Atul, as her friends call her, is a Muslim Malaysian exchange student at Northcoast Preparatory Academy (NPA) in Arcata, California. Her full name is Nur Adiatul Amiera Binti Zulkurnain.
Being an exchange student in a foreign country means finding ways to live differently. “It can be challenging,” says Atul. “For instance, when like me, you are a practicing Muslim, you need to pray five times a day. For that, you need a prayer space. In my country, they are everywhere as my country is a majority Muslim country.” Arcata is a very different place and prayer spaces are rare.
But obstacles are opportunities for Atul. That comes as no surprise to Mr. Farhan, one of her teachers reached in Malaysia. “She thrives on adversity,” he notes. “She can turn the worse of a situation into the best.”
Atul thought it’d be great to make a video of her work with the community to find prayer rooms in Arcata, so that she could practice her faith, and that future Muslim students have these resources.
Atul soon started canvassing. At Tin Can Mailman, the famed Arcata bookstore, employees immediately stepped up. “I was so touched by the kind-hearted support I found,” explains Atul. “Tin Can Mailman gave me two spaces: they explained that one of the spaces might sometimes not be available if there are books on the floor, and in that case, I could always can use the other space.” Ever strategic, Atul also gave them a small card “with my picture on it as a Thank You and so that they can recognize me whenever I go there again.” Tin Can Mailman Assistant Manager Larissa Tragere explains how “important it is to be welcoming to everyone.”
Mr. Ridhuan, another of Atul’s teachers in Malaysia, is delighted that “she’s experiencing and learning new things from great people there.”
While Atul was doing the final edits on her project, the shooting happened in Christchurch, New Zealand. The tragedy that happened in New Zealand was shocking news for both Muslims and non-Muslims.
“I was scared at first because I was still wondering ‘What is it like to be a Muslim in America?’ But with my community support, I know that even if we have many differences such as in religion and faith, we still can be connected as human beings. We will never be disconnected as long as we are being kind-hearted to each other. As an appreciation for my community and a small support for my friends in New Zealand, I made a video on Youtube to show the world that we should spread kindness and that the most important is peace.
Thank you, Arcata! Assalamu Alaikum.”