An education in America

Published 2:31 pm Saturday, December 14, 2013

By Malak Buhardan

Salaam! My name is Malak, and I am from Bahrain. I am a 17-year-old exchange student attending King’s Fork High School in Suffolk.

Since my childhood, I have always wanted to come and study in America. Thankfully my dream came true after I was selected by the Youth Exchange and Study program, after a year-long application process, to be an exchange student. I was placed into my current home by Youth For Understanding.

Malak Buhardan

Malak Buhardan

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Since I came to the U.S., I have learned lots about American culture. I have met all kinds of people with different interests, have become friends with them and have shared my culture with them.

Imani, who has become my best friend since arriving in America, shares my same love of comics, manga, and theatre.

One of many things I enjoy about high school life is my theatre teacher Ms. Miguel. She makes all of her classes fun, interesting and exciting. I always look forward to going to her class.

Also, I am excited that I am progressing in my English, as Arabic is my native language. I am glad to see my hard work paying off in my grade. I love how what I am learning I can use in everyday life — like having a chat in Spanish with a woman I met in the store, ordering Mexican food in Spanish. That made me happy.

I decided to take American Sign Language after I bumped into another student who was deaf. I didn’t know how to say “excuse me.” Hopefully by the end of the year I will be able to communicate with the other student.

Most of all, my favorite experience is being able to live with my host mother — I call her Mom — and my beautiful, smart sister Rabia.

My mom is loving and caring but strict when she has to be. She is the first person we go to if we have had a rough day, because she makes it better with her warmth. She is the person we want to share our happiness with, because it’s her smile that brightens our hearts.

I have been raised by my single mother, Sakeena, and I am an only child in Bahrain, but not in America. I have enjoyed having a sister with whom I can enjoy my time and have small arguments — as normal sisters have.

My family here is not much bigger than the one I have back home but they are just as precious and priceless. We share fun times and silly moments together. We went on a fishing trip, and Rabia and I caught more than a dozen fish, each! That was my first fishing trip, and I learned I was good at fishing.

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner and blessed the food with a Christian grace in which everyone held hands. Rabia and I also went to church for the first time with our mom and it was fun, because I got to hear my favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

My sister and I are Muslims, but we enjoy learning about other religions. We are also happy and excited about celebrating Christmas this year.

So far, it’s been a wonderful year for me, and I have enjoyed every passing moment — eating new and different foods, going to beautiful historical sites in Virginia, meeting new people, volunteering on a rescue squad with our mom, going out with friends to laugh and making great memories.

I have already learned a lot this year and hope to keep learning to help me get to a brighter future.

Malak Buhardan is a 17-year-old foreign exchange student from Bahrain who attends King’s Fork High School. Email her at