by Dalal Boland
We asked fellow Dream Abroad members what they would do differently if they were just starting out on their adventures now. Dalal just finished studying abroad at FSU (Florida State University). She 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:
1. Technology Can Make Adjusting Easier
During my journey as a graduate student studying abroad at FSU, I downloaded several phone apps that helped in getting around. I downloaded one app, Uber, which is a transportation service similar to a taxi. However, when asking for a taxi, you must tell the company where you’re located. The Uber app accesses your location directly from your smartphone. The app is user-friendly and you can download it on your smartphone free of charge. You only need to create an account and turn on location services for the app to send a car; also, you need to register your credit card for charge and payment.
I used Kayak, another extremely helpful app, to book flights. 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.
Finding Halal Food Around Town
As a Muslim, I only eat poultry and meat/lamb that are halal. Halal means that it is permissible and is slaughtered according to the Islamic Sharia. Back in Tallahassee, it was really difficult to locate places that sold Halal food. My options limited themselves to only four restaurants, tops. So, whenever I wanted to cook something at home, I would order my meat from an authorized website. It 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 shipped to my apartment complex. This website is www.midamarhalal.com.
Moreover, the Zabinah app assisted me in locating restaurants that sold halal food. This app offered a list of various restaurants nearby, according to the parameters. What makes this app so great is that it offers reasons why a restaurant is on the halal list. For example, one restaurant is halal because its owners are Muslims. Other places may be on the halal list just because of verbal assurance from staff or the halal sign in the diner. The app also offers several cuisines that the user can choose from.
2. 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. I didn’t own a car. The College of Education was only a three-minute walk from where I lived. 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 lived in Tally, I spent a lot 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. 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.
3. There Is So Much to See! Take Advantage of the 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. I went to Virginia, Washington D.C, and flew to Chicago and California. Plus, I even visited multiple cities within Florida like Tampa and Orlando.
Wonderful Experiences Abroad
Each place I went to 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. Studying abroad at FSU gave me this opportunity to see new attractions and embrace new cultures.
4. 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. It actually took two bags to get here: a carry-on and a backpack for my essentials. I felt so overwhelmed with the idea of living 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.
Studying Abroad at FSU
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 neared its end, half of the clothes I 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 felt 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.
5. Stereotypes of Studying Abroad at FSU
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 hot-dogs. 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 living abroad in Tally taught me that television or the news presents 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 wearing a Hijab 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.
I Felt Accepted and Welcomed by Classmates
On the contrary, I felt 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 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!
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