How I Feel After my Study Abroad Semester

Aaaaaah! I’m finally home… I can’t begin to explain how much I’ve missed my family and friends. It’s a blessing to be back safe and sound. I’m grateful for this opportunity but I’d be lying if I said I felt that way all along…

To start off, I started packing 3 weeks or even a month before I was supposed to leave, that’s just how excited I was haha. At times, I felt so homesick that I started radiating negative energy to everyone around me. The other international students didn’t want to leave and were surprised at how excited I was to go back. How can I not be? I have an amazing, exciting life hamdellah. I have a lot to go back to. Towards the end of the semester, it was hard to remember the reason I chose to go and I honestly couldn’t wait to go back. But if it wasn’t for this experience, I wouldn’t have valued my life in Dubai or how to really be independent & lift myself up whenever I feel down. Because of these five months, I’m sure I can handle whatever comes my way…good or bad.

And now that I’m home, a lot of people keep asking me about my experience which I find so hard to answer. How can I sum up so many mixed emotions into one sentence? It felt like a rollercoaster ride with lots of ups and downs. There were a lot of moments that I will forever cherish and many others I will try to forget. A lot of people ask me if I would recommend it to anyone, my answer is, it depends. These are some points you should think about before taking this decision:

  1. Do it if you’re always looking for a change like me. If you feel like getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.
  2. Think about everything you’re going to jeopardize by being away, your relationship, your friendships, the opportunities or things you might miss out on back home.
  3. Choose the place you’re going to CAREFULLY! A lot of people ask me why I chose Missouri and the answer is, I didn’t. Well, technically I did but it wasn’t on purpose. I chose four universities in California and when the study away office asked me for a fifth one, I chose Missouri State University without researching the place… four weeks later I got an email saying, “Congratulations! You’ve been placed at Missouri State University!” So yes, you can imagine my disappointment if my expectations were California. BUT that was the reason my experience was different and unexpected. I got the true, midwestern, American experience that I never got before from all the times I visited the US.
  4. Pack lightly haha. I know you think you’ll need that coat or that purse when you leave but believe me you won’t and you’ll end up buying everything there. This is coming from a girl who shipped 2 boxes, 2 bags, 1 carryon, and one backpack…
  5. Be 100% sure you’re IN and you’re doing this! When I arrived, my mom freaked out because of how cold the weather was and insisted on bringing me back to Dubai. To be honest, I wanted to listen to her so badly… I was freaking out myself and just needed to leave. But instead, I calmed her down and I realized I’ve come a long way and remembered all the reasons I chose this! & here I am..

Going back to how I feel now, I feel uncomfortable. There are so many things and people that I got used to that are not with me anymore. I feel like I’m out of my comfort zone again and I have to get used to dealing with the same people I had no problem dealing with before my semester abroad. The only thing that is different now is me. And I’m grateful for this 🙂

Growing up, we take so many things for granted. The food, the people, our parents, and the Arab lifestyle in general. To say the least, we’re used to getting everything delivered to our doorstep even at 1 AM. We’re used to our parents paying our tuition, giving us our allowance every month, and buying us EVERYTHING. But back in Missouri, almost every student works and earns their own money which made me feel like a spoiled brat. So appreciate and thank your parents every chance you get.

The point is, sometimes you need to temporarily get away from your life to realize and see how blessed you are.

The New Normal

My study away experience has started three weeks ago and I’ve never felt this confused in my life like I’ve been feeling lately. Although I’ve been to the U.S four times before, I’ve never visited this part of the country, The Midwest.

I often ask myself …

Where am I? What have I done? Why did I do this? What now?

Before my arrival, I had different expectations of the city and the people I’ll be surrounded with, let alone the weather. And everyday that passes by, I’m still learning how to adjust these expectations and make the best out of it.

I come from Dubai, a modern and diverse city with a luxurious lifestyle that we often take for granted because we forget that it’s an added value. But on the other side of the world, it’s the exact opposite. Springfield is pretty much flat to me. It’s a simple city with everything just around the corner. Surprisingly, many people knew what Dubai is and a lot of its attractions like Palm Jumeirah but many others thought it was located in India.

Being an Egyptian girl who was raised in Saudi Arabia and currently lives in Dubai, I feel like wherever I go I’m breaking the stereotypes.

According to them, I have all the answers!

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I’ve never felt like a freshman at AUS, even when I was one 3 years ago. I’ve known my way around campus, I knew a lot of students, and I wasn’t seen alone on the first day of classes back home. But it took me around 3 days here to get to know my way around and how the system works. Luckily, I don’t think I’ve experienced that much of a change academically compared to other international students.

Springfield, Missouri is a quiet city with not a lot of places to explore which is why the campus is full of life and lots activities to do. My day starts at 8 AM and pretty much ends at 5 or 6 which means I get to go to bed at 9 or 10 pm (no more dark circles under my eyes).

There are a few Arabs on campus (Saudis mainly) but the majority of students are American which kinda makes international students feel outnumbered in classes. People are generally nice and welcoming but they’d never initiate a conversation. My favorite thing is that I’m spending time alone without having people stare at me as if I’m a loner or a freak! (Yes, people do that in the Arab world or come up to you and ask you, why are you sitting alone? Do you wanna join us? No, I’m not depressed and I’m totally fine staying here, thank you…)

Over the next few months, and when the weather gets warmer, I plan on visiting nearby states to get to know this side of the country better.

Getting out of my comfort zone wasn’t the easiest thing for me and I pretty much have to remind myself daily that this WILL be the best experience of my life. I’m still learning how to adjust my expectations and how to avoid any negative thoughts like feeling homesick. And I know that by the end of this semester, I’d be a master in controlling my thoughts and making the best out of anything that comes my way. & this, to me, is why people call it the best experience of your life!

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