Introduction. About the United States
It has been a dream for most people to visit the “land of opportunities”. Despite the positive facts about the USA, there are always numerous challenges especially when you are from the Middle East or the Arab countries. Some of these challenges include point of entries to the United States, culture shocks, and racial profiling.
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With the country being overly alert on security matters, there has been the installment of USA-VISIT entry capability. This program seeks to process and verify the identities of the visitors entering the country; but while this has been made easy enhancing and meeting all the security standards as required by the congress, it has also increased the processing time thereby adversely affecting the plans one might have due to the congestion at the point of entry.
Racial profiling is another challenge although many people do not complain about it since it’s done due to security factors. Since the 2001 September attacks, Americans have always remained wary of visitors especially those from the Middle East, and this was exhibited by the many police checks we were subjected to. Despite our arguments that we were just visitors the cops still held us for long hours enquiring from us what our intentions were.
The culture shock was another challenge. This was mainly caused by the absence of familiar and comforting characteristics of our culture. There being seemingly the irrational, offensive, and hostile aspects in which our Muslim culture seemed to be exposed to, it was a big hurdle as we tried to interact with Americans from all walks of life.
Another challenge which no one expected was the requirement to pay 14$ operational and travel promotion fee since we did not possess a US visa. Often referred to many as the ‘tourists tax’, one is supposed to fill an online form and send it to the Department of Homeland Security and this gives the authorities’ time to have checked and verified from all the no ‘fly lists’ and terrorist databases that you are not a terrorist to allow you enter into their beloved country. We had not paid the fee and this took quite of our time as we tried to discuss with the Homeland Security officers.
Despite the above challenges, there were some positive experiences; a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which we had booked for reservations earlier and paid the required one Dollar fee is a place many of us won’t forget soon. We visited the site and learned a lot about great American people who have sacrificed their lives for the protection of others. There was this program about an officer by the name of Stephen Johns who died heroically while protecting museum visitors from a brutal attack and it was worth noting that people are recognized for their heroic deeds. We also visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona which is the world’s longest and most visited and as usual, it was fascinating.
It was also a positive experience meeting and interacting with Chief Executive Officers from respectable companies, such as, Bill Gates from whom we learned many things about entrepreneurship and the power of innovations.
Finally, we learned that the US is a developed country that upholds democracy and respect for human rights. We learned many things and it was a lifetime experience that I will live to tell for days to come.