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Fulfilling her parents’ dreams

Easnin Ara imageEasnin Ara graduates with her PhD from Otago this Saturday.

Everyone’s journey to complete their PhD is different, but for Easnin Ara there were quite a few more challenges than most to overcome along the way.

Easnin began her PhD with a University of Otago doctoral scholarship in the University’s Department of Tourism in 2017, a year after her husband Dr Md Ariful Hoque started his PhD in the same department.

In April 2019 her father (Emdadul Haque) had a heart attack, so Easnin returned to Bangladesh to support her family. After a month there she returned to Otago to resume her PhD. Six weeks after returning to Dunedin her mother (Tahamina Haque) passed away in Bangladesh in early July. Easnin again went back to Bangladesh to visit her mother’s grave and to support her family.

Easnin Ara supervisors image
Easnin Ara with her PhD supervisors - Professor Hazel Tucker and Dr Willem Coetzee, after submitting her PhD thesis.

“This was shocking to me as both my parents had been in good health when I last saw them. My PhD was my parents’ dream, and I have always been keen to complete it for them.”

When Easnin returned to Dunedin she read the Quran from cover-to-cover dedicating that to her mother before resuming her PhD. She was just getting into her studies again when her father passed away in mid-August, just a few weeks after her mother’s death.

“I felt that now my parents would be proud of me and once I submitted my thesis, I felt for the first time in my life that I had done something for my parents, and I had now fulfilled their dream.”

Once again Easnin returned to Bangladesh. She says her supervisors put no pressure on her to return to work. Again, she read the full Quran and dedicated that to her father and to feel some peace in her mind before returning to her studies. Losing both her mother and father, with whom she was very close, within such a short period had put her in a traumatic situation. Her husband, siblings – Easmin and Iftakhar, relatives, supervisors, the department, PhD colleagues and friends supported her during this very difficult time.

Easnin found it tough to leave Bangladesh behind, but once again returned to her studies keeping in mind her parents’ cherished desire to call her ‘Dr Easnin’.

“Some people were very worried as I could not concentrate on my studies for many months, but all my friends and supervisors gave me huge encouragement to resume my PhD.”

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, which made it tough to study as she liked to do her research at her University office rather than at home.

She then put some extra energy into gardening, cycling and yoga to help her through this very difficult time and eventually her thesis was finished.

“I felt that now my parents would be proud of me and once I submitted my thesis, I felt for the first time in my life that I had done something for my parents, and I had now fulfilled their dream.”

Her thesis is titled Handicrafts-enacted tourism realities in Bangladesh.

“The main theme of my thesis was how being a non-human actor, handicrafts can influence other actors – both human and non-human – to co-create tourism realities.”

Easnin Ara regalia image
A surprise informal photo session at the Otago Business School with regalia before Easnin Ara's (bottom right) departure arranged by her husband Dr Md Ariful Hoque (top left) and her supervisors Professor Hazel Tucker (bottom left) and Dr Willem Coetzee (top right).

Easnin is keen to thank her PhD supervisors Professor Hazel Tucker and Dr Willem Coetzee for their unwavering support. She says that she is grateful to both of them for extending their support and care beyond the academic level. She is also thankful to her husband for his endless efforts to help her back to a normal life. In addition, her husband’s PhD supervisors Professor Brent Lovelock and Associate Professor Anna Carr, and the then departmental PhD director Dr Julia Albrecht provided a great deal of support. She also paid tribute to the former and current Tourism department administrative staffs – Pip Lennon and Alison Cowan respectively.

“Many of my PhD colleagues and friends also provided me a great deal of support during this difficult time, I must mention Chiara, David, Stu, Olivia, Montira, Parisa, Arifa, Shoeb and Susmita.

“The whole department and everyone at the University of Otago was so supportive to me and it was a real blessing for me.”

Dr Md Ariful Hoque Asnin Ara image
Easnin Ara and her husband Dr Md Ariful Hoque.

Easnin is graduating in absentia this Saturday. Ariful encouraged her to stay in Otago to attend her graduation, but she decided that the next time that they come to Otago they will travel together.

They both took study leave from their University positions in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka to pursue their studies at Otago.

Easnin now works as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Business Administration in Marketing at the Bangladesh University of Professionals and her husband Ariful works as an Associate Professor at the Department of Marketing at Jahangirnagar University.

Thankfully, before she returned to Bangladesh, Ariful, with the help of Easnin’s supervisors, arranged for her to have photos taken around the campus in full academic regalia with her supervisors.

“So, I feel as though I have had the graduation experience at Otago,” Easnin says.