Monday, September 03, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Here's another post that I write without thinking. I think this idea works for me now!

Last year on this day, I arrived to the U.S. and I still remember every moment of this year in details as if I'm still living it now. I arrived on September 2nd, at 7:20 PM to Washington DC and I remember that I started to cry the moment I saw the trees and buildings from the plane's window not believing that I was finally here. I was supposed to catch a second flight on the same night but it was rescheduled, so I stayed in a hotel at the airport, and the moment I got there I looked for internet to send emails to my family and friends informing them of my safe arrival. The second morning I went to the airport and got the flight to Pittsburgh, and then I was supposed to get a bus to another town but it was Labor Day and the only transportation I could find was an expensive Taxi, so I took it and got to the town where the campus is but I still couldn't get there because of the holiday which was also a good thing for me since I needed to sleep so badly and I couldn't concentrate on anything anymore. It was the 3rd of September by then.

I got a room in a little motel that the university recommended for me before I arrived, and I remember that I slept till the next morning! I woke up for a while in the evening and I was hungry but I didn't go out to get some food because I was raining and I didn't know if there were restaurants near there because all I could see was a big Staples Store sign and huge parking lot. Well, later I knew that there was Walmart and a whole bunch of stores in that place :D

So, I got to campus the next morning and finished the paperwork and took the keys for my dorm apartment, and wrote that post from my roommate's laptop that was written in some funny forms other that English! The first two weeks were the hardest, but I remember that everything was getting easier for me (except classes!) and I was learning to do things easier and faster by then. The only thing I regret neglecting is the social life! I was scared of socializing with people that much and couldn't make friends quick which made it even harder for me during the first semester. I had big plans of traveling to some places during the winter break, but because of my lack of friends I had to stay in my apartment during the whole break all by myself, and it was very cold and snowy by then that it was so hard to go anywhere. And then came the New Year's Eve which I spent all by myself feeling lonely and not knowing what to do. And it was on that day that I swore not to stay alone on next New Year's Eve.

The first semester was over and the second one began with plans to move to a single room, make some friends, and participate in the university's activities. I achieved some of that during the second semester, went to Miami and Washington DC, and passed my classes well. But the friends I made went back to their countries after the semester was over as they were all exchange students for one semester. So I was back to point zero once again! I don't know what happened, but it was always easy for me to make friends when I was still in Baghdad, and whenever I think of it I can't find any explanation. I sit in class and see that students are talking with each other all the time about their lives and families and makes me think that they must know each other very well, but how do I do that. I do talk with my classmates but I still feel that it's just a formal conversation between people who are taking the same class. Is it because I am relatively younger than the other students that they think I'm just too young to talk to, or is it that I'm from Iraq and they don't know how I think of them and of their country that they are cautious of making friends with me, or is it just that I have to work harder to improve my social skills which seem to be deteriorating in order to make some friends? And above all that, the town I'm in is really boring and there is nothing to do at all! I thought of getting a job this semester just for the sake of socializing, but then I thought of all the reading and writing that I have to do for my courses. I mean the load of coursework is just so much that sometimes I can't even find enough time to finish it, and I'm starting with my thesis now which means that it will be even harder this semester.

I can't believe how many things can happen in one year, how many faces and names can one meet, how many new places to see and experiences to have. It's just amazing! Last year I wasn't sure if I was able to get to this stage, and now I look back at it and realize that I've learned a lot from this experience, from living by myself in a foreign country, and by depending completely on myself with everything I do. The simplest decision that I make takes a whole research and thinking from me because I am the only one who decides for me and it's my responsibility to keep my mind alert at all times, which, by the way, is not an easy task at all! Sometimes I get tired of this and wish if I have the chance to be lazy for one day and depend on someone to do everything for me, but I know I can't do that as long as I'm alone and away from home. Sorry, my brain, but I think that I need to keep you fully awake for another day! I came here with nothing but hopes, fears, expectations and a dream to make come true... oh, and two huge suitcases! :P And so far, nothing failed me at all.

Let's see where I will be writing the post next year on this time! What's after graduation is still a mystery for me.



Lisa, New York said...

Wonderful post, Morbido!

Hey, I have an idea. You wrote how difficult it is sometimes to figure out how to do things, etc. and that you've learned so much over the past year...

I bet there might be some future Iraqi Fulbright (or other scholarship) students reading your blog. It might be a great thing for you to write down some of the things you experience (or have experienced over the past year) that you learned, things that could help a future student. For instance, little things like how and where to shop for things, differences in food, how to handle things on campus, different ways of doing things here that surprised you... just all the little things you wish you'd known before you came. You could be like the "big sister" giving advice.

It might be a big help to someone else and also give you something to write about and a way to remember it all, for yourself.

Just a thought... :-)

David said...

Happy Anniversary Morbido! :)

It looks like your campus is very beautiful in the warmer months. Is that a picture of Niagara Falls? I have never been there, but I have seen lots of pictures and video of the falls on TV. It is really amazing! Where is this walking trail? I love to hike on trails through the woods. I like the shapes, colors, sounds, and smells of nature. I recently went hiking in one of my favorite places. We have a huge forested park surrounding a big reservoir next to the city. There are many trails and hills to climb, with big trees all around. :) I will post my pictures sometime soon.

When I was in college, my experience was that most students tended to hang out with people they perceived as being like themselves. Well, I was always different in that respect. I really enjoyed meeting international students and some of my best friends were from other countries. I think part of your difficulty may be that your school is small, so the availability of potential friends is somewhat limited. Do the international students there put on any festivals and invite the rest of the student body to visit? Perhaps that would be a way to meet some nice people. Your school must have a department to help international students when they first arrive on campus. Perhaps you could volunteer a bit of time to help the new students at that department. It could be a way to make some new friends. I worked at a similar department at my college, and I met a lot of nice people that way and made a few friends. :)

Would you like to try and stay in the U.S. for a Ph.D.? I am sure that you could qualify with your excellent work on your Master's degree. Perhaps you could explore some programs at bigger schools.

Good luck as you begin your new semester!

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jarvenpa said...

happy anniversary, Morbido--I think you have done very well in your year.
And the photos you have posted are very lovely. May this year bring you adventures and friends and excellent work on your thesis--what is your theme going to be?

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Congratulations on your anniversay, Morbido. It's hard to believe it's been a year already. Time really flies!

The pictures were beautiful, btw.

Hmmm...ideas on making friends, let's see...

It's a pity you didn't just try to switch roommates, rather than getting rid of one entirely. That's kind of a built in friend right there.

I think we've suggested joining activities. Even if it's just an excercise class. :) It's a little easier to strike up a friendship when you are all in the same boat. ;)

How about volunteer work? Maybe at the library?

Hope the new year goes well. Good luck!