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Our community is engaged in an important effort to create a community of belonging. This exhibition illustrates belonging through the recorded, unrehearsed, personal stories of eleven, self-selected and local participants. They were asked to share their understandings and experiences of belonging.

Voices of Belonging - Khadija

"It’s not just one type of person, one type of face that represents the community. It’s all of us combined here together, that makes us feel like we belong and that we do belong in the community."

My name is Khadija. I live here in DeKalb. And I was born and raised here in America. But I'm a second-generation Bangladeshi, I actually came to Dekalb because of NIU and because of the community here. We used to live in a small community before, but I like how it's a combination of a big city and a small city. It's just right in the middle, like a sweet spot right there. And there are actually a lot of different cultures and different types of community, like different types of communities that are here in DeKalb. So I appreciate that a lot, even though it's small, but we're all kind of close together and connected.

So today, we are at the DeKalb culture celebration event. I have actually two booths here today. So, I am with the Bangladeshi student organization and also with the Muslim Student Association. For me, belonging is just being part of the different communities that are here in DeKalb. And being involved in as many communities as I can be. So that could be all of the student organizations out here. And I use, since I am, I use students just here in the community. I just tried to get myself involved. And through those activities and events that I do, I do a lot of volunteering events.

One place where I really feel where I truly belong is definitely at the NIU campus. I do like to be involved in the community. And I've had many leadership positions in the community as well. One of the places that I love to be involved in is in the Student Government Association. I'm one of the senators, and the chairperson of public affairs in the Student Government Association, the SGA. So through that I get to meet so many new people, and I really feel like I belong. I definitely did feel in certain situations where it didn't belong. But for that, it really depends on the community. I used to live in a smaller community before and there wasn't that much diversity there. And because of that, I would always question the things that I would do, and why I don't feel like I belong.

So, when I came here in DeKalb, one of the first things I've tried to do is instead of being shy, trying to go out and meet new people, so that I don't feel alone. And I do create those bonds with different types of people. One of the things that we can do to make the community members feel like they belong is having these types of cultural events whether it's on campus or here in the community. These types of events really help because it... like if a person does feel left out, they can see that ‘oh, there are other people also like me, it's not just one type of person, one type of face that represents our community. It's all of us combined here together, that make us feel like we belong and that we do belong in the community.’

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