Rahma from Egypt is a new visiting student for the Fall 2012 at the University of Arkansas. She reflected upon her first a few weeks for our blog. Enjoy her story:
Flying overseas for more than 15 hours, passing through one check point after another, 3 stops at 3 different cities… Yet, for me, all of this didn’t matter… What was always in my mind while I was traveling was the final destination: Fayetteville, Arkansas. As the plane approached the airport, Northwest Arkansas didn’t seem like a big city from the air. In fact, it was totally the opposite – there were sheep, barns, horse stables and green fields all around the place. Coming from Cairo, Egypt, I had never lived in the countryside or a city with a lot of green before, so I immediately thought it was going to be interesting to live here, but I also thought it would be a fun chapter of my life. My arrival was very smooth. I felt the hospitable atmosphere right away, which I’d always heard about as Southern Hospitality since I learned that I was going to a southern state.
When I first arrived in Fayetteville, I knew nothing about the town or the University culture. I didn’t know anyone except a couple of students who came to the UofA on the same scholarship program. However, after the orientation week, I was confident that I got ‘well oriented’ with the place, students and the University – the home of the Razorbacks! That week was definitely the best start for my academic year and my stay in Fayetteville as it brought this new environment into my comfort zone. I met people literally from all over the world: Asia, Africa, North America, Central & South America and Europe. We had fun through orientation activities and sessions and we visited several places around Fayetteville. I became friends with most of them while exploring new places. It was indeed an international week and I got to learn a bit of every culture of every country that was presented at the UofA.
I spent 10 days of Ramadan here in Fayetteville. Ramadan back home is such a spiritual month where we have many family gatherings and share the food with friends and relatives but I thought there was not going to be any of this here in Fayetteville. Luckily, I ran into a couple of Pakistani students who introduced me to the Islamic Center in the community and I went there with them several times to pray and break fast with other Muslims. It was really nice and brought some of Ramadan spirits to me in Fayetteville. At the end of Ramadan, the Islamic Center held a small celebration on the occasion of the Feast. I went there on that day and the great part was that a couple of my American friends joined me! We shared food and cultures and it was truly a wonderful time at the mosque.
As time goes by, I’ve learned that studying at the UofA is definitely different from my university back home. From the class environment, how professors teach here, to relationships with classmates, everything is very new to me. It is sometimes challenging to face such a lot of new situations and events in a totally new environment but actually, so far, I’ve been enjoying my time here and day by day I learn more about the culture and the people. Since I arrived in Fayetteville, I’ve tried to embrace all the differences, which I believe is not an impossible thing to do especially when we are surrounded by an open-minded, culturally diverse, supportive environment such as the one here at the UofA.
Looking back a few weeks since I arrived in Fayetteville, I’ve realized and confirmed my mission of my study abroad experience: cultural exchange! I’m here to discover and learn about the American culture and people and to have a glimpse on the academic life in an American educational institution. I’m also here to teach people about my country, language and background which I come from. I am willing to take in every opportunity to adjust myself into the society and also to be a responsible member of the community through volunteer activities and so on. In addition to those, I am planning to travel as much as possible to other states and major cities. I want to take pictures with the statue of liberty in New York City and try out Texas’s well-famous house steak! And the list goes on and on…!
Sometimes I already feel homesick and miss my family and friends and everything about home, too. Yet, I keep reminding myself of all the things that I could do here as a visiting student, goals to achieve and experiences to gain in my stay in the U.S. I’m here today writing this article in my dorm room in the U.S. and I am positive it will be an amazing experience that will teach me a lot and it will be a year full of accomplishments.
Thank you, Rahma, for sharing your thoughts about your first a few weeks in Fayetteville! Also, thank you for bringing the world to the community!