My American Story by Joyce Gathirimu Cont...

After all the drama that goes on at the airport’s departure lounge; picture taking, hugs and kisses, crying, advice-giving from aunties and uncles, I finally bid everyone bye, joined the long queue at the ticketing counter, had my tickets and passport verified, then finally boarded the plane to Heathrow Airport, UK the first stop over.

This being the first time to fly by plane, I was both excited and anxious about the whole ordeal.

After being airborne for eight hours, we finally arrived at Heathrow, my first taste of a developed nation. The six-hour wait for the connecting flight to US, gave me ample time to walk, admire and marvel at things that I had only read or seen on magazines and foreign programs on TV back home.

It was also time to take a short nap, since I had not been able to sleep during the flight from Nairobi due to the excitement and anxiety. Just when I was getting comfortable and familiar with my surroundings, it was time to board the connecting flight to Atlanta, Georgia, another nine-hour flight.

I had not expected this journey to take this long. At Georgia Airport, a big sign "WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" caught my attention and I knew I had finally made it! I was in America.

I wanted to jump up and shout, but I realized that could land me in trouble since there were security officers all around the lounge. I joined the long queue for “NON-AMERICAN CITIZENS” and I suddenly realized that I was considered an alien in this place.

The immigration officer thoroughly examined my documents, took fingerprints and a photo image and after questioning me of my purposes for coming to America (never mind that it was clearly stated on the passport and 1-20); I was welcomed and let in past the gate.

I later learnt that after the September 11 bombings of the twin towers at the Trade Center in New York, tough rules had been enforced on foreigners coming to America. There was still one more connecting flight to my final destination and after finding my way through the airport, I boarded the plane that would take me to the college I was going to attend, Kansas City, Missouri.

The University officials had arranged to pick incoming students at the airport, and so my life as an international student in America begun.

The second part of my story outlines the challenges I faced as an international student, which I believe is true for most other new student to America, and especially so for those that do not have friends or relatives to help them settle down. I have also given an overview of what the immigration laws state about international students.

For More of Joyce Gathirimu's "My American Dream Story", Click on the links below.

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