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Becoming a Bulldog
How Duluth became junior Nazifa Wazirzada's home away from home.
I have been visiting Duluth ever since I was little. In my eyes it was this big, beautiful place that was full of adventure and exploration – a place where the rivers run, the sun glistens on the lake, and where you can feel the cold wind down to your core. I never saw Duluth as a place where I would end up spending four years of my life attending college.
But I have found that life has a way of surprising you.
My name is Nazifa Wazirzada. I am a junior studying International Studies and Communication. I was born in Lahore, Pakistan and moved to the United States at the age of three. I lived in Eden Prairie, Minnesota for most of my life. At the age of fourteen, I moved to Shanghai, China. I graduated from high school there and came back to Minnesota for college.
I decided to come to UMD because of how much I love this city, but a part of me wanted to come up here for a semester, apply to the Twin Cities campus, and then transfer.
A semester passed, and I ended up staying. I couldn’t seem to part ways. Something inside of me wasn’t letting me leave this wonderful city and really great school.
Now I am almost halfway through my third year, and I have never felt more sure of my decision to stay here at UMD.
UMD Has So Much To Offer
From the incredible relationships I have with my professors, to optimal class sizes, to the beautiful campus, and access to the amazing North Shore we enjoy, I couldn’t leave it all behind. Duluth gives me a place where I can be independent and away from home, but if things get difficult, I can still easily go see my family on any given weekend.
I have met such remarkable professors during my time here and have created strong bonds with them. Attending this school lets me be in lectures where I am not just another student in the mix. I have a voice, and I am able to share it in class. If I want to get off campus, I can go somewhere five minutes away with friends and explore a part of Duluth I have never seen before.
The University has given me the ability to take part in such amazing opportunities.
When I came into college my freshman year, I was terrified. I did not know many people, and I wasn’t even sure if I was at the right school. I had a family friend who was in the Muslim Student Association (MSA) so I went to their first meeting. It gave me a space to be who I am and meet other people like me. I even ran for the freshmen representative position and got it. Even though it was a relatively small role, I was still able to dip my toes in the water of what it meant to work in a group setting, take on responsibilities outside of my comfort zone, and learn what it means to be a leader.
During this time, I had also joined an amazing organization called She’s the First that helps sponsor girls’ education in impoverished countries all over the world. I met a fellow student that was starting a chapter of the organization on campus and I decided to run for a spot on the e-board. I got the opportunity to be design and photography chair and work for a cause I am very passionate about.
My sophomore year I moved up to the vice president position in the MSA and also interviewed to become a Bulldog Welcome Week Rockstar. Both experiences really challenged me and helped me step out of my comfort zone, meet new people, and work on a diverse selection of projects and activities.
As a junior, I am halfway through my time in college. I am currently a Resident Advisor for the Housing and Residence Life Office, and I couldn’t be happier. I am loving all my classes, because I am at that point where I have dove into core classes for my majors, and I can really study what I am passionate about.
You Belong Here
In conclusion, you can see that I am very fond of the time I have had at UMD so far, and am very lucky to have had the opportunity to partake is so many diverse experiences.
To any current freshmen, you have made it to the halfway point of the semester, congratulations! Take a moment to process that, and give yourself a pat on the back, because you’re almost done with the first semester of your first year of college.
If you are stressed about exams, just remember to give it your all, but don’t let it consume you. If you haven’t made friends yet, it is okay; the right friends will come around when it is supposed to happen. Do not feel like you have to force yourself into certain groups. If you are still undecided, do not worry, that is normal, but you must be willing to explore and try new things, to eventually find what you love.
You are doing a great job, and all of us here at UMD are happy to have you.
To all future Bulldogs, I hope my story sheds light on how wonderful of a school and campus UMD is. If you are thinking about attending, let me tell you that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and it has really helped me come out of my shell, and given me a ton of opportunities to try new things, and meet new people. No matter who you are, or where you come from, there is a place for you here.