If I’m to choose a theme title for what I learned in my first semester in the states, it would be “Family”. I have learned a lot about the American society (especially in Indiana). I made a lot of friends here in the past semester.
Actually I can divide what I gained here in different categories:
I’m living with a host family. Before I travel to the states I had many options of housing but I decided I want to live with a host family. Back in Egypt, I’m a family man. I love my family and friends. I can never do without them. That’s why I wanted to live in a family atmosphere to make up some of the nostalgia I will feel for my family. I found my precious host family Tyler, Larissa, their super cute little girls Timber and Addie and Larissa’s mother Janice and their lovely dogs Jango and Popa. The parents are about my age and they are funny, kind and we have a lot in common. We had a lot of fun and exciting activities since I joined their house. The most fun activity is Thanksgiving holiday. We in addition to their other family members and friends, went for the holiday in Ohio. We rented an old lighthouse and we had a LOT of fun. I was introduced to many American board games which I loved and addicted. My favorite became Munchkins. We had a lot of traditional American food.
What’s more exciting is all of my host family’s members are teachers on different levels. So, that gave me the chance to learn a lot more about the society and their amazing education system.
I had also the opportunity to make a lot of good friends who include other fulbrighters here at Purdue from different countries: Nikhil (India), Humera (Pakistan), Maya (Indonesia) and Angel (Mexico). I knew them through the Purdue Fulbright Association. We do a lot of fun activities together and we go see different places and capture amazing moments thanks to our talented photographer Nikhil who is a fulbrighter visiting scholar in food science.
There is also Mark my friend who was assigned to me by the Fulbright International Friendship Program. We do a lot of talking together and this really enriched my understanding of the states on many levels. His lovely wife, Chris, has made an achievement with me as she made me love Spinach. As an Egyptian, young people are not in good terms with Spinach 😀
At last, there are my Purdue Buddies friends: Kathleen, Paul, Max and Rituraj. I had a lot of fun with them going to concerts, flying a purdue private plane, watching SpaceX breakthrough together.
I also was a member in Purdue Boiler Out Volunteering organization and I completed more than 25 hours of volunteering activity so far.
The activities were so much fun they included:
- Sorting corn with the Food Finders Food Bank
- Teaching middle school kids about world economy with Junior Achievement organization
- Help organize West Lafayette Public Library Book Fair
- Help with the daily routine of Natalie’s Second Chance Dog Shelter
- Prepare Thanksgiving dinner at Hanna Community Center
- Collecting donations with the Salvation Army Christmas Bell Ringing
- Teaching Physics to kids with the Purdue Physics Outreach Program
Cultural and Personal:
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is that I stopped getting illegal pirated content. The community here is very helpful in this case. I can get almost anything I need (Games, Books, Movies, Songs, TV Shows, … almost anything) with very very cheap prices.
I also improved my piano skills on the ‘free-for-all’ on-campus pianos.
I visited 5 states so far: Indiana, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio and I’m planning to visit more in the next semester.
I won the Fulbright MENA Halloween Costume contest with my Ezio Auditore De Firenze costume
and I got amazing prizes from Fulbright 🙂
I learnt a lot of stuff that I would have spent years to do back in Egypt. I built a DB engine from scratch, I built a Traffic Sign Recognition System using Machine Learning, I implemented many Machine Learning Algorithms. I re-studied a lot of stuff that I was taught wrong in Egypt.
And the last thing, one of the most important goals of Fulbright is Cultural Exchange. So I didn’t only acquire the taste of the American culture. I also transferred it to Egypt. I created on Facebook a hashtag #مواقف_أمريكية which translates as #American_Incidents In this hashtag, I tell my Egyptian family, friends, students, colleagues and followers back in Egypt about every new thing I encounter here in the states And I believe so far that I changed a LOT of the stereotype that many Egyptians have about Americans.
I believe my first semester in the states was fruitful on all levels I can imagine. I hope the coming semesters will be as fruitful as this one.