Pre-Departure From Kuwait to the United States

As a soon-to-be student, there were a few things I had to do prior to my departure date. I had to get my papers documented from the Kuwait Culture Office (Kuwait Embassy) and I had to do some research. Before I left, I wanted to learn more about the place where I’d be spending the upcoming few years of my life in: Tampa, FL. I felt it was a good idea to familiarize myself with Tampa Bay’s surroundings.

Beginning Steps

Before I came to the United States, I looked for an apartment online, ahead of time. I wanted to make sure that I found one that fit my needs (before the good ones were filled and booked by my fellow students). Also, I began to look for car dealerships online in order to compare the prices. I knew that I would have to have a car to get around. Since I was going to be in Tampa for a long time, I decided to get a car.

Closer to the Trip

Kuwait moving study abroad looking apartment

I booked the airline ticket that would get me to the United States and, of course, the domestic airline ticket. The first flight would land in New York, and the second, domestic flight would take me to Florida. There were a few days between my flights and move-in day at my new apartment, so I booked a hotel room to spend the first few nights in.

Packing to Leave Kuwait

When it came to packing, I avoided making the mistake of packing a lot of things. I took only the essentials that would be hard to find in the United States (head scarfs, for example). When it comes to bathroom essentials that we Muslims use, there is good news! The handheld version for the toilet is found in Home Depot (in-store or online). There is no need to buy different types of bidet sprayers to bring with you from Kuwait (like I did) in order to see which one fits your apartment’s toilet. In short, relax; the one sold in the United States fits all bidets!

Bring Reminders of Home

One last thought; since I was about to embark on a new journey that would last up to 5 years, I wanted to collect personal souvenirs and mementoes from all of my family members and friends. I bought blank, white cards and different colors of Sharpies so I could collect their thoughts. They wrote words of inspiration and motivational quotes to help get me through the next few years. Then, I put all of the cards in sealed envelopes. I am to read one every time I feel homesick or sad. If you try it, it will surely give you a sense of warmth! You can also personalize a wall in your apartment with beautiful writings from your loved ones!

quotes from friends study abroad kuwait

by Dalal Boland

Who Says You Can’t Go Home


“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Before moving to Spain to teach abroad, I refered to Orlando, Florida and Nashville, Tennessee as home. I had lived many years in both of these cities. I felt a deep level of familiarity and connectedness to these places. Living abroad changed me, and I didn’t realize how much it had until I returned to the United States. I could not merely go back to the person I was before and live the same life that I had lived before. I had changed, but the world that I left behind felt largely the same. We often talk about culture shock in addressing adjusting to a foreign country. However, reverse culture shock of former expatriates reintegrating into their home country after being abroad for an extended period of time is just as daunting of an experience.

Moving Back Home to the United States

When I first moved back to the United States, there were many things that I missed about Spain; the beautiful people, the tranquil culture, efficient public transportation, easy access to travel, international curriculum, late nights spent sipping sangria on a terrace, and beautiful churches just to name a few. However, missing Spain was not the most challenging aspect of reintegrating into the United States. The most challenges aspect was actually viewing the U.S through a new lens; a lens that seemed to be only visible to me.

A Different Way of Life

It is all too easy to take norms from one’s own culture for granted as “just the way things are.” That is until you acculturate to a different way of life. You then come home with more questions.

When I lived in Spain, there were things that I missed about the United States. Now that I am back in the United States, there are things that I miss about Spain. There are definitely some mindsets that I have adapted from living in Spain. For instance, it is often said in Spain that “Americans live to work and Spaniards work to live.” I personally can have a tendency to overcommit and stretch myself far too thin. This often leads to burnout. While having a strong work ethic is certainly a positive personal quality, I have come to see value in finding balance. There is a certain beauty in being able to sip sangria on a terrace with good friends and conversations for hours. To be truly present to those that you encounter means to not constantly be thinking of everything on your agenda.

Miami and the Unofficial Language

Upon moving back to the states, I ended up moving to Miami. Miami can best be described as a cross between Spanish and U.S culture. In many ways, this is what I enjoy most about living in Miami and has made reassimilation a bit easier. Spanglish is the unofficial language, Cubans actually do cafecito better, dancing is commonplace, and the concept of time is still circular. I am growing to appreciate the privilege of having all of the benefits and conveniences of living in my country of citizenship, while still living in a multicultural city that carries a strong international vibe.

Although reassimilation for former expatriates can present challenges of feeling like a foreigner in one’s own home country, I am grateful for the experiences that have broadened my worldview, taught me to question my assumptions, and have afforded me the empathy and understanding to serve international and immigrant students more effectively. Personal growth only happens outside of one’s comfort zone. Vale la pena.

 

by Stephanie Best

 

When Culture Shock Meets Reverse Culture Shock

Back home in La Grange, Texas

Two months ago, I wrote a post about what it was like to return home to small-town Texas for two and a half months after living in Madrid, Spain for a year. I’d been through reverse culture shock once before and imagined that would prepare me to face it again. I was sorely mistaken.

There’s a specific kind of uncomfortable that you feel when everyone around you expects you to come home and just “get it.” I didn’t. I had grown accustomed to a different way of life – one that had, at the start, felt very strange to me. But at the time I went home, strange felt normal and normal felt strange. It felt like I had all my wires crossed.

Over the course of my long summer at home, I eventually fell into a pattern. I reconnected with old friends, spent time with family, and had a meaningful summer job. All of these experiences helped me adjust and feel comfortable back home again. And then, it was time to return to Spain.

Returning to life as an expat isn’t something I have experience with. In the past, I’ve moved abroad and then moved back to the U.S. and left it there. When I boarded my plane back to Madrid on September 31, I had no idea what returning to Spain would be like. I knew I wouldn’t feel culture shock like I had when I first moved there, but that was about all I knew.

What I ended up feeling was almost a strange combination of culture shock and reverse culture shock. I simultaneously felt out of place and like I couldn’t remember things that I should have known how to do.

I am an American in Spain. So I felt out of place in some usual ways – physically, linguistically, and culturally. And simultaneously, I felt like an American in Spain who had lived here for a year already but couldn’t quite get a hold of how to be here again. I remembered pockets of the language I’d used all last year, some of how to navigate my life in this foreign country, and how to work my job as a North American Language and Culture Assistant at my primary school in the mountains. But putting all the pieces together to make a life was difficult at the start.

Hiking on a recent trip to A Coruña, Spain

 

Now that a few weeks have passed, I am feeling back at home here, too. What I’ve realized is how important a pattern is to readjusting – no matter where in the world you are. Your work, your daily routines, and your friendships will keep you grounded while you figure out the rest.

by Emma Schultz

First Day of an Internship in Madrid

by Hisham Tammam

First Day of an Internship in Madrid was interesting, to say the least. Obviously, I wanted to make a great impression at my internship at a law firm. I arrived early (luckily, because there was no number on the gate so I had to determine it was the right building by deduction.)

After ringing the bell of a stylish wooden door with golden handles, I was greeted warmly by the person whom I was told to ask for and given the grand tour of the two-floor Madrid law firm that would be my place of employment. I was to sit on the upper floor with an associate who arrived as I was researching past cases handled by the firm. After that, one of my supervisors, a partner at the firm, gave me a rundown of an international arbitration case concerning the Arabic aspects of a law that I was to assist on. I was later handed the case file by another associate with whom I was going to be working. Familiarizing myself with the details was actually quite riveting.

first day internship madrid law office

Lunch at an Internship at a Law Firm

For lunch, my supervisor took me and two co-workers to an authentic Galician seafood restaurant. They spoke about Brexit, a popular topic among lawyers in Europe, and how crowded Madrid is with tourists and foreigners. So, although I felt a little awkward, it was still lovely, fancy, and almost surreal.

I had been nervous about starting a four-month internship at a law firm. It was daunting because I’ve never worked at a firm for that long before. However, I decided to take it one day at a time (if not one hour at a time.)

I was planning to delve into literature, philosophy and poetry writing (my passions), but I barely have any time because I work from 9am to 7pm every day. On the other hand, because of this, I tend to enjoy them more when I do get a chance. It sure beats living at home where, even when I had all the time in the world, I wouldn’t touch a book (due to a vicious cycle of what I call “apathetic stagnation.”) At least now, thanks to The Intern Group, I feel useful and productive, going to work and transcending fears.

Working settles the existential need to have a purpose – doing things of value, feeling more fulfilled. Even though I am a chronic insomniac, I have manage to overcome this and other obstacles with determination and willpower. Plus, I have the privilege of learning a new language – perhaps never to the extent that I will be able to read Don Quixote in Español (whose hometown we visited) – but I can gladly say I now know more than just ‘manzana’, (which means apple and is one of the few words I learned before I got here).

madrid church down town

My Take Away From My First Day of an Internship in Madrid

I truly had an excellent first day of work in Madrid. It was full of promise, and so is life right now after applying for a paralegal job in London. It will be challenging to leave Madrid since it feels like home. I can honestly say it has been a wonderful adventure. I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life. Here’s to my first day of an Internship in Madrid.