By Gwyneth Easley
Wendy, you are a third year journalism major at the University of Oklahoma, a reporter for Gaylord News and the president of OU figure skating. How did you get where you are today?
That’s a good question. I’ve never thought about where I am in present, just where I am trying to go in the future. I have a lot of goals that I am trying to achieve, so I view everything I have right now as a stepping stone to achieving my goals.
What are some of those goals?
I think that my biggest goal is to be a journalist and travel to produce multimedia video content. I want to go back to the Middle East, and I want to graduate with a three point nine GPA.
Tell me about a significant event in your life that has shaped who you are today.
My mother’’s stroke. It moved me halfway across the world from Bahrain to the United States for American health care and to be close to family. My mother is also disabled now, which was different from the normal when I was growing up.
Where were you when you found out your mother had had a stroke?
I was downstairs watching cartoons with my little brother. My dad was in the room and Shandra, our au pair, came downstairs and said “excuse me sir can you come upstairs it’s an emergency.” We heard some weird noises so we went upstairs to investigate and we saw my dad and Shandra carrying my mom downstairs. It looked like she was having a seizure. They got in the car, drove to the hospital. It was the middle of Arab Spring so all the health care professionals were downtown and there weren’t ambulances.
What happened next?
I didn’t see my dad for a week and I didn’t see my mom until we medivaced her to Dubai for better medical care. People had told me my mom had a stroke, but I didn’t understand what that meant. I had thought it was a heat stroke. We went to visit her in Dubai, and that’s where I learned the severity of the situation. She was lying in a chair and she was completely emotionless and out of it, she couldn’t speak at all and she couldn’t understand what people were saying to her. I tried to have a conversation with her but she couldn’t understand me. My little brother and I started to cry and that evoked some emotion in her and she tried to speak but couldn’t.
Is that when you all moved to the United States?
Yes. My brother and I were taken care of by family friends. As soon as my mother was stable she was transported in an air ambulance to St. David’s in Austin. My brother and I stayed with our grandparents in Austin while my father got everything settled in Houston. The understanding was that we would be back in Bahrain by the end of the year, but we never left the states.
If your mother hadn’t had a stroke, would you have moved to the United States?
No. If my mother hadn’t had a stroke we would have moved from Bahrain to Qatar. I would have stayed in the british school system and would be attending college in the UK. My dream was to go to King’s College in London. I actually applied there when I was a senior in high school, but british college applications are very different from American. I also would have been two years behind my classmates, because in british schools you specialize in your desired career at age 16.
What was the biggest culture shock you encountered when you moved to the United States?
My first day of sixth grade I walked into my classroom. My teacher introduced me as Wendy who had just moved to the United States from Bahrain, and my classmates were asking where that was. Then the Pledge of Allegiance played over the intercom and all the students stood up and recited it. No one had prepared me for the pledge and I had no idea what it was or why it was happening. I was standing at the front of the classroom wondering what was going on. It scared the living daylights out of me because it was creepy experience to have twenty sixth graders stand up and face you with deadpan faces and monotone voices expecting you to pledge your allegiance to a country you just moved to. I ended up just turning around and mouthing watermelon until it was over.