Saturday, May 26, 2007

One Year Down, One More Year to Go!

So, the second semester is over! And with this my first year in the U.S. is over too. My second semester was a bit harder than the first one; I took three courses as usual, and two of them were in modern literary studies while the third one was all about British literature and John Milton. In last January and a few days before the beginning of the semester, I went on a trip with a group of international students to Pittsbugh, PA and visited the museum of Andy Warhol whom I never heard of before! The moment I entered the museum everything seemed funny to me as I haven't really been to a Pop Art museum before. But after the visit I thought of writing a post about the museum and what I saw there, and as usual I got busy with many others things and eventually forgot about the post! On the week after the trip while I was sitting in class getting my syllabus I saw an assigned trip to the same museum as one of the case studies we were going to take during the course on critical avant-garde studies. So I thought that's it, I'm going to make my final project for the course on Andy Warhol! And it was such a big struggle collecting all the books and materials and annotate them for the bibliography :S But even with the hard time I had working on the paper, I enjoyed so much reading all about his life and artwork, and while I was in New York last week, someone told me and my two friends about where Warhol used to live and we went there to see the place.

Let's start from the beginning and list all the events and things that happened in this semester. In February, I went to Miami for four days on a Fulbright seminar for first year Fulbrighters. Of course everything was paid for :D which added more fun to the trip! I met more than one hunderd Fulbrighters from all around the world, people that I never thought of meeting one day. It was cool, and I enjoyed my time alot even though we had to stay inside the hotel for most of the time due to the heavy seminar schedule! But there was enough time to walk on the beach since the hotel itself was in South Beach facing the wonderful view of the ocean and the open sky. It was one of my little dreams that came true :) The hotel is called Miami Beach Resort and Spa, it wasn't the biggest hotel for sure but we envaded the whole place wearing our blue Fulbright T-Shirts with tages that have our names, U.S. university and country. One of the rooms that we had most of the seminar sessions at was called the Stars Room, or something like that ( I don't quite remember) and it was located on the 82nd floor. Later we were told that Frank Sinatra used to sing and have his concerts in this room!

I also went to a host-family dinner with other three Fulbrighters from Germany, Chile, and Indonesia. We were put into groups and each host chose one group to invite for dinner on our second day in Miami. My host was a man who is originally from Cuba and who invited four friends of his who were also from Cuba and Mexico who have been living in Miami for a very long time. The dinner was very good and we sat in the backyard which was facing the water and we saw small ships and boats passing by during the evening. And on our last night, everyone was invited to restaurant to celebrate the success and end of the seminar. We were told that the place was one of the famous restaurants in Miami, but at the time we got there we found out that it was actually something like a night club with a belly dancer and very loud Greek music!! Not everyone liked it, and many of the Fulbrighters preferred to stay outside talking with each other, although many more of them stayed in and enjoyed their time. Me and other two Iraqi Fulbrighters joined a fourth Iraqi Fulbrighter who studies in Miami and went to a mall and then to a small Middle Eastern restaurant for dinner. On the fourth day, the weather was getting very bad and started to rain, but it was also our time to get back to our campuses and studies after spending a wonderful time on Miami Beach. One of the things that I was surprised to know during the seminar was that Miami is one of the poorest cities in the United States and highly segregated in terms of wealth! I never thought it was actually a poor city at all, everything looked fabulous there with the beaches, palm trees, and high buildings and the lights. But then I understood that the majority of the people living there are immigrants who live in poverty and work hard to support their families in their new place.

And we also visited high schools during our stay as part of the activities during the seminar. We had to divide into groups and each group would visit the assigned high school. We entered some classrooms and started to talk with the students starting by introducing ourselves to talking about our countries, our studies and the scholarship, and we were also asked to encourage the students to consider applying for the Fulbright scholarship and talk about its benefits and all. Of course, being an Iraqi person in America, I got most of the questions from both the students and the teacher. But it was so much fun for me as it was the first time I get to a high school in America, and I wouldn't mind doing it again if I have the chance to.

In March, not much happened except the continuous study and moving to a single room in another residence hall on campus. I wanted a single room from the beginning but I couldn't get one when I first arrived because they were all taken and I was late. Work continued on Andy Warhol paper, with disinterest and difficulty some times! I started working on my other two papers by that time, one on Milton and Paradise Lost, and one on Frankenstein.

In April, I went on a university bus trip to Washington D.C. with my two Polish friends. I forgot to mention that at the beginning of the semester I got to meet many new friends, mostly international students who came here as exchange students for one semester. They all went back home now :( So, this D.C. trip was more fun and much better than my first trip! It was for one day but we got to see almost everything we wanted to. The first stop was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The moment we got there I swore I could smell blood in the air!! I could never imagine that I would see real things from the Holocaust, and in that museum there were real and original objects that were used in some of the consentration camps in Poland and other places. I don't know, but it was very scary to walk among those things knowing that people died on them in a grotesque way! There were writings on the wall from the book Night that I read last year about one of the survivors in Aschwitz concenttration camp. No photographying was allowed inside the museum, so I couldn't take any pictures there. Our second stop was the White House. I was actually a bit disappointed when we got there because I thought we'd be able to see it on a closer range behind the black fence! But even with that far away look, it was pretty cool :D And then we walked to Veitnam Veterans Memorial, Veitnam's Women Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Cherry Blossoms festival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, back to Washington Monument, and then to the Capitol building. The weather was extremely cloudy on that day but luckily it didn't rain until we got on the bus to get back home! By this time I bought a camcorder replacing the one I didn't bring with me from home to record everything and everywhere I go.

In May, two events happened on the first week of the month. The first one was a BBQ for international students celebrating the end of school year and the graduation of some of the students. The event took place in an off campus lodge located down a hill among huge trees. It was COOL! There weren't as many studnets as I expected it to be because it was the last week of the semester and many of us had exams and papers to work on, but I didn't want to miss the chance of relaxing and seeing a new place in the small town where I study. We played frisbee and broke some nails :P, and of course took many pictures. The second event was an American wedding of two of my friends here! Never did I think that I would have the chance of attending a wedding in the U.S.! It felt like I was in a movie, everything looked so neat and beautiful. Both the bride and the groom are in English department with me, but we've never been in the same class together. The girl is American and the guy is Syrian and they had both Arabic style wedding and American one, but I only attended the American one. I couldn't stay for the whole time cuz I had to get back and finish my papers, it was still the last week of the semester and time was running so fast, however, I enjoyed it alot.

A week after the semester was over, I went on a trip for four days to NYC with my two Polish friends. It was the first time for me there, and won't be the last for sure! I saw almost everything I wanted to see and walked everywhere from 9 in the morning till 10 at night! Well, this trip needs another post and will have so many pictures, and this post has been delayed for so long already and I want to publish it now after fighting with uploading the pictures! As for summer plans, I'm taking two summer classes, one at a time, and the first one will start on this coming monday and ends in the beginning of July, while the second class will start four days after the end of the first class, and end sometime in early August. I'm not going back home for the break because I can't. The Fulbright gave the Iraqi students a one-entry visa and it would take us up to six months if we have to apply for a new one! So I'm just staying here untill I graduate. More trips and events are coming ahead, along with much more studying and homework!!