September 7, 2010

Welcome to Juniata College!

This is not so much of a cultural shock to me as I think it is to my friends as I have been in the United States for two weeks last June and the shock was all over the place back then! Even though, I had some other adjustment shocks that have some cultural as well as personal intonations to it that might have not made my days but certainly taught me a lot about the American culture, specifically Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

I took it as a highly important goal of my scholarship to try and teach other American students in Juniata College about my country, traditions, culture as well as the society in an attempt to erase the stereotypical image that the media has portrayed for countries in the Middle East for the past decades.

I am here as a cultural ambassador in one of the United States’ most remote and isolated societies with a majority of 80% whites, 14% internationals and the rest is predominantly clack or other ethnic minorities. I had in mind that blending in this social structure and special cultural aspect of America would not be the easiest especially being a black-Arab descending from African roots. Nonetheless, I believe that I have met many people who chose to accept me as I am, share their experiences with me as well as listen to mine, and encouraged me t dare and mingle with those I sometimes hesitated to approach for respect of their groups or preferences during free times. One simple lesson is learned here, being yourself is the only price you have to pay here. Now that does not necessarily mean that you will be welcomed nor doesn’t refer to the contrast situation. All that is, is that you are the only one who determines whether you are accepted or not. Just be honest and go for it!

We had a wonderful event on the first weekend of school last Saturday and Sunday and it is known in Juniata College as “Lobster Fest” which is a yearly event where lunch is lobster, obviously, and then all the committees, clubs and student bodies advertise for the interest of each and introduce their ideas for Freshmen students as well as those who are interested. I ended up joining a lot of clubs myself and this week we get to attend some of them. There are almost 100 clubs that everyone can join!

I was very nervous about this experience but having attended the NESA orientation in DC with fellow Juniata College students has certainly helped me manage myself better and have some kind of a support mechanism to push me forward and help me fulfill my goals through this scholarship and opportunity.

For the time being, I am trying to stay focus, manage classes, keep up with work daily as well as weekly and get to experience the American student’s lifestyle. I am not too excited about the last even though it is essential but that would not stop me from going for it. I look forward to having a wonderful time here and to learning and teaching as much as possible about cultural exchange.

One last thing, I am taking part in a project called “Language in Motion” which is basically teaching students in schools from elementary through high school about other cultures like mine. I am really excited about this because it tests both my ability as a cross-cultural learning teacher and my promise in providing essential primary source of information for eager minds that this program targets!

For now I hope everyone is doing great and that this be a wonderful year for all of you!