A family and their nine homes

Jul 22, 2020

Nihal ElGameel (Egypt, 2019/20) reflects on her Fulbright experience

Home! Family! Friends!
3 things we leave behind when we travel.

New place! New culture! New People!
3 things we see when we arrive.

Travelling is that overwhelming mix of feelings. It's excitement, anxiety, high hopes and disappointments. It's  a journey that teaches us who we really are. Travelling is that marvelous mystery that unfolds to show us what the world has to offer and what do WE have to offer to the world.

America was not my first time abroad but it is the longest I have been away from home. I applied for (FLTA) Fulbright program knowing that for 10 months I will be staying in a house with 8 people from different parts of the world. I honestly didn't know what to expect, especially that sharing a house with people that you don’t know can be challenging sometimes. Each from a different culture with a different personality.

8.28.2019 was the day I met my new housemates in JFK. We exchanged handshakes, hugs and introductions. They seemed like very nice people to me. I learned that they come from Germany, Argentina, Japan, Italy, France, Spain, China, and Palestine/Israel. We were all TA’s at Bard College, NY.

And since that day these 8 wonderful people you see in this photo became my family. 

Nihal ElGameel and her housemates

By definition family is a group of people who are bound by blood. But in my case, we were bonded by love, care, sharing, and amazing memories.

Together we established a HOME not a house, Stephen’s residence was that cozy place that witnessed our laughs, tears, jokes, birthday parties, delicious food, and pranks. We were always there for each other through thick and thin.

Our house-Stephens’ residence- aka Tutors House at Bard College.
Our house-Stephens’ residence- aka Tutors House at Bard College

I can never forget how lucky I was to see all that love when I had a severe asthma attack. On that day, I was showered with love. Anita gave me her teddy bear to cuddle while sleeping, Leila opened the door while I was asleep to check on me and make sure I was okay- I saw that. Caroline, said to me:” If you need anything at any time, wake me up”.  

The warmth of Home means food made with love and food was a huge thing in our house. I can’t count how many delicious cakes I have eaten celebrating our birthdays. Birthdays are also HUGE events in Stephen’s. On the fridge we have a list of our birthdays. The Celebration goes as the following; Caroline-the master planner does the shopping and bakes the cakes-each their favorite. The night before the birthday, we go to the bar and by the strike of 12 O’clock we start the fiesta. The next day, after dinner we go home, blow out the candles, cut the cake and eat it and then go to bed because next day we have to work. And that goes for all the birthdays, it might sound boring but actually it is not. It’s our unbreakable tradition of bringing joy home and it never fails to make us happy because at the end of the day we know that we have each other through thick and thin.

Us from Francsico’s birthday
Us from Francsico’s birthday

We never hesitated to express love to each other, I mean what does a group of 9 single people do on Valentine’s day other than celebrate it together. On that day, I woke up to chocolate by my room’s door from Mikiko and a beautiful card in the living room from Marie.

Valentine's day

We all came here to teach our languages and put this experience in our CV’s but little did we know we also came here to create an experience that we will forever hold dear in our hearts. Now, I have an international family, I have 8 homes around the world and 8 amazing friends for life.

I wish that all people get to experience how it feels to melt into each other creating a world of love, acceptance, care, joy, and humanity <3

Here are some highlights of our journey.

Fulbright girls- First week of the semester
Fulbright girls- First week of the semester.
First trip to New York, YAY!
First trip to New York, YAY!
Attending a concert at Fisher Center- Bard College
Attending a concert at Fisher Center- Bard College
Girls night out- watching ‘Little Women’. Caroline and Leila- also Fulbrighters
Girls night out- watching ‘Little Women’. Caroline and Leila- also Fulbrighters
The gang at Hot Chocolate Festival in The ashokan Center- Olivebridge, NY
The gang at Hot Chocolate Festival in The ashokan Center- Olivebridge, NY.

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