After completing high school in Kuwait, a big proportion of my graduating class went to the US for undergrad. I had received acceptance to the State University of New York at Buffalo. This being the late nineties, I followed the herd (no pun intended) to study computer engineering in the US.
This journey took me from the oil-rich deserts of the middle east to the snow-rich areas of western New York. Thankfully, my father's brothers had moved to Toronto, Canada a few years ago (which was only 99 miles from Buffalo), so we decided to have me land in Canada first, to acclimate me to North America for a few weeks before I start college in Buffalo.
I'll skip the Canadian part of my journey and focus on my first day in the US. Unlike many immigrants, my journey was made by road-- since it was only a 2 hour drive from Toronto to Buffalo. My uncle drove me to my campus -- where I completed initial registration, got my student ID, and picked up keys to my dorm room.
International students typically check in a few days before domestic students, so I entered a completely barren and empty dorm, where I spent my first night. My uncle showed me how to make a collect call from the pay phone (this was the pre-cellphone era) and bought me a fish burger from Burger King (the only "halal" option) and wished me luck.
I remember lying on the mattress the first night, without any bedsheets since I hadn't shopped for linens yet, thinking to myself, "OK.. I'm here..now what?"
Like many, I came to the US with preconceived notions shaped by hollywood movies and sitcoms. Certainly the first few days were less than glamorous. But I was determined to paint a picture on the blank canvass which was my college life in the US. It was a nervous and lonely beginning to an exceedingly wonderful experience.