Lebanese business student adjusts to life at Southern

Missy Hollandsworth

When first arriving in Atlanta, Georgia Charbel Bichara was confronted with his first cultural barrier: The distance between destinations in America is massive.

“In Lebanon you can drive the whole distance of the country in 30 minutes,” he said.

“After leaving the Tulsa airport I could not believe that we were still driving for another hour and a half.”

In 1995 Missouri Southern became an internationally focused school. Today there are approximately 80 international students representing 30 different countries.

Bichara, a senior from Lebanon was recruited to come to Southern by outgoing international students.

Bichara’s brother already lived in the area and according to Charbel, he was up for an adventure.

Once settled into classes and life Bichara got involved on campus by joining Sigma Pi.

“I did not want to just keep to myself, or an international click. I wanted to break away from the norm,” he said.

Distance was not the only adjustment to get used to for Charbel.

“I had to get used to random check points in airports and public places. I am constantly stereotyped because of my Middle Eastern ethnicity,” Charbel said.

Like many students, Charbel missed things from home.

“I miss my family most of all, but I also miss the food. Good, spicy food. Not Mexican spicy food and not Buffalo Wild Wings spicy, but good spicy food,” he said.

“It’s weird to think back now and realize that I grew up in a third world country. My life was soccer, soccer, and more soccer.”

According to Charbel, the culture in Lebanon is very family oriented. He said it wasn’t unusual for more than 20 people to be in his house at one time.

“In fact, it seemed as if no one was home if only 20 people were there,” he said.

Charbel said when he came to America, he had no preconceived ideas or expectations, he just “winged” it.

Charbel said in the five years that he has been in Missouri, he has made many friends and has almost achieved a double Bachelors degree in marketing and international business.

His future plans include pursuing a career in pharmaceuticals after graduation.