Bengalis Unite President (second from the left) (RACHEL SIFORD / THE STATESMAN)
Bengalis Unite President Syed Hossain (second from the left), an international student from Bangladesh, came to the United States to attend Stony Brook University. The business and economics double major hopes to become an analyst, an investment banker or a trader. (RACHEL SIFORD / THE STATESMAN)

“Say hi to me if you see me on campus. I’m really friendly!” junior Syed Abrar Hossain said to his Bengalis Unite members at their first meeting this fall.

Hossain is an international student from Dhaka, Bangladesh, who came to the United States after both his parents died. Quickly learning to accept other cultures, Hossain became extremely involved in the Stony Brook community.

“It is hard without my parents because they are the people you vent to or blow off steam,” Hossain said. “It’s not always as comfortable to do with other people.”

His father, a police officer, died from a stroke when Hossain was 11. His mother died from gallbladder cancer during his senior year in high school, right before he came to Stony Brook.

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Hossain keeps busy as a resident assistant for Roosevelt Quad, an orientation leader and president of the Bengalis Unite club.

“I have many distractions,” Hossain sad. “It helps me not miss my parents as much.”

Being so busy has conjured up a caffeine addiction: Hossain drinks four to five cups a day.

“Most people from my country don’t even make a dollar a day, but I’m spending $1.50 every time I buy a cup of coffee,” Hossain said gratefully.

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Life in Bangladesh, a developing nation, is vastly different than American life, Hossain said. The crime rate is much higher. Hossain and his sister, Jannatul Ferdous, moved into their aunt’s house after their mother died because of this.

Ferdous, five years his senior and studying law in Bangladesh, calls Hossain every day to check on him. If their parents were still alive, Hossain said, she would most likely be married.

Hossain went to an Americanized private high school in Bangladesh called the Aga Khan School on a soccer scholarship. He had learned English as a child and the school set him up to go abroad for college to reap more opportunities than he could have in Bangladesh.

After looking into schools in Canada and Australia, he talked to an old high school friend, Shadman Islam, a Stony Brook alumnus, and decided to give Stony Brook a shot. SBU was the only school to which he applied.

“I’m not scared to take risks,” Hossain, a business and economics double major, said. “If you gave me $1,000, I’m not afraid to tell you I’ll give you back $12,000 in two weeks.”

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Hossain attended one or two Bengalis Unite events during his first semester. His friend was Treasurer at the time and jokingly suggested that he run for something on election night. He ended up winning the Event Coordinator position for the Executive Board.

“Who doesn’t want to be a leader?” Hossain said. “I’m spontaneous. That’s the biggest part of my personality.”

Though he now has a wide circle of friends, Hossain found that getting to know people was hard when he first came to Stony Brook. He came a week late because of visa issues and felt like he was thrown into a new world too fast, he said. It was a culture shock coming to America, where people are much more accepting and friendly than in Bangladesh.

“The diversity is the best thing about America,” Hossain said. “Stony Brook itself is a small world, with people from all over the place. Making new friends is how you learn about other cultures.”

Hossain said he has never felt personally discriminated against. He said it is up to international students to try not to feel discriminated because if they walk around feeling like they are different from everyone else, they will be treated differently.

“It’s up to you to decide how to present yourself,” Hossain said. “It’s cool being international. I can make so many friends by saying ‘I’m from Bangladesh’.”

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When bought a cup of coffee, he offered to pay and insisted on buying next time. Throughout a two-hour interview he meticulously tore his coffee sleeve into pieces. He likes to keep busy.

In his very little downtime, he tries to do something good for himself.

“The worst feeling ever is being unproductive,” Hossain said. His guilty pleasure is watching “Modern Family” and laughing at Gloria and Manny’s crazy antics, but he will also try to read a book on finance or lift weights at the gym.

Hossain is a natural leader. As an RA, he tells residents how he handles stress while he laughs along with them about how much he procrastinates, too. He believes that while a good leader should be professional, the best kinds of leaders are friends. No one likes talking to a robot, he explained with a big smile.

“Arbrar is really fun to work with, but he can be serious, too,” senior Bengalis Unite Historian, Rahul Das, said. “We joke around a lot, but when our first e-board meeting was getting a little out of control, he brings the focus back so we stop getting distracted.”

Hossain said he plans on being an analyst, an investment banker or a trader. These jobs would keep him constantly busy and traveling. He ambitiously wants to retire by age 35 so he can have time to travel for pleasure and enjoy life.

Hossain said he learned from his parent’s deaths that you must live up to your full potential in order to be fulfilled in life.

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“I like to think that I am going to die when I’m 50, so I only have 29 years left,” Hossain said. “The time limit pushes me to make the most of it.”

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