Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer in San Francisco: A Lifetime of Cultural Exchange Memories

Nour crossing the Golden Gate Bridge

It was around 5:00 p.m. when I landed in California. The first thing that came to my mind were the lyrics from the famous song, “Hotel California”:

Welcome to the Hotel California

Such a lovely place… 

And indeed California is such a lovely place!

I traveled to California to complete a summer marketing internship in a growing medical tech company in the San Francisco area. The professional experience I gained while there was amazing, but the cultural experience was the most memorable. I have been fortunate enough to visit several metropolitan areas in the US such as Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, and Houston; San Francisco, however, was the most special. I fell in love with everything there: the beautiful weather, the kind people, the peaceful ocean, and the diverse cultural identity. I love California because it has a lot offer. If you love the sea, the gorgeous ocean is there for you to enjoy; if you are a climber, Yosemite’s cliffs and domes should be your next challenge; and if you are like me, a fan of big cities, then San Francisco is your destination!

Nour visits the Sutro Baths near San Francisco
I met wonderful people everywhere I went who were from different backgrounds. Everyone from my host family members, boss, and coworkers, to the random people I met along the way, made me feel welcome. Californians also felt incredibly happy when I told them how much I loved their state and appreciated their hospitality. Nearly always, peoples’ reactions to my being a Fulbright scholar from Iraq were variations of, “Wow, that’s awesome! I really want to visit your country one day!”
Now, my new friends in California know a little bit more about Iraq. For example, I taught them the word “yalla!” Yalla means “hurry up” or “let’s go” in the Iraqi Arabic dialect. They also learned that the equivalent term of “what’s up” is “shako mako.” I believe that the Californians I met now know enough vocabulary to survive in my country. J    
Just like California, the US has a lot to offer as well. I find that the US has kind people and diverse culture, and that it also provides amazing learning experiences to international students. The famous Arabic traveler and Scholar, Ibn Battuta, once said: “traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” So “yalla” my fellow Fulbrighters, let’s try to visit as many places in the US as we can during our time here. Every city is different and offers tons to explore!

Nour visits the Googleplex in Mountain View, California
Nour is pursuing an MBA and plans to work for an international NGO in the field of international development.

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