A Palestinian Exchange Student’s Diary

The Beginning of the American Journey. (Part 3)

By: Hala Alsafadi

Dulles Airport- Washington DCI looked around me to find the guys in my group. Yes, they were still there, therefore, I did not really feel “ welcome to the United Stated of America!” Just having them there used to make me feel like home. However, I knew the feeling of being home is counting down since I could easily read all the confused, worried, and excited faces all guys in the group had put on.

I went in the airport and headed to the luggage belt to pick up my one and only suitcase. If you are wondering why I had one suitcase only, here is the reason.  I had decided from the very beginning not to have more than one suitcase for two reasons :

1)      Since we are from Gaza, we all knew that we were going to go through hell on our way to the States; I do not know about you, butI am not a big fan of carrying stuff around for a long time. I mean, it is not like all we needed was a couple of flights. ( check part one and two if you don’t know what I am talking about)

2)      Well, I knew I was going to spend a year there. I will get all I need from the USA. So why have my luggage over weight from day one? I was pretty sure that my luggage will SO be over weight on my way back.

Anyways, back to “ Me in the Airport” scene! So, I easily found my suitcase and then Iwaited till the others find their own luggage. Steve had told me while we were on the plane that the entire group would spend the night at a hotel in Washington DC and the next morning each one of us would leave to their own host families; all of them had to take other flights the next morning to get to their host families living in different States except for me since my host family lives 30 minutes away from the airport ;therefore,  they are going to welcome me at the airport and pick me up to their house the next day. (more…)


In Cairo (Part 2)

 By: Hala Alsafadi

After hours of being stuck in that microbus, we finally reached Cairo! We didn’t actually get to the States yet, we were not even half way through; however, we were relieved. 

The microbus parked, we arrived to Sonesta Cairo Hotel, checked in, got our rooms, and finally BEDS AND PILLOWS! I felt like I have not seen a clean room for ages. Again, the need of showering knocked on my door. I washed my face to awaken myself a little bit and Guess what? The water was not salty anymore!! That made me realize that I am not in Al Areesh stinky hotel no more! You know how we usually hear that we never get to appreciate many things in our lives till we actually lose it? This is exactly how I felt. I mean, I was so thankful that we got to a great hotel and that we finally have some privacy in our tidy rooms. I knew that I was going to have a “ nighty night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite”kind of  sleep.

One of the guys interrupted my “ Thank God” moments to inform us that we have to meet at the lobby as soon as possible because we were supposed to have dinner with some women from the American Embassy, I can not really recall their positions. Therefore, I and both girls, Lama and Jeje, went down to meet up with the rest of the group. I remember how I laughed the first instant I saw them all waiting. Look at us! we were all “dirt free” now!! They all looked good and I couldn’t stop comparing us to the “miserable us” less than 24 hours ago!! Anyways, we met up with the ladies who wanted to actually congratulate us for making it out of Gaza, the prison. Moreover, they wanted to discuss with Mohammed Al Qarra the possibility of him returning back home since he was the only one who did not get a Visa to the States from the American Embassy in Jerusalem. They wanted to try working on his Visa with the American Embassy in Egypt. Upon hearing such news, Mohammed got really disappointed. We all felt bad for him especially after the hell on Earth we went through in order to get to where we were at that time. (more…)

Gaza – Areesh /Egypt ( Part 1)

By: Hala Alsafadi

I do count myself as a pretty lucky young lady since I have been through a great deal of things that most of the ladies in my age and in my country have not been through. and Yes, Experience is my keyword! One can never totally have a handle on something unless he had lived that “something.” In other words, I would not really enjoy a piece of advice from someone who only have an extraordinarily massive experience in eating, sleeping, and studying. Those are the people who I really love to text“ Please get a LIFE!!”, oh yeah LIFE! If you never get out of your circle, you are not going to get to know anything beyond your “magnificent” circle. If you want to make people know more about your own circle, you need to get closer to their circles. Then find the circles’ intersections. Only through the intersections, similarities can be shared. Chill, I assure you that this is far away from a Geometry Class since I got issues with that class myself.

To make a long story short, I went to the United States of America when I was 16 years old. As a matter of fact, I turned 16 while I was there. I went there on an Exchange program ( YES Program) to live with an American host family and go to an American High school for a year. It is a program funded by the American State of Department. If I was to vote for this experience ( Easy, Moderate, Hard), trust me, none of those choices would satisfy me. I would want to vote for it as a “Very Beautifully Hard” experience, keeping in mind the young age of mine at that time.

The year of 2006-2007 was the turning point in my life. After going through couple of tests and an interview, I was selected as a YES student. In the Agenda, Gazan YES students were to leave Gaza to Egypt in early August and head back home in Mid June. However, we are Gazans after all; nothing in our country should go according to an Agenda, thanks for Israel. We arrived to the States by the end of August and came back home in August 8th 2007. (more…)