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“Finally High School Is Over” by Abu-Bakr Muhammad

“Finally, high school is over,” softly said Abu-Bakr Mohammed to himself as he walked down the sandy road that led to his village from the school he had attended for the last six years. Abu, as most of his friends called him, was excited beyond measure because he had made the first step towards becoming a mechanical engineer; he had completed his O-levels. For a moment, he imagined his life as a successful mechanical engineer who was rich and famous for his workmanship and expertise all over the world.

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Abu-Bakr Mohammed was the son of Abu-Nasr, a well-known cobbler in his village. He was a worthy man who worked hard to support his family. Abu’s mother died soon after he was born, and the only motherly figure he had was his grandmother. As he entered the small room that he considered home for the last eighteen years of his life, he found his father who greeted him with a warm smile and said, “Abu, your uncle Murhak, who lives in New York, has offered to pay for your university education in the United States.”

Long six months passed since Abu found out the news about his uncle’s offer. The preparations to leave Saudi Arabia seemed endless, and despite the fact that he was eager to embrace the new life and follow his dreams, he was gripped by fear of inability to understand people he would encounter. As he came off the Saudi Arabian airlines, the excitement left him as soon as he inhaled the first breath of air in the New York airport. Someone addressed Abu in a strange language and looked at him as if expecting an answer. His fears were confirmed as he understood nothing.

A period of three months in the United States was not a short time for a foreigner who did not know English in a place where it was the national language. His cousins teased him, and the neighborhood children wanted nothing to do with him. He had no way to express himself, and the older boys beat him up a number of times, assuming that he was rude. For the first time in his life, he longed for his village and life he had had before and had been accustomed to. The time had come for Abu to attend an English Course at the New York community college.

Abu was frightened out of his wits in attending the college. However, he was astonished to see people that were just like he was. They did not have a clue regarding the English language and were as confused as he was. His classmates were from every race around the world; there were Asians, Africans, Mexicans, and a few Indians. The fact that he was not alone helped Abu. Despite the lack of language skills and the inability to communicate in English, Abu made some friends with some of his mates, for example, with an Indian called Raja.

Abu was good at mathematics; however, English proved to be a hurdle for him. In the first two months of study, Abu had not made any progress neither in his speech nor in his grammar. The lecturer made the situation worse as he consistently made fun of Abu.

Abu developed a negative attitude towards the language, and this hindered his learning. He was once again discouraged as some of his classmates and teacher were making fun of him. He also felt disappointed in himself for being not good enough. Abu always felt like a stranger in a room full of familiar faces. Raja offered to tutor Abu with the little he knew, and Abu committed himself to the study.

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After one and a half years, as the course had ended, Abu was the best in the class and even delivered a speech on behalf of his classmates on the graduation day. He changed everything and derived benefit from a difficult situation. He was now ready to join the university and pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a mechanical engineer.

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