By Nour Hamid.
This is an extract from an article originally published by Nina Iraq, and is reproduced here with permission.
It was around noon when my flight arrived at College Station TX – my home for the next two years as a graduate student at Texas A&M University. After a long flight from Baghdad, I was exhausted and looking forward to a delicious meal and a comfortable bed.
I took my luggage and headed to the arrivals hall, looking for a sign with my name on it as I thought someone from the university might be there to pick me up. I watched other passengers being warmly received by their families and friends. To be expected, right? But to me it was then it hit me that I was alone. No friends or family to speak of and no-one to take care of me (something I was used to in my country).
I continued watching people leave one by one. I was still there, waiting alone. Desperate and tired, I called the international student office. The lady there told me that no one was sent to pick me up! I realized that I would have to take a cab and get to the apartment complex myself. This might seem perfectly normal to most, but it certainly wasn’t to me – a young woman from the Middle East, who was used to her family doing everything for her.
So there you have it – my first culture shock. I realised from there on in that I would have to depend on myself. Everyone expected me to be self-reliant. That is how society functions in the US and that was the first thing I needed to teach myself in order to survive. At the beginning I hated being independent. It was too much work, especially with the amount of studying I was required to do.
It was not easy, but now, on the contrary, I love it.