The panic of moving to Mississippi didn’t really set in until I was catching a connecting flight from North Carolina to Jackson, Mississippi. Don’t get me wrong, I was still thrilled about the adventures that lay ahead – but I was also finally realizing the magnitude of my responsibilities as a TA at a university. And after spending a few days at Brown University for my orientation, I became attached to that picturesque campus and was reluctant to fly to the South.
I had just graduated from university myself and was still in the student frame of mind. During my senior year I pretty much mastered the art of procrastination, receiving the Most Likely To Be An Hour Late and Still Think She’s on Time Award. I maintained my grades but I was apt to leave assignments to the last possible minute and spend my time dreaming of an ideal life where I had no lectures to attend or exams to study for. I was swiftly (in less than three months!) thrust to the other end of the spectrum.
I was dreading having to deal with students like myself. Unmotivated seniors who showed up to class with a giant cup of coffee and raccoon eyes – decidedly bored with the traditional classroom setting and restlessly anticipating the moment where they would don a swishing cape and save the world. I was also worried about teaching and my lack of experience. Throughout my time at university I worked as a tutor and writing center consultant, but TA-ing was a whole different ball game. Not to mention that my Fulbright contract said I’d be a TA (teaching assistant) but the host university informed me that I’m the only Arabic teacher on campus. I had to come up with syllabi and strategies with very little preparation. I was to teach and study at the same time, to volunteer and organize cultural events – I was to live with complete strangers for a year.
All those thoughts washed over me in Raleigh-Durham International Airport, where I felt very much alone for the first time since I left Kuwait.