OPINION: How studying abroad changed me

I have never worked harder for anything in my life. I have never gotten straight A’s until I was a senior in high school. I studied day and night, non-stop. I even had tutors outside of school. I didn’t go out for months because I was so stressed about the final exams and wanted to get good grades so that I could get accepted for the scholarship program. 

It was hard to get a scholarship in Oman (the country where I’m from). You had to be a straight-A student and compete with other applicants. I applied hoping that I would get in, but I never really thought that I would. 

I decided to go to college in a country that is the total opposite of mine, in language, culture, tradition, religion — basically everything. I made this decision because two of my cousins got accepted to study in the U.S.: one of them went to California and the other one went to Colorado. They encouraged me to do it since I had the opportunity.  

I’m an extremely shy and awkward person and making friends or meeting new people is the hardest thing for me. I remember when I was in fourth grade, my mother used to take me to school and introduce me to my classmates so that I wouldn’t sit in class alone the whole day. 

Things didn’t change much through the years, as I used to hang out with my sister’s friends at school. But I wanted to break the bubble I was in and do something big with my life. I wanted to get a degree and be a well-known writer, just like my mom.

My mom is a young adult novelist and my dad is an editor at the local newspaper in Oman, so it was only right for me to major in journalism. I know everything about writing from them, so I knew it was going to be easy for me. Experiencing new things was something I never wanted to do. But I wanted to force myself to do it. I thought journalism would help me make friends and be fluent in English because I would be constantly talking to people and getting more involved in society. 

When I started my first semester at Kent State I took 12 credit hours. I was excited and overwhelmed at the same time because I didn’t know what to expect. I was in a new country and it was my first time attending a college class. I had another international student with me from Oman which I met through mutual friends, so I felt safe, but I couldn’t help but notice that we were the only ones who looked different from everyone else. 

Once we finished our first class, I called my sister in Oman to tell her how it went. I cried and told her that I look different and that I don’t feel like I fit in here. She told me that I should be confident and comfortable in my own skin because I can’t and will not be someone else even if I tried. That made me feel better because it gave me the power and courage to embrace who I was. 

I have become a completely different person during my time here in Kent. I’m not lost anymore and I know exactly what I want. My mom told me once that she doesn’t recognize me anymore and that she felt like she needed to get to know me like I was a stranger. Honestly, I kind of liked that because it shows how I changed and grew as a person. She thinks my views on life have changed and that I have strong opinions now. 

I didn’t notice the change in myself until people started pointing it out to me. My mom makes sure to constantly tell me how proud and happy she is of me, and that’s honestly what keeps me going. 

Sara Al Harthi is a guest opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].


Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.