Global Conference in Istanbul, 2022 Perspective Top Travel

What could have been, or how I missed out on Istanbul

Usraat Fahmidah with her Bangladeshi passport. (Usraat Fahmidah/YJI)

Dhaka, BANGLADESH – The first time I visited a foreign country was in 2011. It was a family trip to Kolkata, India. The four days in Kolkata opened me to new cultures and experiences that my 8-year-old self could never fathom. The adrenaline, thrill and excitement of traveling – all of it was intoxicating, and I wanted more. With that, I caught an eternal wanderlust fever.

Before I reached adulthood, I had the fortune of traveling to a few countries – Malaysia, Singapore and India. If it were up to me, I would’ve lived my life as a nomad traveling from country to country. But it’s not feasible. Up until adulthood, my parents took care of the visa hassle and financial aspects of those international trips, which even then were a bit “lavish” for our middle-class lifestyle.

But as an adult, I now understand that my parents were only preparing me for a world that’s not fair and equal to everyone and making sure we could get the opportunities when the time came.

“The trips make your passport stronger,” my dad said. By making a passport “stronger,” he meant avoiding any possible visa rejections with that credibility in the future for any work or study-related purpose. But that credibility came at a price not everyone can pay.

When I heard about YJI’s first international conference, I immediately knew I had to go. This was once in a lifetime opportunity to meet friends I made from all over the world in a beautiful trans-continental country – Türkiye. Back then, I had never set foot on a different continent, let alone meet people from 10 countries.

The whole conference experience meant stepping into a new universe, and I was excited.

But when the time came for my visa application, I ran out of luck. You see, I have a green Bangladeshi passport. And it’s ranked the ninth weakest passport in the world. The dreams I weaved as a kid to travel the world, meet new people and experience new culture became insignificant without one simple stamp on a paper that said, “Visa approved.”

After a few hectic days of circling around the Türkiye visa office, I was told that decision regarding my visa application would take 60-90 days. But by then, the conference would be over.

I’d already booked my flights to Istanbul, and all I needed was a simple stamp to fly.

Until the last minute, I clung to hope that the visa would miraculously come and I would be able to board my flight.

But it didn’t and I had to withdraw my application, missing out on what could’ve been the biggest experience of my life. I wouldn’t get this most adventurous trip with my YJI comrades, wandering the streets of Istanbul and seeking stories.

I wasn’t new to the disappointment. As a high-school student, I couldn’t apply to multiple summer programs due to visa limitations.

The time, money and effort to acquire a visa that’s seemingly an easier process for my peers from other lands made me upset. It doesn’t seem fair to miss out on the countless opportunities that I’d rightfully earned just because my passport isn’t deemed of any “value.”

The YJI conference would have opened a great deal of opportunities for me. To think that I had to miss out on the greatest trip of my life because of a simple stamp makes me painfully aware of the dreams I can’t even conceive because of the cruel nature of it all.

The sad truth is, the world we share isn’t open equally for everyone to explore.

Usraat Fahmidah is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Bangladesh. She was truly missed at the YJI conference.

Waving the YJI flag in Dhakka, Bangladesh. (Usraat Fahmidah/YJI)

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Parnian Shahsavary/YJI

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