Abdullah Albayk’s Story
As retold by Jacob Baum and Ashley Harris
The rising sun threw great beams of warm light into the small window of the plane. I felt the warmth of it on my face as the plane slowly climbed towards the crisp blue sky. I felt my stomach soar as we gained altitude while the full weight of my decisions buzzed in my head. It was not the first time I had flown in an airplane, but it was my first time flying to the land known as America. I fidgeted in my seat as I thought of all the reasons I was in this seat and all the reasons I had for being so impossibly excited. I thought of my friend who had pushed me to make this journey, and the experiences he had shared. He had graduated a few years before I had and had traveled to America to further his studies. He enjoyed his time in the country and encouraged me to also move beyond my diploma from home and continue my studies in America. I settled more comfortably in my seat and watched as the Earth slowly shrank away. Too excited to be nervous I prepared myself for the long trip ahead.
My father had initially disapproved of my decision to travel to America. I was unconcerned though, as that is often the way he acts. He wanted time to think and refusing my request was the easiest way to gain it. Eventually he agreed with my mother and encouraged me to follow my friend and travel to America for further study. These memories chased themselves in circles through my head as we traveled high above the mid-afternoon day. I watched the sun’s beams refract and play through the endless expanse of water that stretched out beneath us. I thought the land to which this water was connected which I had paid a great deal to travel to. Most of what I knew of American culture came from movies and TV. But I knew their education systems were not so different from the ones I was used to, and this helped relax me. A cloud lazily drifted by and I felt myself slowly drift to sleep under the warm glow of the sun . . .
I felt a knot of sullen disappointment clench in the pit of my stomach. I had spent one semester at the University of Michigan Flint campus studying in the English institution with the hopes of attending the full University when I was finished. I had hoped to avoid the tests of the English language through my studies, but unfortunately, I found them unavoidable. The University of Michigan Flint required a score of 5.5 to allow foreign students to attend the college. I had believed that my studies in the English institution would exempt me from such a test but I was mistaken. The room was filled with a harsh fluorescent glare as I nervously took my exam. I had needed to demonstrate my skill with the English language if I hoped to continue my studies at U of M Flint and I felt a great deal of anxiety bearing down on me. The disappointment sunk deeper into my stomach and settled like a heavy rock as I stared at the score I had received. My score of 4.5 was not high enough for the school. Even if I finished my studies at the English institution I would be unable to attend the University. I swallowed bitterly as this plan for my studies came to a close, but I still had other opportunities to explore. A new door opened for me through Mott Community College where I have set my sights on finishing my degree. I was finally able to settle in as an international student and enjoy my time here . . .
One of my favorite times was visiting Cedar Point. I have gone to Cedar Point twice since coming to the U.S., once with the University of Flint, and the other with my sister and her husband. The first time was not the best. It was raining, almost all the rides were closed, and I did not enjoy it very much. But the second time was different. Although, it was supposed to rain, it did not. It was cloudy so there weren’t very many people, and even though the roller coasters were scary at first, they were extremely fun after a while.
I also have enjoyed going to restaurants, beaches, bowling, and the movies. The American movies that play back home are normally kind of old, so it was nice getting to see some new ones like The Jungle Book and Zootopia. I met a family here and they took me to the Toledo Zoo, which was also very cool. The lakes around here are great and in the summer, I started to go every weekend. I have gone to the Seven Lakes State Park and walked on the beach, and I even took open water diving lessons that will continue next summer.
There is one experience I have encountered that I downright hate. I’m talking about the winter. In my country we would have hot sand storms, while here we have cold snowstorms. I love a snow day just as much as the next student in Michigan, but do they have to be so cold? One of my first major experiences in snow was driving in a car with my friend. “You control the car,” he claimed. Weirdly enough, even though it frightened me at time, it gave me some sort of confidence driving in the snow.
Overall, my time in America has been great, and there is still much more to try. Horseback riding, my first real diving experience, and vacations, maybe even to Disney World, are still some possibilities in store for me. And I know I won’t be able to do it all, but if the chance ever presents itself, and with the right guidance, I do hope to travel to other states one day.
I have enjoyed myself massively in this land and it was worth it to come and study in America.
-Jacob Baum -Ashley Harris
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Immigrant & International Students’ Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.