extra income”, his desires increase too. Sometimes we slip those hundred taka notes out of pity and because we are so rich the amount does not hurt our wallet. Most of the time, we are forced to slip the notes because we want to get things done without delay. Even if we earn the money after such toil and pay taxes to the government, we have to let go a big portion of our hard earned money paying bribes at different places. If we just randomly pick a sector, say law enforcement sector, we will find 79.6% of the household faced corruption when they sought any kind of help from the law enforcement agencies. Each household had to pay an average amount of 3,352 taka to get things done in this sector (Nawaz 2012). We feel proud of ourselves that we are not receiving bribe. However, we are bribing others and that keeps the corruption cycle going.

Now the question is how to untwine the web. In an article entitled “Anti-corruption Mechanisms in Bangladesh,” Advocate M. Shamsul Haque mentions, “…corruption in Bangladesh is considered a way of life that cannot be avoided or eradicated” (Haque). Are we going to get used to this way of life? For example, to avoid bribing, one might suggest complaining to the higher authority. It is quite confirmed we will find the higher authority corrupted to a greater level than their juniors. How can we expect them to take action against their juniors when they themselves are found guilty for the same crime? This even encourages the lower level employees to claim for bribes because they know nobody going to charge them for the crime. On top of that, their seniors might be claiming commissions from them as a price of letting them receiving bribes. As a result, corruption prevails and our life becomes so much intertwined in it that gradually we stop noticing it. Even a teacher who is supposed to teach his or her students that corruption is a bad thing has to pay a bribe to get a job in a government school. A report of Transparency International, Bangladesh mentions that to get a job as a teacher in a registered primary school, bribe is taken in the form of donation. Not only this, but also they are coerced to pay 1000-1500 taka in the name of different subscriptions when they go through a training program for “skill development” (“Administration and Management of Primary Education: Problems and the Way Out”, 5).

As a remedy to corruption, Advocate Haque suggests to make a “corruption-free” family. Parents might try to do that by encouraging their children for career option that includes less scopes of corruption, options like—doctor or engineer. Even if all of them don’t turn out to be doctors or engineers, many pursue private sectors where they think they can extricate themselves from corruption. Nowadays, parents encourage the least to go for government job because they might have to pay a huge amount of bribes to get the job. Secondly, the salary is very low and they do not want their kids to get involved in corruption to supplement their income. At the end of the day, they somehow get involved in corruption when they have to pay those extra amounts to get their passport, driving license, or at least to get rid of the traffic sergeant blocking their way for no good reason. This takes us to the state of nature described by Thomas Hobbes where human by nature is selfish (Wolff 12). People pay bribes without a big fuss because their self-interest lies there. They want to get their work done without any delay and do not mind paying for it when it is needed.

Advocate Haque also suggests exercise of religious values which I think has least to do anything with corruption. Even if we avoid corruption in fear of god, we submit to it at different levels to please our gods, such as—in the process of going for hajj or getting permission to set up a puja pandal during Durga Puja. Advocate Haque has said, corruption has become a way of life, we think it does not contradict with our religion when we are bribing people and praying to our gods simultaneously.eradicate corruption

So, what is the solution? What would have happened if I had collected that document and refused to bribe that government employee? It would not have made any difference in the whole corruption system, but it would bring some change if a large number of people do the same at once. When a group of people refuse to bribe, it sets an example that there is an option to be bold and say no to bribery. Gradually, it will ripple all over the society and make more people realize that they have the collective power to come out of the corruption web. When everyone altogether refuses to pay bribe to anyone, corruption has to stop right there. To be candid, this sounds dreamy when every individual is driven by their self-interest. The conflict here is between individual rationality and collective rationality. Collective rationality is considered the best way when everyone becomes a part of it. According to an example by Jean-Paul Sartre, individual rationality said cutting down trees would increase productivity, but that would destroy the land. Collective rationality is to avoid cutting trees altogether. Same applies in terms of states. Individual rationality lets us pay the bribe and get our work done, but when everyone does the same, it brings destruction to the state. To make collective rationality successful, effort needs to come from the agency.  Therefore, to achieve a society free of corruption, everyone needs to let go their individual rationality and become a part of the collective rationality. Is it something very feasible to think of? I hate to be pessimistic.

Works Cited

“Administration and Management of Primary Education: Problems and the Way Out.” Transparency International Bangladesh. Transparency International Bangladesh, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2014. <http://www.ti-bangladesh.org/beta3/images/max_file/rp_es_PrimEducation_En.pdf&gt;.

Haque, M. Shamsul. “Anti-corruption Mechanisms in Bangladesh.” – Asian Human Rights Commission. Asian Human Rights Commission, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2014. <http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/journals-magazines/article2/0901/08anti-corruption-mechanisms-in-bangladesh&gt;.

Nawaz, Farzana. “U4 Expert Answer.” U4: Anti-Corruption Resource Center. Ed. Gareth Sweeney. CHR. Michelsen Institute, 12 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.u4.no%2Fpublications%2Foverview-of-corruption-within-the-justice-sector-and-law-enforcement-agencies-in-bangladesh%2Fdownloadasset%2F2800>.

10 signs that say you are from AUW (it’s lame)

1. You are too cool to dress up like other girls all the time because you don’t have time for that!Image

 

Sportswear is easy to find! 

2. But when you dress up occasionally, you leave the opposite gender breathless! 

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Before and after

3. You always have something to carry with yourself, e.g. a backpack (loaded with laptop and study materials), a basketball, a guitar, or a DSLR.

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4. You are eager to go home on vacations, but you particularly don’t do anything special there, except for sleep, eat, and repeat or having intellectual fights with your family members.

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“I’m so excited, I forgot my ticket!”

5. Normally your weekends are packed up with assignments due next week, readings, club meetings, and a whole bunch of events happening in campus. 

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“So you’re telling me it’s weekend and I should relax?”

6. Whatever you eat at home or anywhere, it tastes heavenly after eating dining hall food. 

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“Let’s cook anything, it will surely taste good”

7. All those critical thinking classes make a lot of things around you illogical.

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8. Gender roles, stereotypes, sexism, racism, discrimination; you cannot pass a day without encountering one of these terms.

 

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9. You can’t wait to graduate and get out of this place, but you start getting emotional from the very beginning of your senior year.

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10. And finally, after graduation, you have no idea what you gonna do with your life (because there are way too many options or the other way round)!

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