ORIGINALLY WRITTEN SARA COOK
Seven months after arriving in the United States from her homeland of India, Manjira Arnold reflects on her experience and tells why she is grateful to be here.
Hailing from a city of about 5.2 million people, coming to Hillsboro was much more than just culture shock for Arnold, a Tabor College student. It was also a lesson in faith.
Arnold, a native of Hyderabad, came to Hillsboro to complete her education.
“I would like to go into journalism,” she said. “I told my dad maybe I want to go there (to the United States) for my studies.”
But Tabor wasn’t her first choice either when it came time for choosing a college. She also considered Fresno Pacific University in California-the school her sister was attending. But Arnold decided to apply to Tabor and was accepted.
“God had different plans for me,” Arnold said. “I’m happy now. He put me in a safe place.”
But her journey to Hillsboro made Arnold feel anything but safe.
She had never before traveled internationally or flown in an airplane. So leaving India was more of a leap of faith than anything.
“My dad kept telling me to be brave, and that God would take care of me,” Arnold said. “He also told me that even though he and my mom would not be there, God would look after me.”
Yet her faith was to be tested.
After two days of traveling-including a 16-hour layover in Amsterdam-Arnold arrived at Kansas City International Airport expecting someone to be holding a sign with her name written on it. More and more people cleared the airport and Arnold was still waiting.
“I kept reminding myself of my dad’s encouraging words to be brave,” said Arnold.
Judy Hiebert, vice president of student development at Tabor, realized there had been a mix-up. After realizing that Arnold didn’t arrive in Wichita, Hiebert called Kansas City’s airport security and asked for Arnold to be paged.
Within 10 minutes, she was located-an instance, according to Hiebert, that showed God’s grace. After Arnold telephoned Hiebert from the airport, plans were immediately made for her to stay overnight with a pastor in the Kansas City area. He then drove her to Hillsboro the next day for the start of the spring semester.
Anxious about what her class schedule was going to look like, Arnold was relieved when she saw how much time she would have.
“Here, you have breaks between classes,” she said. “Back home, it’s not like that. We have continuous classes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. When we get back, we have so much homework to be done, that for many nights until 9 or 10 p.m., you have to sit with your books.”
But the scheduling wasn’t the only difference Arnold noticed. She also saw-and experienced-for the first time how students are taught in America.
According to Arnold, the focus is not on quantity, but rather on quality. She said she has been challenged to think beyond textbooks.
For a class during the past spring semester, Arnold was required to write journal entries, something she said was one of the hardest things for her during her stay in America so far.
Being immersed in an unfamiliar culture, though, has been the most difficult for Arnold.
“On the outside, I was strong, but inside, I was fearful,” she said. “I was very nervous because I did not know anyone around the campus. Every day I kept wondering how I was going to stay here. I was always sitting in my room and thinking about my family and friends.”
An encouraging trip to California during spring break to visit her sister changed Arnold’s perspective.
“After coming back, I was more comfortable and confident,” she said. “I started communicating with students. People began to understand me.”
And although she now enjoys her time in America, the homesickness she feels for the life she left behind in India isn’t gone. Arnold is one of six children-five daughters and one son-born to her father, a surgeon, and her mother, a housewife.
Arnold said she receives a phone call once a week from her family, and they also chat over the Internet.
Although she misses home, she said she would like to travel the world someday.
But for now, she is content to be in Hillsboro.
“Being away from home has its advantages and disadvantages,” Arnold said. “I have started to be more independent, think for myself and also make decisions on my own. I have learned that through experience, one gets to learn a lot. I have the faith and hope that God is always with me to guide me.”