Can you please tell me your name and how old you were when you came to the United States, just to start us off with some background information?
My name is Anwar Mamat. I was 30 years old when I came to the United States.
Where did you come to the US first when you first came?
Should I start from Beijing, China? I have this layover in San Francisco. SFO I guess. And then I went to Dayton, Ohio.
Why don’t you start us off by telling us everything you remember from your very first day?
Yeah wow, I remember it like today. That is 2006 March 22nd. I dont forget it because there is an entry stamp on my passport. So you know when you apply for a US school, they give you a F1, like a student visa, and then you go to the US embassy Visa Office to get a visa. So in my case somehow, you know, I applied in 2005. In 2005 I applied for the 2006 Fall semester but this school at Ohio, Wright State University, they gave me spring enrollment, like I can come for Spring in March. So I went to the Visa and somehow they did this background check. It took like a month or so. So when I got my visa, the school like almost started. I had to be in United States before March 26 or something because that's what my visa said or the F1 student visa said I guess. So I was anxious, you know, the day I got my visa and then I went to my parents and I said goodbye and I was preparing for it. So I flew to Beijing and then yeah. The next day my flight was ready and then somehow they said there was this mechanical problem so we had to stay one more night in Beijing. I was very anxious because of a lot of things on my mind like you know the Chinese government might suddenly say they would stop me at the border or I don't know or things right. And then the next day, we started and stopped at San Francisco. I forgot that really. I was like very, as I said, nervous at this entry. But they asked me a few questions like why are you coming, how long you will study, things like that. And it was very smooth. And then I went to Dayton, Ohio. So my Phd advisor said another Phd student was waiting for me there so he picked me up. And then he arranged this two bedroom apartment you know.1540 Highland Court Fairborn, Ohio, if you still want to visit the place. That was the place I lived for a couple months. I got one bedroom and shared it with another Phd student. But one thing, remember I had to stay one more night in Beijing and this student wanted to pick me up and he came the previous day and waited for me. I don't know how long. I didn't show up. He went back. Other people told him, “Ok you did your job, you waited. He didn't come. So he can come by taxi tomorrow”. But again the next day he again went to the airport and waited for me because we didn't have email or phone numbers at that time I guess. I couldn't contact them and tell them my flight cancelled the previous day. So I really appreciate him. The next day again he went to the airport and waited for me and picked me up and arranged everything. You know when I went to the room there's this bed and so we went out and bought comforters. That’s how my American dream started.
Is there anything you remember or any impression that your first day in America left on you? Like what did you think of America when you first stepped foot into it?
I don't know. It was clean. People were nice. I don't know. I was too excited I guess, you know. Like I prepared for the worst really. I didn't know. This is like a total foreign country, you know. I got scholarship. I had my admission so I know I would go and start graduate school. But still you know, I read stories people work two jobs to, you know, support themselves, things like that. I prepared for it really. I brought some money and also I thought I could do anything. But when I came they gave me this research assistantship and later they said I would have to maybe do some teaching assistantship. I didn't have to. So overall it went really really smooth. Day one I came they gave me like 1100 dollars stipend. For my first month. Later it increased but I still remember I thought, “wow I got 1100!” I asked other people, “is this enough?” and they said, “it will be enough, it will be more than enough”, you know. Everything was cheap, I remember. Like the one bedroom for that two bedroom apartment, half of my rent was like less than 300. I bought a Dell laptop for 700 dollars. And then yeah, I mean, I felt everything was much easier than what I really expected.