I was interested in the American culture and the concept of liberal arts education. There is a lot of stereotypes about the American people—that they are very individualists, only minding their own business. But since I came to Sewanee, the American South, I have learned about this Southern hospitality. People are welcoming and open-minded. I don’t know about the whole South, but Sewanee is very open.
Everybody here made me feel at home. Even if someone didn’t know I was from Egypt, everyone has tried to help. I expected something different—that I would have to be on my own. But we all seem connected. People offer me help before I even ask. In Egypt, we tend to help each other because we are one society. There’s a strong sense of that here.
It was tough at first. New culture, new food. As time passed, I felt more comfortable. My roommate and his family were very kind. The first day I met them, they took me to lunch and offered help if I needed it. Back in Egypt, if you need anything, you just knock on a neighbor’s door.
I am Muslim, and we celebrated Eid al-Adha (feast) last month. It was my first feast away from home, and this made me a little bit sad. I have another Muslim student friend here, and we had a class together on that day. The professor and the whole class surprised us. Our mentor made us a cake, and we got to celebrate together. I was speechless.