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"Through the Lens of Bangladeshi Environmentalist- Aryaana Khan"

AAPI Heritage Month Feature

May 2022

Interviews

By: SemegaChange

Aryaana Khan has completed her Bachelor's of Science (B.S) with a minor in Sociology from The City College of New York. She has been involved in Action for the Climate Emergency (ACE), The Climate Museum, the Wild Center, Global Kids, and more! She was also a 2020 NYC Youth Poet Laureate Finalist, federal hall fellow and so much more!


SemegaChange: Let's start with your background and your journey from Bangladesh to New York, tell us about yourself.

Aryaana Khan: “When I was growing up in the capital city in Bangladesh, I witnessed a lot of annual flooding and I would miss a lot of school because of that. When the floods happened everything would shut down and I lived on the first floor so I couldn't really go anywhere. When I moved to New York City in 2010 I didn't think that I would be experiencing anything like that anymore and then Hurricane Sandy happened shortly after a couple of years and subways got flooded. Parts of New York flooded and I was in school again and I realized that those experiences were very similar and I needed to do something about it so I joined a nonprofit organization. Organizing how to communicate climate science and the rest is history. It just snowballed into everything that I do.”

SC: When did you realize you had a passion for STEM, you're working towards a biology degree and you also write poetry!

Aryaana Khan: “I picked them because we really do need a scientific foundation to deal with climate change and I just needed the tools to implement or come up with solutions. I do poetry because that's good for the soul and it's sort of inventing your own language. I work with kids and I help them communicate their experiences with climate change like their experience with the trauma and then write poems about it. It's a beautiful way to process things that you've experienced. You sort of invent your own language, it's not like STEM where you have to follow a rigorous lab report structure or like a formula you know, so for me it's just a way to process. It’s another way of communicating with people at the end of the day like science, poetry, and organizing. These are all different ways of reaching out to people.”

SC: What do you wish to accomplish to make a change either socially or environmentally?

Aryaana Khan: “I tell this to everyone but my parents grew up in the villages of Bangladesh like swinging from one fruit tree to another you know just fishing from the river or breathing clean air. That's the future that I'm working towards, it's very similar to a past that my parents got to experience. I think if we can get there again we can get to a place of healthy food and clean air and proper shelter for everyone. That's what I want to see happen in my lifetime for everyone. It's a really really really ambitious goal and I don't know and don't think it's gonna be just me working towards that. I'm not gonna be the one accomplishing that single handedly but I think my purpose here is to do different things no matter how small to work towards that.”

SC: What are struggles of a Bangladeshi woman in society and do you experience any of these as a woman in STEM?

Aryaana Khan: “The hardest part about being a first generation immigrant and being a woman of color in stem is you might not have people believe in you or see your intellect and everything that you bring to the table but that's okay. No matter what your identity is, that's gonna be the case, not everyone's going to believe in you but the hardest part for me was to sort of transition my own mindset and get those voices out of my head that weren't mine because I believed in myself from the get go and here we are.”

SC: What do you enjoy most about being a Bangladeshi woman? Do you have advice for other Bangladeshi women out there pursuing STEM?

Aryaana Khan: “A lot of Bangladeshi women are already pursuing STEM because they are intelligent and creative but what I will say to them is that when they are pursuing STEM to not limit themselves to the careers that our families and our communities only know about. There are so many different trajectories that you can take in STEM. What I enjoy most about being a Bangladeshi woman is that I feel like I inherently have community wherever I go anytime. I meet another Bangladeshi or Asian person and there’s that inherent connection or understanding and connection of our shared history. There is also baggage there and sometimes those interactions don't always work out right but I still feel grounded in my identity and that took a lot of internal work but yeah it's something that I enjoy now that I have been doing the work.”


SC: Wow, thank you so much for sharing your amazing story, a lot of those in the AAPI community or WOC in general will really resonate with your story! Thank you again it was such a pleasure having you as a feature for SemegaChange's first AAPI Month Celebration!


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