Welcome to the first week of war

By Amina Mamaty | 8/29/12 7:13pm

Some call it another school year, but me, as an international student I call it another war.
You would think that after three first days of classes things would get way easier, well it is not really the case. I wish I could walk around with a sign on my forehead that says: “Don’t mind the way I talk, I am French,” but that would be a little corny.

Introducing myself to my fellow classmates and professors is always bittersweet for two reasons.
The first one is because even though I am often nervous, I have a lot of pride in telling the whole world where I come from, born and raised as a young lady from Paris, and the second reason is that people automatically stereotype me, which can be a little frustrating at times.

I believe that it gives you twice as much work. I have to get a good grade, and on top of that, I have to prove others that they judged me wrong. Between my own, the professor’s and my classmates’, I have a lot of expectations to fulfill.

Also, imagine continually having to explain to a group of people and debate with them that your culture is not what they think they’ve always known. Yes, it gets old; no, that never made me give up.

However, one thing that I am sure of is that besides all the silly jokes and comments that I get, people will always show me respect for being alone in this country.

Sometimes, I do forget that I am studying 4,000 miles away from my hometown on another continent, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone in class loves you because you have an accent, but nobody actually knows your journey, ignoring how heavy it weighs on your shoulders, and this, my friend, is the hardest thing to make people understand.

Back in France, my entourage sees me as a little soldier. Family, friends and neighbors are constantly waiting for me to call to tell them something good. My success is needed and anticipated, I become more and more aware of it every time I get back from Paris, when I step out of the plane at the Grand Rapids Gerald R. Ford International Airport. I tell myself, “I am back at it, let’s do this, and let’s do it well.”

At Grand Valley State University, I am another international student with an uneasy, non-understandable but still irrelevant journey. Now, do I really need anyone to comprehend that I am on a mission 24/7? The answer is no, because I will always remember so myself.

I am forever asked why I love wearing combats boots so much. French people do have a certain style, but this is not the point here. It is my way of getting prepared for everyday battles, because everywhere I go, you best believe that I am going for a win.


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