Abrar Alghamdi is a 25-year-old Saudi-American girl studying psychology, education, and professional writing and editing at West Virginia University after receiving the Saudi Cultural Mission Scholarship. She began her studies at WVU in 2011 and will be graduating in May 2017.
When I first arrived in Morgantown, I thought it was very lackluster and dull, and I was dreading my future studying at West Virginia University. I wished to reside somewhere else, like Boston or New York City. It took me a full year to finally cope and appreciate Morgantown.
This city is changing so fast, and it is so amazing to see it grow and increase in popularity. I was born in Houston, Texas but I am originally from a small town in Saudi Arabia. I grew up in progressive cities like Houston, Jeddah and Sharqiya. I have lived half of my life in Saudi Arabia and the other half in the United States, and I can say I got the best of both worlds.
Being originally from a conservative small town and living in a liberal country changed me for the better as a person. I am moderately bilingual, but sometimes I sound weird to the native speaker because no matter how I try, I always mispronounce a word here and there and it makes my family cringe. I may seem very impressive to the monolingual person, but pathetic to the native speaker. I speak in so many dialects; people have no idea where I am originally from, but it is fun to make them play the guessing games every once in a while. I do not entirely belong to one place suffer from identity confusion, and this gives me a hard time because I am often oblivious to social norms.
Studying abroad has its ups and downs. It has made me appreciate the different cultures that caused me adore traveling. I have been fortunate enough to have visited London, Paris, Canada, Holland, Germany, Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai. My next ambition is to visit East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. I’ve already started learning their languages to prepare myself for my future trip.
Living in Morgantown is so fun because I never got bored. I always have something to do, and I’ve learned how to occupy myself with different activities. WVU has so many cool programs and events, and I am thankful to be a student here. I once had the false assumption that this place was boring and people were not as accepting of Muslims, but fortunately for me, the townspeople proved me wrong.
Living in Morgantown for an extended period of time forced me to build a whole new life while surrounded by the unfamiliar. I’m not going to lie: sometimes it was hard, particularly early on, but I adapted and made it work because I had no other choice. Eventually, I started to relish the challenge of being somewhere where everything was different. I would compare it to the feeling and joy one would get when they find something new and intriguing that they want to learn and master the subject.
The adapting process was so frantic because there were so many unfamiliar opportunities to experience. There was just always something to explore. I learned how to be independent and grow in an environment where I can flourish and be myself. Living in a college town with people from different cultures, backgrounds and religions broadened my horizons and improved my interpersonal skills and knowledge. I am not the judgmental, biased girl from five years ago. I have friends that subscribe to different ethos and beliefs, I have the freedom to practice my religion can be myself without any restrictions.
Read Abrar’s full post on her personal blog, abrarre.wordpress.com.