Newaz Akbar grew up in Dhaka City, Bangladesh, and, as a self-described rebel, stepped off the beaten path of school and into a gap year with UnCollege. Looking to ditch the conformity he'd felt within the school system, Newaz is eager to be a "practical dreamer," someone who chases progress in the field of entrepreneurship. He's also planning to add Bangladesh to the list of UnCollege Voyage destinations, see the Golden Gate Bridge, and get out of his comfort zone in terms of the skills he learns. In our #MeetCohort12 series, we talked to Newaz about his story in six words or less, his biggest fears about the program, and his five-year plan.
UnCollege: What were you like growing up? What was your town like?
I come from the small downtown of Dhaka City, Bangladesh. The smell of the greenery, burning fossils and open landfill, congestion of traffic and people in overwhelming scale was and is still now present. In this haystack, one can still find things, which compensates the bitter taste of such an atmosphere. I would describe it as the gem of the country, its people, culture and its chaotic beauty in small things. As we are one of the happiest countries in the world, anyone would be touched by the hospitality and it’s culinary essence. In this chaos, I grew up as a notorious rebel, pulling pranks and sparking humor in almost every other situation and rejoicing in this special beauty of what my surroundings offered me.
What’s your stance on school, or what are your favorite and least favorite parts about school?
I see school as an amazing system to help people understand what’s known to the world and how society works. I think it helps the economic cycle peddle its way. But I don’t see it as the only path to be followed. My favorite part was that we could learn things together and interact in amazing ways, which I see somehow missing or changing in the years as we grow up. That is something I find to be a favorite and it would be great to see such interactions nowadays in teenager-hood and adulthood.
My least favorite part was the system told us how to think and behave and not be comfortable in our own skin and be practical dreamers. Rather, we are instructed to conform.
What do you like to do during your free time?
I would dig in deep into curious topics, learn new things, practice photography, try things that would push me out of my comfort zone and play games. I think the child never left me.
What led you to take a gap year?
I conformed by listening to the world to the point I started to kill what made me feel alive. I felt that I was just surviving but not living. So, I chose to drop out and follow my passion, and find ways to aspire not to make a living, but to make a difference.
How did your parents respond?
My parents have no clue what I am doing. That is sad, as they think being risk-averse is the best option but I am not spilling my plans or progress to them. Rather, I am looking forward to the grind and letting my work speak for itself.
What are you most excited about going into UnCollege?
I am excited about the whole program itself! The presence, the upcoming volunteering, coaching, mentoring, the Golden Gate, and most importantly, meeting the people behind the initiative!
What are your goals for the gap year?
I will overcome the reflection in the mirror, be more of a human being, think in my own skin, and become a man of value with results in the fields of innovation and entrepreneurship.
What’s your biggest fear going into the program?
Fear of negative self talk, poor prioritizing, and not taking risks would be the biggest fears of the program.
What's your Voyage destination? What's on your bucket list for the Voyage destination?
My destination is Bangladesh, as it is right next to India and it is a bit behind the Indian economy as well. So, I look forward to staying back and create opportunity for the people here. My bucket list is to create a crowdfunding platform here in Bangladesh to try to improve the peoples’ live for the better here, and also add Bangladesh to the UnCollege destinations so that people can visit in the future too! It’s a hidden gem.
What is your favorite quote?
“Live, Love, Change. Be Awesome”
What’s your six-word story?
Can’t change the world, you can change the game.
In 5 years, you will find me...
Be accounted for contributing to my highest self to the world, my family, and importantly seeing myself realize my dreams of seeing the world a different way.