A Year in the Fulbright Life: Nagham’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 2021

I met a Lebanese Fulbright alumna and PhD student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She was looking for help to move apartments. Afterwards, she helped me move as well and helped me adjust to my new life in Knoxville.

These are six out of the nine graduate students in my new program. I do believe I have landed among some of the sweetest, kindest, and most supportive students of all the programs. Each one of them has proven to be a great friend and support system in my journey in the United States so far. We go out every Wednesday and watch a “cohort series” after our weekly three-hour statistics class.

I moved to the Intercultural and Classroom Culture Research Lab as a Research and Teaching Assistant.

When I landed in Washington D.C., there was a mistake in the flight booking and I wound up missing my domestic flight to Knoxville. No one would accept my payments in cash (I did not have a debit card at the time), and I did not know anyone in D.C. I was stranded, crying in the airport of a country I had never been to, and wasn’t sure what to do. Luckily, a Lebanese-American family found me and took me in! We drove across Virginia for six hours, slept at their house, then they drove me to Knoxville the next morning. The mother still calls to check up on me continuously and even sent me a housewarming gift after moving into my new apartment!

Here I am on the first day of class with my first and closest friend in the United States! She took me shopping before moving in and has been teaching me all about the United States. In return, I am making sure the Lebanese cuisine becomes her favorite (which has been a success so far)!

September 2021

My classmates and I organized a trip to Sevierville, Tennessee, where we went deer petting, had a southern-styled lunch, and went to the apple barn where they sell all things related to apples as well as an all-year-long Christmas-themed factory!

There are no words for this picture! I have to say that this is my favorite picture of me of all time from the deer petting zoo. Look at how the deer’s ear is resting on my head!!!! I have been THRILLED to discover all the adorable animals in the United States (deer and squirrels included) that many people here don’t appreciate enough!

I finally reconnected in person with the family that took care of me when I had a difficult time at the D.C. airport. I’m so happy I will be spending my fall break at their house next month!

October 2021

These pictures are from my Fall Break in Virginia! I went to see the Lebanese-American family that I met at the airport when I first arrived, and we had a lovely time!

Over the weekend, we had a delicious meal that is typical for Lebanese people on Sundays.

We also went on a 10-mile biking trip on Creeper’s Trail in Virginia with four other Lebanese American families in East Tennessee, on the border of Virginia.

I got to celebrate my friend Cailyn for her birthday. She was my first friend in the United States, and is now closest friend here!

My cohort took a trip to Asheville in North Carolina!

Nothing much to say here, just a fall vibe! On a serious note though, I really didn’t know making pumpkin soup was such a heavy arm workout!!

For Halloween, I dressed as a scare-crow and spent the night at my friend’s house with our cohort.

November 2021

November marked my birthday month! My classmates and I celebrated my 21st birthday by getting dinner at a delicious Lebanese restaurant!

My lab-mate (and now very good friend) is an Indian international student, and we decided to decorate the lab to celebrate both Christmas and Diwali! Two of the faculty members who have offices next to our lab really admired the lights we hung up and wanted to take a picture with me!

My roommate and I have become very close this semester. We’ve been having our own cultural exchanges by sharing information about our backgrounds. I’ve even turned her into a Lebanese food-lover, and she now orders Mediterranean food options any time she’s at a restaurant! The cat that we featured in our polaroid picture (his name is Oreo!) was left behind by his owners alone in the rain. Sadly, a group of racoons destroyed his tail as well. My roommate and I decided to take him in and take care of him. He’s fully healed, vaccinated, and extremely spoiled! His presence has helped me a lot in dealing with the loneliness that comes every now and then from being in a new country.

Nagham is a 2021 Fulbright student from Lebanon. She is studying Child Psychology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Follow updates from Nagham and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates on the blog and Medium Series to see what Nagham does this year!

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