WHAT I KNOW NOW
We asked fellow Dreamers Abroad what they would do differently if they were just starting out on their adventures now. Dalal studied abroad in the USA and earned her Master’s of Science from Florida State University’s College of Education.
After studying in Tallahassee, Florida, here are five things that I know now:
- Technology can make adjusting easier
During my journey as a graduate student at Florida State University, I downloaded several applications that were very helpful for getting around. One of these applications is Uber, which is a transportation company that provides pickup services to almost every part of the city. Instead of calling a taxi service and having to tell them where you’re located, the Uber app gets to access your location directly from your smartphone. The app is user friendly and you can download it on your smart phone free of charge. You only need to create an account and to turn on location services for the app to send you a car to pick you up; also, you need to register your credit card for charge and payment.
Another extremely helpful app that I used to book flights is Kayak. Kayak is an app (which can also be accessed at www.kayak.com) that works as a travel engine comparing several travel companies to one another when it comes to booking flights, hotels and even renting cars. This application compares prices and gives you the lowest cost of travel that airlines offer.
As a Muslim, I only eat poultry and meat/lamb that are Halal (permissible and is slaughtered according to the Islamic Sharia). Back in Tallahassee, it was really difficult to locate places that sold Halal food, and the options were limited only to four restaurants, tops. So, whenever I wanted to cook something at home, I would order my meat from an authorized website that sells all kinds of Halal food including pizza, frankfurters, steaks, ribs, chicken, beef, and turkey. Their high quality food comes frozen, in great quality, and is shipped to my apartment’s complex. This website is www.midamarhalal.com. Moreover, one app that assisted me in locating restaurants that sold halal food is called Zabihah, it offered a list of various restaurants, according to what you were nearby. What makes this app so great is that it offers the reasons of why a certain restaurant is in the Halal list. For example, one restaurant is Halal because its owners are Muslims, and another place is on the Halal list just because of verbal assurance from staff, or due to the Halal sign in the diner; the application also offers several cuisines that the user can choose from.
- A car is very much needed
For about 15 months, I saw the streets of Tallahassee from the view of the back seat’s window because I didn’t own a car. The College of Education was only a three minute walk from where I lived so I didn’t think I needed a car. Whenever I wanted to go grocery shopping or to the mall, I called a cab for transportation. Throughout the year while I was in Tally, I spent alot of money on taxis so I could get around.
After relying on cabs, Uber or friends to get around during most of my time as a graduate student, I went to the airport to rent a car for only a few days. I wanted to explore how it felt driving around in the States. The experience was exciting and joyful! I finally got to see Tallahassee from the front seat window and, because I lived in Tally for a year, I was familiar with its streets. I recommend having a car because after two years using a cab or Uber to go everywhere it got expensive.
- There is so much to see! Take advantage of time!
Coming from such a small country, Kuwait, the number of places that you can actually visit is limited. In comparison, the United States is filled with adventurous places and an endless number of areas where you can visit to explore, have fun, and even hang out. Whenever I had a break from the university, like during Thanksgiving or others, I made sure that I explored a new state. I had the opportunity to visit New York on New Year’s Eve, went to Virginia, Washington D.C, flew to Chicago and California, and even visited multiple cities within Florida like Tampa and Orlando. Each place I went offered a wonderful experience. I wish I had had much more time to explore even more of the United States. My advice to you is to take advantage of your time while you’re studying abroad. Be a wanderlust and broaden your horizons by seeing as much as you can. . After all, “The best education I have ever received was through travel,” – Lisa Ling.
- Don’t pack your whole closet, avoid the overweight fees!
I still remember the humungous suitcase that I took with me on my journey to study abroad. I actually took two bags: a carry-on and a backpack for my essentials. I was so overwhelmed with the idea that I was about to live abroad for the first time in my life that I practically packed my whole closet. I took winter clothes, from parkas to scarves, to summer clothes like flip flops, practically everything that you can think of. When I arrived at my apartment in Tally that first day and unpacked, I noticed that my closet was almost full before I had even unpacked everything that I had brought along with me! Even when my journey was about to come to an end, half of the clothes that I had brought had never been used, so I ended up shipping them back to Kuwait. I advise you to pack light and to avoid the overweight fees. It’s true that at some point when you’re packing you’ll feel that you will need to take your whole closet with you but just try to limit yourself. Anything that you might need is available in the States. If you’re studying in a small town where many brands are not available, you can enjoy the luxury of shopping online. Whenever I was bored, and I needed a new item, I instantly went online and ordered something for myself. So, my advice to you is to focus on the journey itself and to try to avoid packing all of your clothes from your home country.
Based on the number of American movies and TV shows that we see every day on TV, many non-Americans would assume that Americans’ favorite foods are pizza, burgers, and hotdogs. For something even as simple as a favorite food, many people tend to have stereotypes based on what they see on TV or what they hear in the news. My experience with living abroad in Tally has taught me that what is being presented on television or in the news is only a fraction of reality. Just like how people come in different shapes and colors, they also have different perspectives and interests and they are all beautiful. Living abroad in Tallahassee made me realize that you will only truly understand a certain culture and its people when you are actually living among them. My advice is to always have a welcoming heart and to mentally accept and welcome people’s differences as they are all dazzling. It is also important to note that being a Muslim and a Hijabi didn’t make me feel like an outcast or different from my non-Muslim friends, like how many situations are when they are presented on the news. On the contrary, I was accepted and welcomed by my classmates and professors as if I was one of their own. I am forever grateful for the welcoming hearts of FSU’s faculty members and classmates for making me feel safe; the positive and welcoming vibes were even shown in every city and state that I have visited. Although some people are bad and have their own false stereotypes, there is also some good in this world. Therefore, never generalize and assume that all people are the same – black out the stereotype and interact with everyone!