Combining school & family

The Kahn family, including daughter Newzaira, father Shafiqul and mother Manna, are all students at UND and live in campus housing. Photo by Keisuke Yoshimura.

For Newzaira Khan, college is a family affair.

Like most freshmen, Newzaira enjoys spending time with her friends and meeting people on campus. She lives in student housing. She works a part time job at the Chester Fritz Library and attends classes that tie into her interests.

Unlike most freshmen, Newzaira’s dad Shafiqul and her mom Manna are students at UND too.

The family moved to North Dakota from California last year, when Shafiqul began working on his Ph.D. at UND’s business school.

A family decision 

Education has always been a priority for Shafiqul, who came to the U.S. after completing his high school education is his native country of Bangladesh. He attended college at Southern Illinois University and in California, focusing his studies in the area of acounting. He then went on to work and live in California and New York as a Fortune 500 accountant for approximately 15 years, receiving recognition for his efforts by numerous bodies including the White House and the IRS.

“People all over the world need education for empowerment,” Shafiqul said. “You know, education can give you freedom — the kind of freedom we’re looking for here in America.”

This emphasis on education is what pushed Shafiqul to return to school. Last year, when he was looking at potential universities, UND stood out because of it’s business program, affordability and nature as a research institution.

In his mind, “it was the right time” to come back to school. Now, it’s a time he’s sharing with his daughter and wife.

“It is a family thing. All together we’re doing something,” Shafiqul said. “Because I’m in an educational environment, I’m giving my children an educational environment … It’s different, but in a good way.”

For Shafiqul, it’s important that Newzaira and her four-year-old brother, Ahad, understand the importance of education, not only to have a better life, but to be a better person.

“Without education you cannot go anywhere,” Shafiqul said. “Education, in my mind, is not just becoming a technical person; it’s not just about a job … you’re building your character; you’re becoming a moral person. Those types of values should be learned through education.”

New type of school

“When I was in high school (last year), I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be so weird — I’m going to be on the same campus as my parents,’” Newzaira said. “It’s a unique thing that happens. Not many people do it, and I’m proud of them for going back and trying to achieve better.”

Newzaira and Shafiqul occasionally get lunch on campus in between classes to catch up. Shafiqul also takes that time to make sure Newzaria is staying on track grade-wise. Newzaria said that her parents involvement and support for her education is beneficial.

“My mom will encourage me a lot too, so it’s good to have that boost all the time,” Newzaira said. “It’s good to have that opportunity because a lot of kids fall off track (in college).”

Although the three are sharing their time together at UND, they each have managed to pursue their own interests in the classroom. While Shafiqul’s interests are with the business school,  Manna studies geography and Newzaira is interested in forensic psychiatry.

“We all have different likes about stuff. My dad’s like, ‘How could you like criminals?’ And my mom, I’m like, “How could you like earth?” Newzaira said. “We all have all these different views on stuff.’”

Balancing act

Like all college students — between classes, part time jobs and family — the Khans have a lot to juggle.

“Managing the time is a challenge. I’m a husband; I’m a father; I’m a student,” Shafiqul said. “When I go to classes, my wife stays home with the kids. When she goes to class, I stay home.”

Manna said that, despite the challenges the family must overcome in regard to time management, the ability to better herself through education is something she’s excited for.

“I always wanted to go back to school, but I didn’t have the option to go back to school because I always put my family and my children as my first priority,” Manna said. “So, now I have an opportunity to go back to school.”

Now that three out of the four are in school, Manna said communicating with one another is key to their success as students and as a family.

“We’re always communicating what we’re doing, what we have to do — so we share the work,” Manna said.

But for the Khans, the experience is worth it.

“In order for you to achieve anything in your life, you have to be really dedicated because otherwise you’re not going to achieve anything,” Shafiqul said. “Sometimes you have to sacrifice a lot of things to achieve your goals.

“Now I’m doing it for a better good … I consider this the best time of my life.”

Carrie Sandstrom is the editor-in-chief of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].