I am almost back in the United States. What a year it has been. To begin to describe the Fulbright journey is to begin a novel of my personal and professional growth. As I sit here in the Edinburgh airport waiting for my flight to New York, I leave Bangladesh free as bird. Not that Bangladesh ever caged me. It was my frightened, insecure ego that kept me confined. But Fulbright and Bangladesh gave enough space to spread my wings and discover a world of endless possibilities--a world available to me if I climbed out of that shell and believed.
My heart still aches for Bangladesh: for the work that finally came together, for the friends who stole my heart, for the passion of such a congested place. I passed through Kolkata on my home, stepping into memories where the paagli didi journey began--I know I'll be back in Bangladesh at some point. My first visit to India effected me enough that I went back. Then when Bengal touched my heart, I came back again. I've proven that when I care about a place, I manage to find a way back.
So here is the end of my Fulbright experience in Bangladesh. I recommend Fulbright (or any similar scholarship) to any young person wanting a challenge. It has been the most rewarding experience in my life (though young, I've had plenty of amazing experiences). As for Bangladesh: when people ask the trite question, "What is Bangladesh like?" My answer is always "intense and beautiful." South Asia is just raw and real, that's what's beautiful. To paraphrase a metaphor by poet Andrea Gibson, Bangladesh is a knife that carves holes in your soul so beauty can make its way inside.
Endless thanks to those who were a part of this odyssey, both in Bangladesh and abroad. The shape of the journey depends on the company, and your company enveloped me in love. So love is all I experienced.
If anyone is interested in learning more about women's empowerment, Bangladesh or the Fulbright scholarship, please email me at amanda dot ferrandino (at) gmail dot com.