Interview by DocFilm Social Media Intern, Leslie Calderon
Jumana Zahid, 21, is an international student at San Francisco State University, preparing to graduate in Summer 2016 with a major in Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Art and a minor in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism. Zahid’s passion for visual arts, colors, and aesthetics brought her to San Francisco from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at age 17.
What inspired you to study in San Francisco?
In high school we had a science project. I decided to take an extra step towards it and make a movie, instead of a presentation. I loved the whole process; I loved it all the way through. Since then I knew I wanted to do something with media, visuals, cinematography and what not.
I started college thinking I wanted to be an anchor/reporter. I got into it my first year and decided it wasn’t for me. I shifted my gears around. News I didn’t like—it’s type of production. I stepped out of that and started doing videos and short productions. For the time being I’m going to be experimenting with all sorts of media until I know where to land eventually.
What was your transition to America like?
I feel like I was well-oriented when I came out here. It was easy for me to shape myself around the environment and get myself acquainted with the lifestyle. Thankfully I had the language. Watching tv helped. Growing up, I loved watching tv. I loved how colorful it was.
My mom always complained about me watching so much tv, “You will ruin your eyes Jumana. You will end up wearing glasses” — I eventually wore glasses, but I learned a lot about the culture and language itself. I’m glad that I did, because I feel more comfortable and in place now.
Which movies or tv shows helped you learn English?
I watched a lot of Disney and Pixar movies. They helped me learn, not only the language, but also to grasp the culture from a young age. My favorite movie was The Jungle Book.
Recently, I’ve been really interested in watching international films and documentaries. It gives me another perspective of how things go. There are plenty of things happening in the world that people aren’t realizing—things that I’m not necessarily aware of. I try to take myself on international trips by watching these films.
Did you experience culture shock coming to America?
When I first came out here, surprisingly, I didn’t have a culture shock. Only when I went back home, one year after, I felt it, I felt the difference. I grew up in another country and didn’t realize how different it was from where I would end up. Two places that are so different from one another, it’s hard to even compare.
It’s pretty much a life changing experience living out here. I always go back to the starting point and think “My god Jumana! You’ve been through a lot, and you’re still going.” I’m very proud of myself!
Do you ever feel homesick?
For the first three years I did not feel homesick, not for a second. I was so happy with where I was. I didn’t care about the problems I was facing just by living out here; I had a solution for everything. In my fourth year, it hit me. I realized I missed my family. I missed belonging to a bigger circle of people with so much love.
Also, I started to see my family grow. I didn’t realize that until I went back home last year. My brother was 11 when I left and now he’s a teenager with a raspy, wanna-be man voice. It’s like, “Who are you? You’re even growing a mustache now.”
I felt emotionally separated. My family was growing, but without me. I would see pictures and look at them as an outsider. It’s sad because I could’ve been there for the small moments: birthdays, hospital visits, picnics. But you know what? I know that eventually I’ll go back home and create new memories.