Friday Oct 21, 2016
Homecoming is as much a part of November as bonfires, fall colors and fleece.
At college campuses across the country, including Indiana University Northwest, Homecoming is a time when loyal alumni come back home and current students begin to realize how the festive fall ritual ties them to their university in ways they hadn’t experienced before.
They begin to feel what alumni have known for a while – that college is an extension of family. And just as Thanksgiving brings folks back to where they grew up, Homecoming is the celebration that brings people back home to reconnect with the friends, professors and mentors who ultimately helped shape their lives.
For many, IU Northwest is a family affair in the true sense. IU Northwest’s affordability and proximity to home make it an easy choice for every family, but especially those who have many siblings to put through college.
Take it from Sameera and Sophia Raziuddin, two recent graduates, and their younger siblings, Fareesa and Bilal Siddiqui, two current students. The siblings, from Munster, have different last names because of some technicalities when their parents emigrated to the U.S. Their older sister, Aisha, began college at IU Northwest, but graduated from Purdue University with an engineering degree.
And there’s more to come.
“My brother Bilal began attending just this semester,” Sophia said, “and I am sure one day my youngest brothers Owais and Junaid will also make their way to IU Northwest when it’s their time.”
IU Northwest: A family affair
Fareesa speaks for the group when she says, “The whole university is very familiar to all of us and has played a large part in our lives.”
Sameera graduated in 2013 with a degree in chemistry and minors in mathematics, physics and Spanish. She is currently attending medical school at St. George’s University in the Caribbean country of Grenada. She hopes to return to Northwest Indiana to practice in her own community.
“Going through schooling at IU Northwest, I loved the small class sizes,” Sameera said. “We knew all of our classmates and all of our professors knew us. We were able to meet with professors for help, and they would actually know who we are and be able to help us on a more personal level. Even when we joined clubs, the coordinators personally knew us. We felt like a big family with our friends at the school and being able to have real conversations with the faculty.”
Sameera has fond memories of hanging out on the comfy couches in the third-floor lounge of Marram Hall. She was active in extracurricular activities such as helping out at Chemistry Lecturer Linda Wozniewski’s Science Fairs, showcasing her culture at the annual Asia Day and educating others through the Muslim Student Association (MSA).
“I was able to grow so much in a way that I feel wouldn’t have been possible if I went to a larger school,” Sameera said.
When Sophia began at IU Northwest in 2010, Sameera was already a pre-med student, like her, so “that was a plus,” as she said.
A 2014 graduate with a degree in biology, Sophia is now a second-year medical student at Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica. She hopes to become an endocrinologist.
“What gives me the most pride in the school is its diversity, and it goes beyond just having multiple minorities represented,” Sophia said. “IU Northwest celebrates the unique cultures of all the students that attend the school. There are events specifically showcasing different religions, cultures, genders, and sexual orientations as well as bringing attention to the struggles of each group. That to me is what makes IU Northwest such a great campus and it gives me pride to have attended there.”
When Sophia was a junior, she served as an officer for the MSA, the student group that organizes the annual Islam Awareness Week.
“One of the days we were asking passersby trivia questions about Islam, and every time I came across someone who had a misconception about the religion, I was overjoyed that I had that opportunity to correct and educate that person,” Sophia said. “I actually stayed later after that event and had a great conversation with a Christian man who wanted to discuss similarities and differences between the religions. It was the type of moment that doesn’t happen often enough when two people are so open-minded about differing opinions, and IU Northwest made it possible.”
Fareesa is pursuing a degree in psychology and intends to graduate in 2017. She plans to attend optometry school next fall. She is busy tutoring and working in the Math Lab, along with the MSA, Student Ambassadors and soon the RedHawk’s Nest Food Pantry.
“One of the best aspects of the University is the ability to get to know your professors,” Fareesa said. “It may seem like a small advantage, but when compared to larger universities, it really stands out. I strongly feel that when professors actually know your name and know a little about your future goals, it enhances the entire dynamic.”
Fareesa said this dynamic leads to an appropriately rigorous curriculum.
“There are so many courses and professors that challenge you and really require that you put in a lot of time and energy,” she said. “I really appreciated this because I felt it was preparing me for what I'm going to experience in professional school. The professors are so accommodating and willing to help; you know they truly want you to succeed.”
On the lighter side, Fareesa has always looked forward to Welcome Week. “Zip-lining, fried Oreos, music, and more all adds to the freshness of a new school year. It was always fun to see what each year would bring,” she said.
Fareesa may have experienced her final Welcome Week, but Bilal – the youngest sibling and IU Northwest freshman -- has lots to look forward to.
But first, he has some acclimating to do. A biology major already involved in the MSA and the Pre-Professional Student Club, Bilal has his sights set on medical school as well. Fortunately, he has Fareesa to give him tips to help him navigate the college experience.
“It’s helpful to have older siblings who are familiar with college life and IU Northwest,” Bilal said, “but it is a real change from high school and something to get used to.”