A Personal Journey to Mental Health Advocacy

Nushrat Bushra


Nusrat Bushra

Nushrat Bushra: A Personal Journey to Mental Health Advocacy

Please share a little about your background — what’s your story?

I am a first-generation college student, born and raised in Bangladesh. I moved to the USA at the age of 12, entering a completely new environment. Initially, adapting was challenging due to the cultural and religious differences. It took some time to feel comfortable here, especially without any friends and having left my brother and relatives back in Bangladesh. Language was another significant hurdle. Although I could understand others, speaking was difficult for me. Over time, I began to pick up the accents and speech patterns by observing how people spoke. I practiced speaking English with my niece and nephew and by watching cartoons, which significantly helped me overcome my obstacles and eventually speak fluently. Now, people sometimes think I was born here, which I take as a compliment. Before moving to the USA, I completed my 8th-grade board exam, known as the Junior School Certificate, in Bangladesh and earned a GPA of 5 out of 5. I remember the hard work required for this exam, but it was worth it in the end.

Since arriving in the USA, I have lived in the Bronx, which has become an integral part of my life. Here, I connect with people from my nation and others, contributing to the community's diversity.

I am someone who respects the culture and religion of others as much as my own. I believe in expanding my mindset rather than changing myself simply because I live in a Westernized country. I focus on things that help me grow and shape myself as a person. Valuing and respecting my own culture and religion has become a significant part of my life, enabling me to respect others. 

What is your passion or purpose behind your studies at CCNY?

Before enrolling at CCNY, I was a high school student at New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science. During my junior year, I was accepted into a summer internship program called "First Workings" and was placed at Gemdale USA Corporation in the architectural development department. Initially, my goal was to major in STEM, particularly to become a doctor or an engineer. When I spoke with one of the employees there and discussed my plans with my counselors, they suggested that CCNY was the best option. Also, as an immigrant, I have always wanted to live and study in a place where I could find people from my community and experience diversity, and I couldn’t find a better option than CCNY. Additionally, when I first came to CCNY, I was amazed by the beautiful campus and the many opportunities it has to offer, especially for first-generation students.

Where are you in your career? How has the Colin Powell School helped you along the way?

As I initially mentioned, my goal was to become a doctor or an engineer, but as time passed and I explored other options, I discovered that psychology was the field I wanted to pursue. I am fascinated by how human behavior, personality, and correlation work together. Additionally, as I grew older, I realized the importance of mental health care, just as much as physical health care. More importantly, our entire body functions through signals from our brain, which fueled my passion for studying psychology. Growing up, I observed my parents dealing with stress, anger, anxiety, and more, yet they never received help through therapy. Likely, we were unaware of how therapy and counseling could be significantly beneficial for functioning properly. Considering all these factors, I decided to work within the mental health profession.

While working toward my psychology major, I received an email from Dr. Melara, the chair of the psychology department at Colin Powell School, informing me that we could pursue a Bachelor's and Master's simultaneously if we qualify. This led me to apply to the BA/MA Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counseling (CASAC) program, which I successfully entered. Currently, I am working toward both my bachelor's and master’s degrees in the CASAC track while working as a substitute paraprofessional at the NYC Department of Education.

Moreover, Colin Powell School enabled me to take a course with Braven, a nonprofit organization that assists students, especially those from underrepresented groups, with resumes, cover letters, jobs, internships, and much more. I completed the course as an accelerated fellow and then had the opportunity to work with a mentor who helped me apply to the Crisis Text Line. Now, I am volunteering as a crisis counselor and gaining valuable experience in mental health. I am currently a student ambassador for Braven, improving my leadership skills and public speaking. I cannot thank Colin Powell School and Braven enough for the guidance they provide toward our careers. The fellowship, internships, and scholarship opportunities provided by CPS are immensely beneficial.

What are your post-graduation plans?

My plans after graduation are to pursue a second master's degree in Mental Health Counseling and obtain licensure. I want to work with teens, adolescents, students, and minority groups who face numerous daily struggles with their mental health. I aim to be there for them, as my parents didn't have that opportunity. I want to provide support and create a comfortable space that makes their lives safe and cherished.

Please share a significant memory and/or accomplishment from your time at CCNY.

A significant accomplishment from CCNY was being accepted as a Peer Counselor Educator at the CCNY Counseling Center. This role has allowed me to work alongside mental health professionals and gain hands-on experience. We conduct tabling with monthly awareness topics, posing questions to students and reading their answers to better understand their struggles. Additionally, observing how college students struggle academically with stress, anxiety, family issues, and much more has been enlightening. Thanks to this opportunity, I collaborated with my peers on a project addressing how technology impacts mental health and how to avoid addiction. We also explored how older generations can learn from the younger ones to make healthy lifestyle decisions. This project opened my eyes to my own technology addiction, particularly with social media, and I am now taking steps to care for my mental health and make life more beautiful.

Moreover, I was accepted into the CUNY Career Launch program for a summer internship in 2024, which will be a great experience for me.

Another cherished memory from CCNY is my active involvement in Women in Islam, Student Justice for Palestine, the Psychology Club, and the Navigate Student App Committee. The amazing people I've met and the events we've created have truly brought my community together, despite our different cultures, sharing the same mindset. I pray for freedom for the people of Palestine and for our community to divest from genocide and act towards humanity. It costs nothing to be kind.

Do you have any advice you could give to current or future students?
My advice to current or future students would be, "Never run after success; if you work smart and hard, success will run after you." This is a quote I also use for myself because it helps achieve sustainable results in the long run. Also, never get demotivated by bad outcomes, whether it's your GPA, an internship, or a scholarship you applied for but didn't get. If you stay persistent with your goals, you will shine no matter what. Just keep going and take care of your mental health.

How would you describe CPS in three words?
Empowering, opportunity, dynamic.

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