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10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

posted on: Sep 13, 2017

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

By Meriam Helal/Contributing Writer

Everyone has a unique experience at school, but Arab American students specifically have an unusual experience in school compared to other ethnicities. Here are some of the things that Arab American students can expect when back to school.

1. Teachers can’t pronounce your name

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

With Arabic names, such as Abdullah and Barkatullah, teachers will always mispronounce your name until you come up with an American nickname to make your life and their lives easier.

2. You’re mistaken for another race

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

Since many Americans don’t have a clear image of what Arabs look like, you might get mistaken for a person from Hispanic heritage. People may approach you and start speaking in Spanish. You will then have to explain that you can’t speak Spanish and you are not Hispanic; they, of course, will be extremely bewildered.

3. You get asked weird questions!

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

Going to school, you will experience your fair share of ignorance about the Arab world. Some will ask you shocking questions that will leave you speechless such as, “Did you live in a tent?” “Do you live in the desert?” “Did you travel on a camel?” These questions are not ill intended, but they show how more people need to learn about the modern Arab world.

4. Others will be fascinated that you are an Arab American or you know Arabic

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

A Lot of people will ask about what it’s like in your home country and express their desire to visit someday. To some, you will be their first interaction with the Arab World; therefore, you will experience a lot of, “Say something in Arabic.”

5. You appreciate education much more than other students

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

Arab students, whether they are first or second generation Americans, have a deeper appreciation for education because they are pressured by parents to pay attention to school and because they know the sacrifices their parents or grandparents have made, so they can have this education and have more opportunities in life.

6. You get teased about your lunch

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

While other students are eating their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you can spot Arab students come to school with lunch bag packed with rolled grape leaves, or molokhia, kafta, hummus, or za’atar, or all of the above. The unfamiliar scent will fill the cafeteria and will surely turn some heads.

7. You try to tell your friends Arabic jokes which don’t translate well in English

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

You may have some of the funniest jokes and you might try to translate them to your none-Arab friends, but they may not translate as well. It will end up with you laughing at your own jokes and no one else understanding you.

8. You do traditional Arab things that don’t apply here in the U.S.

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

It’s tradition in the Arab world to pay for your friends and they do the same another time, but this tradition is not practiced in the US. Paying for your friends when you go out will surprise everyone and be considered strangely generous.

9. You never go to sleepovers or parties

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

In the Arab and Arab American world, there is no such thing as “sleepovers” or going to “parties” with friends; therefore, moving to the US will not change these traditions in parents. Be prepared to be left out of some of the fun, but know that your parents are doing it to protect you.

10. Your parents are overly involved

10 Things Arab American Students Can Expect When Back to School

If you have Arab parents, you know they are aware of every step you take, every decision you make. They know whether you did your Chemistry homework or not. They know if you did the dishes and made your bed. They will tell you what college to go to, who to be friends with, and eventually who to marry. They get very involved and it’s all out of concern and love.