People who come from diverse regions of the world have developed their own traditions and societal norms, the fact that has led to the existing cultural diversity among populations. This diversity is worth mentioning for it has played a central role in my education history, making it even more appreciable. It has indeed expanded my choices in different aspects of life, helping me nurture a variety of human values and skills. This is especially the case because I have been able to use my wisdom from the past to inform the future. This is not to say that my history as a student has not been rocky.
Challenges have been part and parcel of my everyday life as a student. Pursuing education away from home, in a foreign language has not been easy. Being originally from Saudi Arabia, I had to face new life experiences when I came to the United States. With the conflicting cultures and language, I had to remain steady and focused to achieve my goals. I may not have shone exceptionally, but I can say that so far am doing good.
The Saudi Arabia and the United States cultural differences have been my major hurdle. Back home, one has to observe age-old norms and societal values developed over the millennia for they are highly regarded. I come from a province in the hinterland, meaning much of it has not been exposed to western civilization and culture. There is a strict observance of moral values and a mix between the sexes is not allowed. Even the school system has been modeled in a manner that does not allow boys and girls to mix, at least not until they get to college. Such was the environment in which I had to grow up.
Coming to the United States, therefore, brought its own experiences, most of which have made me stronger. I remember my first time ever in the lecture theater. I was very astonished, and a bit shaken to be it the presence of so many people of the opposite sex. I could not even gather enough courage to sit near any one of them, I simply pulled a chair and moved to sit next to a lady in a veil, for I naturally identified with her and felt more comfortable near her. Still, I could not even look up; I had my eyes glued to the floor to avoid eye contact with the male students. Luckily, my husband had enrolled with me for the English course for beginners. He offered me much-needed moral courage, and I always sat next to him. Belonging to the same group together made things even easier for me.
However, my moments of relief were short-lived. In my class I was the only female student in the semester that followed. Even worse, my husband was not with me anymore. It was really hard for me, especially in the study groups where one was required to talk sometimes. During such moments, my voice could tremble with fear. I felt out of place. My husband’s friend had to do some group assignments for me simply because I could not handle it. I tried to change classes without success. Complaining to my husband did not yield much; he only told me to put up with it and emphasized adjusting to it was the only way I was going to succeed. He said more challenges lay ahead, and I had to change my attitude if I really wanted to make it. This I did, gladly.
The results of this change in attitude were soon clear. I was fast learning, from my classmates and tutors. Both my spoken and written grammar improved tremendously. I learnt not to give up. I can recall one particular moment when one of my classmates came across an essay I had written, and she read it to the class because it contained many grammatical mistakes. They laughed at me, but this encouraged me more, pushed me to work harder. Today, I can boast to be one of the best writers in my class. In fact, I was recently approached by one of the clubs in the school to write them an essay or two to be included in their monthly magazine.
Most of my fellow students have been indeed very supportive and understanding. They respect our culture and religion. For instance, they comprehend they must strictly observe inter-personal distance and handshakes are not our regular thing.
Contrastingly, teachers have been very supportive. Despite there being a slight challenge in a language, they have been very helpful and understanding. I have trained myself to overcome my fear and am now free to consult whenever I feel the need to do so. They occasionally hold motivational talks, a forum that provides us with an opportunity to ask anything we may need to know. Guidance and counseling, even as regards careers, is something they have committed themselves to do. I intend to benefit much from the mentorship program even as I yearn to excel academically. I know this is what will shape my future.
I still yearn for further self-improvement for it is clear to me that I still have a long way to go. I have formed a habit of ensuring I learn something new each day. I am no longer as timid as I was when I first came here. Am glad I can now engage in social functions like parties and engage in many other activities for each brings with it a new experience, even as I get to meet new people. Most importantly, I plan and hope to remain focused and concentrate in my academic work, do my best for there is only one sure way to succeed: hard work.