By: Arik Shams
My first year at Oak Grove was also my first year of many other things. It was my first year in the United States, it was my first year at an American high school, and it was the first year of my life in which I realized that school could actually be fun. Now, at the end of my senior year – my last year – at Oak Grove, I have come to realize that this will also be my last year of many things I‘ll miss.
When I first arrived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, it was difficult for me to think of it as my home (traveling 10,000 miles from another country in hopes of living the elusive American Dream can have that effect on people). However, whether I wanted it or not at first, Oak Grove High School became a home for me.
I started my relatively short-lived stint at Oak Grove my junior year, and by the end of it, my experience consisted of a lot more than learning Pre-Cal or U.S. History or how to cut Salisbury steak with a plastic fork. I would never have imagined that I would be able to make such a great first impression on my teachers, but I did (so I’ve been told), and at the time I put it all down to luck. But now I understand that luck had nothing to do with it (well, maybe a little). It was actually the incredibly cool people at Oak Grove – the teachers, the students, and the in-betweens – that made my time at Oak Grove so great and memorable.
Right. That whole embarrassing outpouring of emotion and gratitude towards Oak Grove has left me quite wordless. I’m done. And it’s not as if I’m never seeing Oak Grove again; I’ll be sticking around at USM for quite some time more. But to be fair, everything that happens to me after Oak Grove is and will be a result of what happened to me in Oak Grove. I could never have imagined a struggle for survival could actually be fun. I mean, seriously, have you ever heard of a Bangladeshi immigrant making Hattiesburg, Mississippi his first choice of residence? Me neither. But it turned out all right, didn’t it? (Yes it did.)
Trust me, I’ve had experience in leaving behind memories and taking risky life decisions – I’m living proof of that myself. But leaving Oak Grove, even if only after two years, is a bittersweet experience unlike any other. I’m glad to start a brand new, unread chapter in my life, but I know for sure that the last chapter was truly awesome. Thank you Oak Grove, for being my guide and my home. See you later.