Henry Adams says, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

I say, “A teacher affects eternity; she can never tell where her influence stops.”


I want to dedicate this post to a teacher who has made one of the greatest influences in my life. A teacher who is genuinely kind, extremely hard-working, and incredibly inspirational. A teacher who is always there for her students. A teacher whom I am indebted to with so much gratitude.

She is professor Sara Amin.

Professor Amin was one of my teachers back in college. Since the first class with her, I knew right away this is the person I will think of when I feel like giving up. She’s a young woman, an Asian who shares the same skin tone with me, thus, is not expected to be successful or inspirational. But she’s the opposite. She’s incredibly intelligent, a Fulbright scholar who has her Ph.D. from a university in Canada, and speaks three languages--English, French and her mother tongue, Bengali. As a teacher, she’s always well-prepared, able to simplify difficult reading materials, and consistently respectful toward her students’ ideas/opinions. She takes the time to carefully grade our work, provides helpful comments, and is always available for us outside the classroom. That’s not even half of the story.

Besides teaching, she organizes various conferences at our universities, oversees a weekly tale activity (where inspirational people are invited to share their life story and journey of success with us, students), and advises many groups of students for their summer projects.

I looked at her, and couldn’t help but ask how could she do that? How could she manage time for all these works?

Because of her, every time I’m overwhelmed with workloads, I tell myself: “This is not even half of professor Amin’s. Professor Amin can do it. I should also be able to do it. She works hard, and she inspires others. I’ve got to work hard and inspire others too. You got this, Saren.”

That is just a brief preview of how she is and what she does that inspires so many students in my university.

What she directly does for me is much more unbelievable. It’s a mixture of little things such as checking in to see how I’m doing to some very significant ones including helping me to get an incredible scholarship to study in one of the prestigious universities in the US that is Brandeis university.

When I had a neck strain after tripping in the football field, she was the one who took me to the health center and ensured that I was taken care of properly. This tiny act of caring and kindness might be overlooked by some, but not me. What she did makes me feel loved, cared about, and felt like home in a strange land far away from my home (the college I went to was in Bangladesh while I am actually from Cambodia). Kindness is a multiplier. Receiving her kindness makes me kinder toward people around me, and I can never forget that little thing of kindness she did to me.

Whenever I’m in doubt and having a problem, I can always turn to her to ask for guidance and advice. Regardless of how busy she is, she always takes the time to respond to my email and does so with full attention and thoughtful response and does not make me feel like I am giving her a burden at all.

Another nice thing about her is the continued support and belief in me and my work. Professor Amin was the advisor for my oral history project compiling stories of the Khmer Rouge survivors which wasn’t approved for funding from my university. But she believed in me and my colleague. My colleagues and I managed to get some funding from outside sources, but it wasn’t enough. Professor Amin was the one who funded the rest to help make our project a reality. The project did not only teach me about lives and struggles of the individual survivors I interviewed, but it landed me a number of job offers later on after I graduated. It was just incredible how her support continues to shape my future.

When my paper got selected for a conference in Thailand, I did not have enough funding for the conference fee and traveling expense. Professor Amin was one of the first who extended her helping hand with some budget to get me to the conference and present my paper. She took the time from her busy schedule to transfer money from Bangladesh to Cambodia through western union which if I’m not wrong, was her first time having to bother to use this service. I made it to the conference, and it was an amazing experience. I got to network with incredible individuals who inspires me even more in the field I’m passionate about. We are still in contact till now. Without professor Amin’s support, that would not have happened. What she does for me motivates me to believe in myself more deeply and ready to work harder to achieve my dreams.

While applying to graduate schools, she had been a very helpful mentor in helping me decide which degree and program I should choose and how I should convey in my essays to prove I am ready and qualified to join their respected institutions. She is also one my references who writes an incredibly strong recommendation letter about me that even if I were to be one of the selection committee members, I would also select this person she writes about. The three-page reference creates the image of the best me that is so powerfully touchy. It’s not that she fabricates the story about me or anything. She was completely honest, but she just has this capacity to wonderfully crafts it in a way that details all my strengths which I myself fail to see it sometimes. And I got it, admissions to two prestigious universities in the UK and the US with a full scholarship. I am positive her reference plays a significant role in raising up my qualification. This former teacher of mine does not end her support when she stops teaching me. Her support and efforts to mentor me are timeless.

Then came an awfully sorrowful day of my life when I lost my father in a traffic accident shortly after I was supposed to travel to America for my graduate studies. My mother was in the accident too and was hospitalized as her left leg was broken. I was all confused for what I should do with the grad school. It was professor Amin again who was there by my side assisting me all the way with the decision and helping me going through that very difficult time.

I managed to get a semester delayed for my grad studies, and the first day I reached America with so much anxiety I received her email checking on me of how I’m doing and that she’d hope to get a note from me after I’m settled. That feeling of having a close mentor/sister always by your side came to me again, and the anxiety I had unsurprisingly subsided down. All because of her.

The opportunity I’m getting being a student of the Heller school of Brandeis university and potentially getting an internship and working experience here in America will most likely bridge me to many other great opportunities in the future. Whatever I am going to accomplish next, my mentor Sara has her fair share of credit for always inspiring me, believing in me, and for supporting me all this time.

I can never thank her enough for what she has done for me.

Thank you so much, professor Amin. 


PS: The picture is me, professor Amin and her husband who is also very kind and supportive. 

This post was submitted in response to I Am Where I Am Because....