Office Of Multicultural Affairs

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) was established in 2002 to support the College’s efforts to attract, recruit, and serve both students of color and international students. Our mission is to create and sustain an environment that encourages and embraces the contributions of people from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Le Provoc: Multicultural Affairs Article #6

"Envision a place you've always known ever since you were born. Then imagine having to move to a land where everything from the food to the clothes to the people is completely foreign in your eyes. This was exactly how I felt growing up in the Middle East and then having to move to the United States when I was about four years old. I had no idea what to expect and it was difficult to adjust to say the least.

I went from believing in Allah and praying at dawn in one moment to going to Monday Bible study in the next. Living with my mother in the United States, I learned everything there was to know about the American way of life. Here, it was not mandatory to cover your face in public places, nor was it difficult for females to get into higher education and become doctors, lawyers, or businesswomen.

Also, I had to become familiar with the mannerisms and social cues of American society. Usually, children get yelled at for eating their food with their hands, but growing up this was encouraged and was seen as a sign of respect for the food, as well as whoever prepared it. Once I had moved to the United States, I had to convert to using utensils all the time while eating which now I don't think twice about. Before, it was rare for dinner plates to be set at the table because in Saudi Arabia, I sat on the floor where it was common to eat a meal. Now, I can't even think of a time where I sat on the floor and ate.

I had to adapt to how people spoke, dressed, and how they acted around their peers. My cousins were actually the first people who taught me how to speak English. Today, you wouldn't even be able to tell I spoke a foreign language. I was immersing myself into the American culture by making friends in school and paying close attention to what was popular in their minds. Before I knew it, I started collecting Barbie dolls and Pokémon cards and watched reruns of Full House and Saved by the Bell. I had learned to acculturate myself into a world I once thought was unfamiliar and strange. I had never thought I would be able to fit in such a society, but I was succeeding. Nevertheless, my mother made sure I never forgot where I came from and encouraged me as well as my sisters to explore our family roots.

In some ways I am happy that I had the opportunity to move to a country that has provided me with an incredible education and has exposed me to a variety of people and places. I don't think I would have it any other way, and I am thankful each day that I live in the United States. I do wonder from time to time what my life would be like if I had stayed in the Middle East with my father. Would I be able to get a college education? Would I have met the same kind of people and experienced the same kind of things as I have in the United States? Most importantly, would I have been happy? All these questions along with many others have plagued me and I reflect on them occasionally, but I feel everything happens for a reason and I think if someone gave me an ultimatum to either stay in the United States or go back to the place I was born, I would choose to stay because after all, this is the place of opportunity and dreams."

Mona Al-Abadi '11
Public Relations, ALANA Network

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