When I was a 11 years old, growing up in Hurghada, Egypt, mornings had the same pattern. As soon as the sun rose, my mother started making break- fast for my 12-year-old brother and me. I smelled Mamma’s best fried eggs as she placed them on the table with my favorite milk tea. I kissed my grand- ma’s head before dressing. At 7:30 a.m., I arranged my headscarf and pulled on my heavy bag and headed back to the living room to drink my tea before it cooled any further. Then I tucked my fried eggs sandwiches into my pack before walking out of the apartment.
“Don`t forget to honor the name of Allah ‘God’ before you eat Beba,” Mamma said. I said yes and walked down the stairs with a smile on my face.
Eleven years later, at 21 years old, I still follow the daily routine except that I now live thousands of miles away from my home, in a dorm and with dif- ferent people. My life changed entirely one May day in Egypt, on a morning when the mail arrived, after I had put on one of my favorite hijabs, purple and black.
“Dear Habeba, Congratulation! In accordance with your demonstratedlanguage proficiency, your placementat St. Michael’s College for the fall 2018semester is confirmed. Reading myacceptance letter over again and again I tried to actually comprehend that my dream was not just on papers and in drawings anymore, it was the real deal. I panicked looking around me inside my little bedroom. “Mom, Dad, Grand- ma, Abdallah I have got the acceptanceletter. I am finally travelling to the
U.S” saying it while shivering from the adrenaline, excitement, panic and sat- isfaction. My dad who was watching a football game and drinking his after- noon tea stood up hugging me tightly and silently. My journey ahead would allow me into the wild of wonders.
Three months later, I stepped off the plane in Burlington. As I walked into the airport I saw a sign with my name held by a student the same age as me.
I looked and wavedback at the person who was holding my name. A mix of shock and nervousness fell through the person. I sensed that he was not expecting what I looked like. The same scarf that honors my loyalty to Allah- had shocked him. I shook hands. Butthis was my first hint of how I wouldbe perceived by some Americans.
After a long tiring day, I slept and looked out the window beside my bed. Knowing that it will always give me
a sense of belonging and it resembles my window`s room back home. I couldnot find the mysterious Alliot building.So, I decided to skip breakfast, while a little part of me is aching
for missing my Mamma`s breakfast.I started looking around the find theorientation place.
Looking for Dion took me morethan 15 minute to find and then whenit hit me: Why was I not asking anyone for help? Why I am afraid of getting out and talk? I shyly went there while breathing heavily from the panic of so many thoughts running through my head “ How should I introduce myself, will they know me, maybe they do not have my name on the list, should I waituntil they talk first, god what if they donot understand me, what if my English sucks despite the fact that In my country I brag a lot about me being the best in English” taking me away from my thoughts, two persons a man and woman welcomed me and from then I started my journey as a Muslim girl in An American College.
Walking around St. Michael’s smiling at anyone as I always do in my country. Some of them smiled back, some were confused and others stared at me. Thinking to myself “Do I look weird” and then in less than a second it hit me again. “Ah I am wearing a scarf on my head of course they should be
acting like that”. We as humans often feel in danger when we face something or observe something we do not usu- ally see in daily basis. So, we unin- tentionally stare and act based on the danger we feel. Totally normal, right?
Some days while sitting in Alliot, American and International students have approached me to ask me some questions that sounded more like judg- ments. Most of these questions were only focusing on what I looked like on the outside.
“Why do you wear a scarf here? You could easily take it off and pretend that you are somebody else”
“Poor you, you are not allowed to be in a relationship. You are missing out
“What are you trying to prove wear- ing this scarf on your head?”
Heated discussions would rise often and I could not help but ask this question to one of my friends “Would It make a difference if I took my
hijab off, would people approach me more?”And then he replied look
ing at me sadly sometimes the truth hurts. “I hate to tell you this myself, but yes! It would make a huge differ- ence”
Above all those unpleasent com- ments and negative interactions, I
met those who were able to influenceme in every good way possible. With their love and care, I was able to see the other beautiful side of the story. You know, in every story there are two sides and the truth is always some- where in between. Sightseeing Ver- mont and Walking around the streets with the fact that more than 25% of people are smiling back at me. Also my professor`s support and her heart- warming feelings that always crossover to me whenever i feel upset or about to lose hope.
Finally, with my beloved interna- tional and American Friends who saw the other non-shy side of me who i thought i would never show to anyone. And despite how I felt when I was be- ing hit by those questions, I was ready for discussion.
I was actually more than ready. I was determined to show them the best part of who I am beside the outer me standing in front of them.
Who you are is not defined as whatyou wear, the color of your skin, or what is your beliefs and traditions. Who you are is the best version of yourself and do not ever let that go away because no matter how people perceive you, you perceiving yourself is what only matters since no one is going to love you unconditionally except you. This long boring for some and inspirational for others is delivered to you by Habeba live and sound from her small cozy room in Cashman.