A Year in the Fulbright Life: Kholood’s Story

For the next year, Fulbright MENA will be showcasing a handful of students as they study in the United States with their new series, A Year in the Fulbright Life. Each month, spotlighted students will share an update as they continue on their Fulbright journey.

August 2017

My friends and family have been very supportive from the day I decided to apply for the Fulbright Program till the day they said their teary farewells at the airport. Having this support system has made my journey so much easier.

Arriving at the University of Delaware (UD) meant getting ready for a very long week packed with activities, lectures about American culture, including cultural understanding and appropriateness, and interpersonal relationships. Other lectures were about the American political structure and educational systems. At times, it was challenging to keep up with the sessions, meeting new people, getting used to the new environment AND overcoming jet lag! But within a couple of days, I was fully adjusted to the Fulbright Gateway program, made new friends, and truly enjoyed the experience!

Marking the end of our incredible journey at UD (and the beginning of the Fulbright adventure), the organizers invited us to a dinner at the Country Club. Food, conversation, and laughter flowed throughout the hall, which made saying goodbye the hardest of all. I never expected to meet a Russian roommate who had so much in common with me! The more we talked, the more we realized that our Bahraini and Russian cultures are similar beyond belief!

Before heading to Colorado to begin classes, I had the opportunity to spend a day in Philadelphia walking around and exploring the city. This was the first time I ever traveled on my own, and it felt amazing! To be able to go wherever I want, and at my own pace and mood, was truly wonderful. Five hours were not enough at the truly fantastic Philadelphia Museum of Art, and sadly I didn’t have the time to visit the rest of the museums (which means I owe Philly another visit!) On the downside, the food selection in the city was more towards the carnivorous population.

Arriving in Denver, I took a shuttle from the airport to my host city — Fort Collins- where I had arrangements from the university to stay with a host family for a week. The university has a program where they set up students with volunteer host families for a week until permanent housing arrangements are finalized. I was extremely lucky to be hosted by Mrs. Hoffman, who was THE GREATEST! She provided meals, a wonderful home, drove me around the city to the university orientation, to buy my apartment essentials, and even took me up to the Rocky Mountain National Park! It was a true American experience to live in her home even though it was a very short week. She taught me to slow down and take things step by step.

Kholood and her American host mother

After a three hour shopping spree, I finally arrived at the apartment complex where I will be living for the coming year! With the help of my host Mrs. Hoffman, we hauled all my luggage up to the third floor to my apartment.

Coincidentally, the first day of classes happened to be on the same day of the Great American Eclipse and at Colorado State University, the hype was immense! My class ended early to give students the opportunity to experience this once in a lifetime event.

I was blown away with the level of technological advancement in my department! Since I am undertaking a Master’s in Computer Information Systems, and the same courses are offered online for distance students, all classes are recorded live. Professors also have smartwatches that they use to receive questions from online students, alerting them through vibrations when a question is posted! An additional advantage was the ability to watch entire lectures once again, and all I need is access to the internet.

Technologically advanced classes

August concluded with a visit from my sister, and taking her on a hike to Bear Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I love this place!

September 2017

My university, Colorado State University, organized a “Football 101” class where a football coach explained the game to us on a screen and then demonstrated some tackles! I had the chance to go to a game with some friends. The new CSU football stadium only opened this August, and the atmosphere was incredible. I didn’t find the game as exciting as other sports like soccer, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Kholood at the game

CSU has a program called “Community Friends,” where they set up international students with extremely generous members of the community who volunteer to host us for a meal. I once again had the chance to have dinner with my host mom, Mrs. Elizabeth, who made salmon and shared stories of her travels around the world. Another community friend, Mrs. Sandy, and her husband took a Pakistani student and me to Estes Park where we enjoyed the autumn leaves and shared a meal. We were fortunate enough to see a herd of elk at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park! I also had the chance to explore Boulder! I’m already falling in love with Colorado.

Last month, the campus hosted a “Career Day” where hundreds of companies offered internships and other opportunities for students. It was eye-opening to interact with them and see the level of professionalism of American companies.

CSU organized a weekend on their mountain campus where I had the chance to meet people from over 100 different countries and cultures, participated in challenging team building activities, went on hikes, and enjoyed a talent show. It was freezing cold up there, and I had the chance to see my first snow! During the hike, it started to rain before turning to hail with a snowstorm. It was a great weekend, and I made a number of new friends!

October 2017

This month I had the chance to visit Georgetown, an old mining town in Colorado, where we took a ride in the historic steam engine train around town. I also had the chance to participate in CSU homecoming activities. (Homecoming is where alumni return to campus and the school has a festival welcoming them back. It’s often around a football game and includes a parade.)I had a great weekend visiting different nature parks around the city by bike.

For my first Halloween in the United States, I dressed up as Minnie Mouse for the Halloween gathering at “Friday Afternoon Club,” a weekly CSU-organized social event for international students. At the event, I had the chance to carve my first pumpkin!

November 2017

November was filled with incredible moments with friends! We went on a road trip during fall break to Utah, Arizona, and back to Colorado, visiting Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Mesa Verde National Parks[“1] , and more places on the way like Horseshoe Bend, the famous Route 66, the Grand Junction of Colorado, and many more!

We had Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant we stumbled upon while driving by Cortez, Colorado.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Grand Canyon National Park with fellow Fulbrighters (from the left): Tym from Ukraine and Luciana from Uruguay, and our friend Brandon from Colorado

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

A visit from my friend and fellow Fulbrighter from Bahrain- Amal! We enjoyed a fun weekend in Fort Collins! We attended a Mary Poppins musical, strolled downtown, and went for a bike ride on one of the many bike trails.

I also went to a ghost town, St. Elmo, in Colorado. This was an old town inhabited by gold miners in 1880, and left empty in the 1900s. We enjoyed playing in the snow!

December 2017

December was full of hard work and good fun as finals started. I spent a long time working on a final project for the most difficult programming course that I’ve taken here, but I’m fortunate to have such wonderful friends like Elizabeth, who invited me and other international students for a Christmas lunch where we baked cookies and decorated a tree. I later had a friends’ Christmas dinner with Jennifer, Brandon, and others, which was a much needed breather after exams.

My friend Brandon and I visited downtown Denver so that I could celebrate the Bahraini National Day with my fellow Fulbrighter Amal. We visited Cheesman Park and the Denver Museum of Natural Science after taking photos around the city.

January 2018

First day back in Fort Collins! Winter break is over, and it’s snowing cats and dogs here in Colorado, which made it more difficult for me to re-adjust to the freezing -18 degrees Celsius (0 Fahrenheit) weather after being in 24 degrees (75 Fahrenheit) back in Bahrain!

My friends in Colorado helped me celebrate my 30th birthday here! It was my first birthday ever spent away from family, but I’ve never felt so loved. My good friend and fellow Fulbrighter Amal traveled from Denver to join my birthday party.

We went out for an American breakfast to celebrate, and I keep forgetting how enormous American portion sizes are! I ordered a “half portion” of pancakes, and they gave me two instead of three, but the size is bigger than my head!

This month was my first skiing experience ever! I spent two hours learning a new skill and pushed my muscles to do things out of their comfort zone (very different from football, basketball or any other sport I’ve done in my life). Even though I’m a bit disappointed that as beginners we didn’t get the chance to get up the ski lift, this will definitely not be my last time. The trip was organized by the university and it was a great experience.

I also recently joined a student organization called “Global Awareness and International Affairs”, where I’m currently acting as the Social Media Director. So much fun getting involved on my campus.

February 2018

During February, school was in full swing but I still had the chance to explore a bit. I crossed the border into Wyoming and went to Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Fort Collins International Center collaborated with the Career Center at Colorado State University for a session on networking and its importance for your career. The networking event was a great opportunity offered by CSU Career Center especially for international students, coaching us on the best techniques to maneuver a professional social situation, how to approach and talk to people while having a fun conversation and building relationships at the same time. It was held during the weekly “Friday Afternoon Club” which is an event mainly geared towards international students, is organized by Fort Collins International Club, and offer free dinner every Friday!

Career Night

Some friends and I also visited our favorite pizza place in Fort Collins, Krazy Karl’s.

March 2018

March was extremely eventful for me! For spring break, I went to see my Bahraini friend (and Fulbright alumni) and her dad in New York City . Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see a Broadway show, but at least I got a picture with the Aladdin Magic Lamp ! We also visited Madam Tussauds Wax Museum, which was so much fun! Then we went to the top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) before seeing Times Square during snow showers.

Two of my friends from CSU also went with me to New York, Brandon and Tymofij and I love this picture of us walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

It was freezing and windy, but we made it to Coney Island and I was extremely happy to see the Atlantic Ocean.

Back in Fort Collins, I hiked around Horsetooth Reservoir and organized a wonderful and informative talk about Bahrain, presenting it to the Fort Collins Travel Group (organized by my host mom Elizabeth!). I also celebrated Easter with her and her family.

Left- Horsetooth Reservoir, Right- Kholood and Elizabeth at Easter

April 2018

It’s finally spring so flowers have started to bloom all around the CSU campus! I’m so excited for some green and sunshine (but we also had the final snowfall of the season).

April was full of studying and good friends. My partner and I were struggling through our research presentation since we only had one day to finalize a report, and create a video (but we got an A!)

I had the chance to organize and participate in a Poetry Night, a collaboration between the “Dead Poets Society” and “Global Awareness and International Affairs” student organizations.

I also attend a Fulbright event organized by Colorado State University and the Fulbright team where I had the chance to hang out with friends and fellow Fulbrighters Tym from Ukraine and Luciana from Uruguay.

May 2018

This month many good friends graduated and it was hard to say goodbye.

I attended a graduation reception for the College of Business: many happy smiles and sad goodbyes to my classmates Swathi from India, Khadija from Oman, and Zahraa from Saudi Arabia.

MORE GRADUATION FESTIVITIES! My friends Brandon and Andrew received their Bachelor’s degrees. During Brandon’s graduation party, me, Luciana, Tym and Brandon recreated our favorite road trip pictures.

I missed Ramadan back in Bahrain with my family, but my Colorado family did not let me feel alone at all during this holy month. I did Iftar with my good friends April, Nadine, and Brandon.

This month I attended a Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Philadelphia! I got to meet some wonderful people from around the world in yet again another successful Fulbright event! I wish there were more events and get together like this one! This is a picture of my roommate Irene from Barcelona and Andrea from Colombia.

Our last night in Philadelphia, I walked around the city with these wonderful ladies, got into intellectual and eye opening conversations, got to know them better, sang together, and took lots of selfies together! I visited the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia. People recognized my Colorado State University t-shirt, and we got to chatting! School pride :)

After the seminar I went on a road trip! The first stop was Ocean City, Maryland where I finally got to meet the Atlantic Ocean, and some horses at the beach in Assateague Island!

I also road tripped through North Carolina and South Carolina and finally visited Myrtle Beach. I had a blast with the unexpected adventures at Brookgreen Gardens, Myrtle Beach! Glad a friend recommended it to us, as it was absolutely worth visiting. Excuse my enthusiasm, there are no beaches in Colorado!

Kholood is a second-year Fulbrighter from Bahrain who is studying Computer Information Systems at Colorado State University.

Follow Updates from Kholood and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates to see what Kholood does next this year!

Read more Fulbright stories here.

Fulbright Foreign Student Program in MENA blog. Sponsored by U.S. Dept of State. https://www.amideast.org/our-work/find-a-scholarship/graduate-study/fulbright