From Bangladesh to Baylor

Baylor PhD student Md Kazi Rokunuzzaman left his home country, Bangladesh, for the first time in August and and began taking courses and teaching labs at Baylor. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor.

By Elise Crosley | Reporter

Baylor Ph.D student M.d. Kazi Rokunuzzaman left his home country, Bangladesh, for the first time in August and and began taking courses and teaching labs at Baylor. He is a teacher’s assistant in the physics department and has quite a heart for the subject, he said.

“Dr. Howard Lee is doing really great work in Condensed Matter Physics, specifically in optics. I want to work in linear and nonlinear optics, and he’s been doing really great work. I wanted to work with him. That’s why I decided Baylor. I have a great passion for physics,” Rokunuzzaman said.

While Rokunuzzaman makes academic strides here at Baylor, he still misses his home in Bangladesh. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees there from Jahangirnagar University, and he grew up speaking his native language, Bengali, while also learning English from an early age.

“We had to study English from the very first class we ever took. It is mandatory for us up to Class 12. In undergrad school, we are taught English. All the books and exams are in English as well,” Rokunuzzaman said.

He shared about the many traditions of his home culture. According to Rokunuzzaman, the people from Bangladesh live as joined families rather than individual nuclear families. He lived with his parents, younger brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles. There are about 10 to 12 members in each joined family.

“Nowadays, we are shifting from a joined family to a nuclear family. It’s the globalization concept. Everyone wants to live with his partner. No one has time to think about other relatives,” Rokunuzzaman said.

While he attended a university in a larger town, he grew up in a small one of about 30 square miles.

“I live in a village. Modernities were not really available. Still, there is no gas,” Rokunuzzaman said.

Another tradition he shared about was looming, which is weaving cloth by hand through a loom.

“That industry was one of the traditional parts of our district. Again, with the modern industrialization, people shifted to the industrial cloth looming rather than hand looming. People want to make profit more quickly,” Rokunuzzaman said.

He lit up as he told of the sweet treats he would eat in Bangladesh.

“Another speciality in our country is that it’s very popular to eat chomchom. Normally, it’s made of flour and milk — milk is the main part, and cheese and sugar. They stir it for a long time and that’s how they made it,” Rokunuzzaman said.

Rokunuzzaman’s was surprised when he discovered American food was unhealthy and without spice.

“Here people do not eat spicy, handmade food. They are used to eating frozen food or fast food, like pizza or burgers. We consider pizza and burgers as junk food. We always make handmade food,” Rokunuzzaman said.

While Baylor students and faculty have been “helpful and friendly,” he misses the warmth of Bangladesh’s social culture.

“What I like most about Bangladesh is that if you go there, you’ll feel how hospitable the people are. Here, people are really helpful and friendly, but they are so intimate in our country. If you visit them, they will make some time for you, they will gossip with you, they’ll make food by their hands for you,” Rokunuzzaman said.

He has made both international and American friends and appreciates the friendly environment he’s in here at Baylor.

“Rokun is an amazing person. He is incredibly smart, a hard worker and a great guy to hang out with. As our friendship has grown, I have continued to see his kind heart toward others and passion for learning. I am inspired by his story and am thankful to be his friend. He is impacting the world through the study and teaching of physics. He seeks to inspire his students and those around him by his hard work and dedication to his research,” Shawnee, Okla. graduate student Graeson Griffin said.

As he’s assimilated to American culture, he has started to love being a Baylor Bear.

“I’m pretty much happy here. I’ve started to love Waco. My American friends are super helpful. I’m super happy. I’m getting a friendly environment here. I consider myself lucky to be here,” Rokunuzzaman said.