Hassan Al Muzaini is a Saudi Arabian intensive English language student residing in Seattle, Washington for the duration of his program. Studying language to improve his professional prospects, he hopes that he might be able to settle down in the U.S. later on. With limited experience using English prior to his arrival in America, Muzaini has progressed quickly over the course of his stay. However, he still remembers some of the bittersweet moments of flexing his language muscles when he first arrived.
Some of the challenges Muzaini faced, and still faces, rooting from language branch to culture clashes, lagged responses, misunderstandings, and feelings of loneliness. He and many other first time English speakers say that they understand more of the language than what they appear to, but nerves and the expectations of quick responses pressure their speech. A new language coupled with a new environment and a new culture is an obstacle that Muzaini is trying to cope with.
When we arrived to Seattle, they [immigration officers] asked us to stand in the line for immigration. So, I was standing in a line with nobody except me and there were empty offices, but no one called me to come. And, I didn't want to go by myself into the empty offices because the immigration people do not laugh and are always angry. I didn't want to do any stupid things. And, then, there was a woman that showed up and said to me that ‘the guy in the fifth office has been calling you for almost two minutes. Why didn't you respond to him?' And, I said, ‘okay.’ I was so exhausted from the eighteen-hour flight. So, I went to that guy and he asked me 'How much cash do you have?’ and ‘Did you bring some food?' I don't know why they [immigration officers] asked me about this. So, he returned my papers to me and I went in through the airport. I wasn't familiar with the area, so I just saw [and followed] people standing in front of a gate. And, I went there to follow the signs to get out of the airport to take a taxi until I arrived at the hotel. And, for the whole [drive], I was just thinking about my family, thinking about my friends back home because it's so different between here [Seattle, U.S.] and back home [Saudi Arabia]. After we arrived at the hotel, I searched Google maps for the best places around me and found Northgate mall, so I decided to go there. When I arrived there I felt hungry, so I tried to find restaurants. Most of them were new for me, so I decided to try Subway because it is easy to order. It's like; ‘I don't know, [how] shall I start?’ I know how to speak English, but to change from a different language to English right away when you arrive is hard. You should think about it first.