East to West with Tala Habash

Name: Tala Habash

Age: 20

Year: Junior

Major: International Affairs and Mass Media Communications

Tana? Talia? Tasha? All these are names given to Tala when she goes to Starbucks although she spells out her name each time. The funny part about all this is that Tala is a very common name in the Middle East. As an immigrant, it can be hard navigating spaces with things such as your name being looked over. After being in the United States for five years, Tala is now the Vice President of the Arab Student Union finding her voice on this campus.

Her Campus (HC): Where are you from?

Tala Habash (TH): See that's kind of a complicated question. Originally, my family is Palestinian but I've lived and grown up in Jordan. Jordan was my home for 15 years until my family decided to move to Miami around five years ago. So, you can say I'm from a lot of different places.

HC: What prompted the move from Jordan to Miami?

TH: My family decided they wanted to move once political instability started happening in the region due to the Arab Spring. Even though Jordan is a neutral country, my family wanted an exit plan just in case anything got worse. Miami seemed like the best option for us because my grandparents already lived there. And well now I have a Miami accent, so there's that.

 

 

HC: Did you ever think you would move to the other side of the world?

TH: Yes, and no. My grandparents did live here, so I was very exposed to American culture from a young age. We'd come here a lot for summer vacation, but I'd never thought we'd move. I was shocked when I found out. I remember exactly where I was too.

HC: Where were you?

TH: On the balcony, outside. It was like eight or nine. All I remember was that the sun was setting. They told me before my sister too, so it was a lot to take in.

HC: Did you experience any culture shock when you first moved? Especially since Miami has a substantial Latinx population.

TH: I consider myself lucky to have moved to Miami out of all places. Even though I was a minority, I never really felt that different, especially because of how diverse the Latinx community is. I don't consider that I blended in rather my differences were as appreciated like everyone else's. Considering that most of the people I met immigrated from their home country to Miami, I think we were able to relate on a certain level that maybe other people wouldn't understand. I was seen as another immigrant that they wanted to explore and more know of.

HC: Have you ever felt disconnected from American culture as an immigrant?

TH: In Miami, I never really felt different. It wasn't until I moved to Tallahassee that I noticed that people walked on their tip-toes around me. They would not say something around me or act a little bit different or just try to avert the issue as a whole. The current climate makes it hard to talk about these things since no one wants to say anything incorrect.

 

 

HC: How did you find yourself in Tallahassee?

TH: For me, I think I had a really good experience moving to Tallahassee but that's just because I had a support system here. I do think if I didn't have my friends from Miami, I wouldn't have that same sense of security. I would have struggled a lot harder in finding that sense of community than I did. Even with my friends though I still struggled in finding other Arabs on campus until I joined ASU (Arab Student Union).

HC: What is it like having an Arab community here?

TH: It's nice to have somebody where you can tell a joke in Arabic and they'd completely understand. My friends have been always made me feel welcome, but coming to FSU I wanted to meet other people that shared my same cultural background, which is how I found out about ASU. It was the first time I felt that people knew what I was going through. A lot of them had also moved from their home country to the U.S., so most of them spoke Arabic. I had never really appreciated speaking Arabic to my friends until that moment. It feels nice to know I have a community that understands all of our shared struggles. This community encouraged me to be Vice President of ASU today.

HC: On a final note, what would you say to FSU students about joining ASU?

TH: For me, it's about cultural appreciation rather than anything else. When you like the culture, it's okay to experience and understand it. We have room for everybody so if you're ever interested, please come!

All Photos Courtesy of Tala Habash.