By Sulaiman Al-Ekairi
LIKE many others who wanted to realize their dream of pursuing higher education abroad, I was a bit apprehensive about where to go. America was at the top of my list of countries, and so I started asking people about life in the US.
There were some who scared me while others guided and advised me to be cautious in dealing with American society. Others told me about the discrimination there, something I had never experienced as I was living in my society and amidst my family. Finally, well-armed with inputs and all procedures completed, my journey toward the future began. My first stop was Washington DC.
The Cultural Attaché’s Office in Washington DC provided outstanding services for incoming students at the airport including receiving us and providing temporary accommodation. I completed the initial formalities and then headed to the university where I would be studying.
Thoughts about American society and some of my preconceptions were still lingering in my mind. The first American citizen I dealt with had a great impact on changing my pessimistic view toward Americans. He was well-mannered and refined in the way he dealt with me.
He informed me about his admiration and respect for Muslims — as a people and culture — and helped me find accommodation. He used to talk to me like an old friend and was in weekly contact with me until he was reassured about my situation. How refined this person was in the way he treated me!
Studies began and I spent an enjoyable time studying the English language until it became the bridge of communication between me and the Americans. After some time, I noticed the number of my American friends increasing.
Respect was shown toward Muslim students during the holy month of Ramadan when the institute’s administration issued a decision prohibiting eating and drinking in the institute’s corridors. All the Americans I met were actually very kind and friendly.
I congratulate everyone who has got the opportunity to pursue his education, particularly those who come to America. You will find a disciplined people and a wonderful life.
I would like to express my thanks to our country for granting us this wonderful opportunity — the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program (may Allah protect our monarch). And thank you to America for taking me a step further.