Michelle Saade is a Lebanese-American student at the University of Florida. Her involvements include the Lebanese American Society, Campus Diplomats and Alpha Delta Pi Panhellenic Sorority.
1. I know you grew up in Lebanon, what was that like?
If I had to use one word to explain what it was like to someone here in the United States, it would be “different.” It was neither better nor worse, just different. I went to a Catholic, all girls, private school and was pretty sheltered. Life was easier, but that may also have been because I was younger and had less worries. It was nice because I was surrounded by family. My school was smaller and I felt like I knew everyone and everyone knew me. I never had to worry about fitting in. I was pretty sheltered and I couldn’t say my life was harsh, I still knew about the political tension. When certain political problems such as assassinations took place, it made me worry about my future and the future of my home country.
2. How was it transitioning to the US?
To say the transition was easy would be a lie. I had to adjust to a culture that is so different from my own, try to fit in and follow cultural norms, perfect my skills in the English language and try to meet people and make friends while finding the time to study and do well in my academics. I, thankfully, had my family in the US when I first moved here, and that helped immensely in the transition process. While some people were not very accepting, others were incredibly interested in my diverse cultural background and were great friends and mentors to me. Those people are ones I will never forget and feel like I owe so much to. When someone feels as though they are all alone, one conversation could make all the difference.
3. At what age did you move? How was the language barrier?
I moved to the United States at the age of thirteen. Adjusting to the language was somewhat difficult in terms of the speed that people talked or slang terms, however it was not too bad since I had already learned the language at school in my homeland.
4. What language do you speak now?
For the most part, I speak English. However, I still speak Arabic and occasionally French with my parents and some relatives. I like to keep practicing to ensure that I won’t forget how to speak something that I was fluent in at one point.
5. Do you believe like there are enough resources available to you to make you feel included?
I definitely believe that there are enough resources for me to feel included. It is difficult at times for one to get out there and find them. But if people take the initiative, they are definitely there. It is mind blowing how many clubs and organizations are available on the University of Florida campus and I am confident that there is a place for everyone to feel included.
6. How has your culture helped you become the person you are today?
Coming from a different cultural background and struggling to fit in when I first arrived to this country, my culture has helped me become a better person in that I am very accepting of everyone, no matter how different we may be fro each other. I am always ready to be a friend to anyone who is alone or needs it because I have been in a position where I felt alone and in need of a friend. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m a nice person.
7. What are your future aspirations/goals?
I am currently a Health Science major and aspire to work in the health care field. I have seen children who live in extreme poverty and families who have been affected by war, and god-willing if I reach my goals, I would try to do my best to give back to my community and care for those who might not be financially able to be medicated.
8. How do you feel your background will affect those goals?
I feel as though my background is one of the things that pushes me even more to follow my dreams. As I already mentioned, I have witnessed things with my own eyes and just knowing that I could potentially stop them or make them better means so much to me. I am living the American Dream.