An Endless Journey of Global UGRAD friendship by Asala Igbaria

Sometimes, when a person is having a hard time adjusting to a new job, place, atmosphere, or even a school, and is about to lose every leap of faith, God sends angels dressed as humans. That’s how I met her. She was my angel sent down to brighten my days. Just when I was at my worst, she made an appearance in my life. I never thought I would be so close and attached to someone from a country I’ve never been to. A lovely girl who came from Japan. She was around my age, twenty years old, and studied in an English learning center nearby Missouri State University.  She was on an undergraduate scholarship as well. At first it seemed that we shared only one thing in common, which was that we both were international students. But, of course, it turned out differently.

It was in the early September when I met her. It was in one of Chi Alpha’s events. When I saw her, I couldn’t help but feel like opening up to her. Ironically, she happened to live in the same building as I did. She was only one floor away from mine. Ever since, we started hanging out more often. We got to know each other and stayed together for the weekends. We cooked, shopped, danced, and sang together. We talked nonstop for many hours. We enjoyed each other’s company. She was always there for me. We had each other’s backs in the upsides and downs. She was all ears whenever I needed someone to talk to. I remember, whenever I used to see her, I’d tell her all about my day and fill her in with all tiny details. We had our weekly sleepover. She was more like a sister to me.

No matter how clumsy I used to get, she’d always save the day. She’d always fix my mess. If it weren’t for her, my stay at the U.S. wouldn’t be as worth it. She made my exchange valuable. We shared pictures, cultures, religions with each other.

I told her all about myself, family, and the place I came from. We grew closer and closer. Unfortunately, good times with the right people flash by in a blink of an eye. It was time I had to head back home. Tears were shed but we never lost hope of seeing each other again. It wasn’t goodbye. I couldn’t imagine a day without seeing her; she became a major part of my life. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that we were going apart. We didn’t lose contact though. We stayed in touch all the time long.

One year passed and there I was, waiting for her at the airport to pick her up. Our journey wasn’t over. We carried on from where we last picked off and explored my country. I introduced her to my family, friends, and colleagues. Everyone wanted to meet and talk to her. She thought people here were very nice and welcoming. I made sure she felt like home. She was startled of the strong bonds here, how everyone in my community is connected to one another in a way. On her first day here, we went on a trip with the family along with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. She got to experience the essence of Eid, how we try to keep the family bonds stronger. She ate Eid’s cookies made of date. I took her to my favorite places. We went to Old Jaffa, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Casarea… She was amazed of how every city looked different from the other. It was like traveling from one country to another.

She got to eat Arab food. She loved it. She gave my mom’s cooking 5 stars. We almost ate all of the time. We taught her some Arabic words. It was funny how she learnt most of the words from my little brother who was speaking only Arabic with her. He couldn’t grasp the idea that she didn’t understand Arabic. I was there beside her all the time, making sure she understood what everybody talked about.   I wanted her to feel comfortable all the time. I didn’t want her to feel oblivious, lost or left out when everyone around her spoke a different language. That’s why I basically translated everything to her, even when my young siblings used to have a fight. In fact, she thought my family was arguing all the time. Arab’s tone is sort of weird. It is, at times, loud, aggressive, quiet… but most of the time, loud. Whenever someone was being loud, I would tell her that’s the way we speak. We sound like we’re arguing, but we’re actually telling a joke, excitedly. There came days where we didn’t feel like hanging out, we just chilled at the house and spent time together and with the family. We would go up to the rooftop and watch the city lights and houses. We would stay up late and sleep in in the following day. We became fond of her. She became a member of the family. She is always welcome to visit and stay for as long as she wants. We were very sad when she had to go back to her country.

Our friendship is extraordinary. It cannot be put into words. I’m very thankful for Global UGRAD for giving me the opportunity to meet new people who left a great impact on my life. She made a great change. She made me a better person. Our journey together is not over – it’s endless. We’ll always find a way to meet again.

Written by Asala Igbaria (Israel), Missouri State University, NESA UGRAD 2016-17

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