This I Believe

HUMAIRAH - Manchester, Missouri
Entered on May 9, 2007

Things are never as bad as we fear they will be.

I am an ordinary girl from Indonesia. I like to study and wanted to improve my English. I believe that America is the right place to go. I grew up believing that education is more important than everything else. Both my parents are teachers; they always want me to be educated and be a successful person someday.

Once I was accepted to an exchange program, I heard everyone’s opinion of America. They said that America is too far a way, too “strange” for me; blah… blah… blah… and some of them sent their regards to President George W. Bush. However, most of them teased me.

The most beloved woman in my world, my grandmother, did not want me to come to the United States. Maybe she was just worried. I, too, was worried. What my life would be like in the country that has been synonymous with opportunity? I thought that I’d be alone, because I don’t know which state I lived in? Who will host me? What about my school? What is the first English word I will use? What kind of food I would eat? Could I have rice? But I’m Muslim I wear a “hijab” or scarf to cover my hair. Could I wear my hijab? How about the mosque? Do they have them in US?

As I walked through the airport I felt very small, like an ant between a giant, strange people around me. I glanced up to see a billboard that read “Welcome to U.S.A”. I didn’t know who would pick me up in the airport. Would I get lost there? However, soon some AFS volunteers got me and brought me to the “safe place”. It wasn’t home yet, I still had a little orientation with other new students who would live around Missouri. They came from other countries, like Germany, Italy, Thailand, Turkey, and Japan.

Two days after the orientation I met my host family. I introduced myself to them, and I was really surprised to have two host brothers and sisters, and a big surprise that I live with five huge dogs inside the home. Imagine how scared I was! Would they hurt me? After the first two weeks, however, I learned that dogs were friendly.

My American school was three times the size of my boarding school, not only the building, but the number of students. Everything was “HUGE”. I feared I would always be tardy, getting lost while searching for my classes. I finally got used to it; I was never tardy, but I got lost twice. Not too bad, I guess. I thought that I would fail in all my classes. I got a D on my first government report. This was very frustrating. My teachers spoke so fast; it felt like trying to catch up to a jet plane. But I tried hard, and thank God, I have a lot of friends. They’re very friendly and helpful. Also my teachers are so kind, and very patient to teach me until I understood, and soon I made good grades.

At first I believed that the United States was just like in the movies. The students didn’t pay attention in their classes, they didn’t respect their parents, and their parents have no time to spend at home, they won’t care for their kids, they’re just busy and focused on money. However, what I experienced changed my mind. My friends are smart, love to learn, and have goals for the future. The kids are respectful to their parents and their parents are caring, and supportive, and passionate. And during celebration days, the families meet together to celebrate and share their happiness.

I couldn’t believe that when I found some Indonesian food from the global market, I was really excited, I found the rice and some of the diet that is similar from my country, I got a chance to cook for my host family, and then I noticed that Muslims study at the same school as mine, and there are a lot of them, the girls also wear hijab, and I am not the only one. I even went to the mosque every day I had no school.

After almost a year living in the United States and the people, cultures, events, and the beautiful places, I found out that what I expected was different from what I actually experienced. Things are never as bad as we fear they will be. This I believe.