Humans of Allen: Sami Ullah


Meghan Holloran, Staff writer

Senior Sami Ullah is a first-generation American who moved here from Bangladesh. Read on to learn more about him and what the process was like immigrating to America.


Q: Where are you from? 


A: I was born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Q: How old were you when to immigrated? 


A: I was 16 going on 17 when I immigrated, at end of freshman year.

Pictured here is the Bangladeshi flag. Aarong, a Bangladeshi department store that hires Bengali artisans and cotton producers manufactured this flag in Bangladesh.

Q: What was the immigration process like? 


A: We applied for immigration back in 2003, it took a while for everything to get underway. Finally, in 2016, we heard from the U.S Consulate that our case had been accepted. Then we had to do various blood tests and get vaccines and go to the [U.S] Embassy and take an oath. Based on that we had to wait another 2-3 months to hear if our green card was processed. It was almost 13 and a half years just to immigrate. For many people, the process is shorter, but the immigration process varies. 


Q: What was the reason you moved? Parent’s job? A better life? 


A: My uncle came to the U.S in the mid-eighties for his college. He got recruited for a firm over here and ever since he’s been living here. He was sponsored for a green card by the company he worked for. My dad had to stay behind in Bangladesh. Later on, when my uncle was well off, he sponsored my grandparents so they could come over and live a better life. Then finally me and my sister immigrated. My parents come and go. Being from a third-world country, we didn’t have as many opportunities as people over here. So for that reason, my parents sent me over along with my sister to get an education so I could get myself in a place where I was content with life and form my own identity. Basically the American Dream.  


Q: How did people treat you when you came here?


A: People asked me a lot of questions when I first moved, like can women drive? Can women be themselves? Mostly, it was stigmatized because they were mixing it up with middle-eastern cultures. They associated me with the term “FOB” (fresh off the boat). Given that situation, I did kind of feel like I was alienated but I knew they didn’t really mean it. All the teachers here were curious about the language I spoke, and what religion I am. 


Q: What was it like adjusting to being in a new and unfamiliar place?


A: I visited America once before I moved, but It was kind of a vacation. Staying here was different. Over here I had to do everything myself; I got myself my first job, supporting myself along the way with my own expenditures. For the first time in my life, I was doing everything by myself: laundry, cooking, cleaning; it was a big transition. I was being exposed to new people and Allen is a big place. My class in Bangladesh was about 84 people. That transition was big, the competition really scared me. I was the new kid with an accent just trying to fit in and get high school over with.

Chanachur is a local Bangladeshi snack item that is very spicy, similar to Takis.


Q: How has moving here, specifically to Allen, impacted your life? 


A: The reason why I live so close to the high school, was because we didn’t have a car. So moving to Allen was one of the easier ways for me to get to school and go home. At that point, we didn’t have that much money to buy a car or insurance. My parents still send money over here for living expenses though. My parents picked Allen because of the school system, it is so superior in comparison to other places. Allen is also very safe, and the environment is so great. It’s what I would want to call home. 


Q: How is education different in Bangladesh?


A: [It’s] all about competition in Bangladesh. Whoever gets to go to the better colleges has a better social standing. It’s a very messed up system. It’s more about how much money you are making. Bangladesh follows the British Curriculum of GCSE — General Certificate of Secondary Education exams taken in the UK. Learning was very accelerated over there. During my freshman year, we were already learning calculus. 


Q: Do you miss family or anything from your home country? 

The rickshaw is a popular mode of transport in Bangladesh according to Sami. “I used to ride it with my friends all the time to go to different places,” said Sami.

A: I was a city boy. I could just go to places. We had different modes of transportation. Over there we had ‘baby taxis’ It’s like a three-wheeler. We also had rickshaws (three-wheeled vehicle similar to a bike) to travel in. I miss the cultural festivals. Over here it’s Halloween, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. Food over here is really bland. Street food doesn’t exist in [Allen]. There’s no option for street food and you need a car to go anywhere in Allen. The weather is also very different here. I miss my family. I only see my parents once every six months when they come to visit. I live with my grandparents. 


Q: What do you like most about living here? 


A:  Home is where you call it. For me, it’s here. I have a sense of belonging here. When you acclimate to the environment, you don’t see yourself being anywhere else. I love meeting new people. There are people I don’t know that say ‘hi’ to me in the hallway. You don’t really see that everywhere.