Going to a college where students can design their own education is what attracted Pakistani native Sultana Noon to Bennington College in Vermont.
“I am from Islamabad, Pakistan. Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and currently I am studying at Bennington College in Vermont in the US. And I actually knew about Bennington because first of all there were a couple of my family’s friends who went over here and then my brother also ended up coming here for college. In fact his senior year over here was my freshman year,” she says. “And I didn’t come here just because he was here, but it was really the philosophy of education over here that attracted me to this place. It is such a liberal college and we don’t have any set majors, we have a concentration, which we study. We are free to design our own education, take a bunch of different courses from a bunch of different disciplines, do cross disciplinary work and there really is no limit as to what you can do at Bennington,” she says. “The class sizes are really really small so all your faculty and professors know you and it is really great. There is so much about this place that I was attracted to as compared to other more traditional colleges in the US.”
Sultana realized that there are a lot of subjects that interest her, but she decided to narrow her focus on studying about capital punishment. “When I came over here I didn’t know really exactly what I was going to be studying. I knew that the whole point of a liberal arts education is to kind of take two years to figure out what you really want to do and initially my faculty advisor was a dance faculty and I was really interested in dance when I came over here, but I knew I had to do something else with that…. I just couldn’t be doing dance at Bennington, but I wasn’t sure what that was going to be,” she says. “So my first year I took a bunch of different courses, I took calculus classes, I took psychology, I took dance and I took philosophy and it was just really amazing how all the courses do relate to one another and you kind of discover that while you are at Bennington,” she says. “If you are doing politics over here it is just not politics and if you are doing psychology it is just not psychology you can integrate another discipline into it and eventually I took a psychology class on capital punishment and that got me really interested in the whole issue and right now I am a senior working and I am working on my senior thesis also on the death penalty in primarily Pakistan and a couple of other Islamic countries.”
One thing Sultana says she has learned while attending college is that the system of capital punishment is unjust both here in the United States as well as in Pakistan.
“The one thing I have learned and there is no doubt in my mind about that is that capital punishment is just the system of it is just completely unjust especially in the US. Just the fact there has been over 117 innocent people who have been executed in the states in the last 25 to 30 years, just that in itself is such big evidence that it shows that there is something wrong with the system and I would say that even in Pakistan it is the same thing,” she says. “The process of trying someone and convicting them and the whole process of sentencing them to death is different, but it is also completely unfair and just like you have more minorities in the states who are on death row, in the same way in Pakistan most of the people who are on death row are really really poor and don’t have money to buy their way out of jail, out of death row. So it is really really sad, but I think it is the same whether it is in the US or in Pakistan.”
Attending Bennington College keeps Sultana busy, but she does enjoy other things we she isn't studying. “For me I like reading books, music and I try to write written letters also to family and friends back home every now and then because that is something that is more personalize and that is something that I know that my family and friends in Pakistan appreciate a lot more than emails,” she says. “They realize also over here that everything is on the dot, everything is going really fast and there is so much to do and when somebody takes out the time to write you a letter it really means a lot. So I try to do that.”
In the near future Sultana wants to work in a third world country and be involved in human rights work, but first she says she will stay in the United States and work to pay back her school loans. Tune in next week for the story of another international student here in the United States on America's Global College Forum.