Imagine one day you are surrounded by all your friends at school, then the next day you are across the ocean in a different time zone, speaking a different language and starting your first day at a new school.
When I was 11 years old, my family and I moved to Lebanon for one year. My family and I made the decision to move there for a year to be with my dad’s family more, as well as understanding the culture and learning more of our background and where we come from.
Prior to that year, I had visited Lebanon every summer but I never expected to be living there for a year and leaving my home and friends back in America only to gain new friends and get familiar with my new life there. The plane ride there was more than 12 hours long including the few hours of layover.
Adapting to a new country was a bit hard at first because my whole life was in America, so moving to Lebanon took time to get used to knowing that I would not see my friends for the year I was gone.
To get admitted into Rawdah, students were required to take an entry-level exam to see their academic skills to ensure they have the requirements to be allowed in, similar to the SAT exam for college.
We had to purchase uniforms because, in Lebanon, all schools are private schools. The uniforms were light blue button-down shirts with the logo on the top corner and the pants were either navy khaki pants or jeans. As part of the uniform, the women were not allowed to wear a lot of makeup. If they wore a full face of makeup, they were told to remove it.
Grades kindergarten to 12th grade were all in the same school building. However, the elementary level of the building was decorated with various pictures, colors and child-friendly activities. For middle school and high school students, the school was all gray, white and brown.
At the beginning of each school day, all students and teachers would stand outside and line up to say the national anthem before we went to our first class.
For middle and high school students, the classes were split into three sections. Since I was in sixth grade at the time, the sections were 6A, 6B and 6C. Two sections were Arabic sections for those who spoke Arabic and the third section was for the students who spoke English. Coming from America, I was in the English section.
As part of the curriculum, we had to purchase the notebooks specifically from the school that had the school’s name and logo on it. Along with that, we were only allowed to write with stylo pens. For each class-we had about six-they had a rule that we were only allowed to write on one side of each page and if we wrote on the backside, they would tear it out and have us rewrite the notes.
During the time spent at the school, we were taking two language classes: Arabic and French. I did not like French very much, but I enjoyed learning Arabic more fluently and knowing how to enhance my reading and writing skills.
For our gym classes, we would change into our gym uniforms, take the school bus, and drive to a place called Hoops since the school did not have a gym. Once there, we were split into a guys group and girls group and we only had two sports to play. The guys would play soccer while the girls played basketball.
Besides classes, our lunch breaks were set up very differently from how it is set up in America. The first difference is that we had two lunch breaks, instead of one, and each break ran for about 15 to 20 minutes. Another difference I noticed was that our lunch was two stands that we can buy snacks and sandwiches from and we did not have any tables or chairs to sit on, only benches.
My experience with living in Lebanon for a year other than the school was very enjoyable because I went to the mall, went to the movies, ate out with our friends, went skiing in Faraya, went to the beach and spent time with family. The weather there was very different from here because the summer is a lot hotter there and the winter is much colder.
Although I have lost contact with the people I made friends with, I still stay updated with them on social media and making those friends made living there a much better experience.