I was a non-traditional student. I spent years in community college which meant that I didn’t move out from mom’s house to stay iin dorms, join a sorority, do the whole spring break thing, and come home for the summer and intern. It began twelve years ago…and now I can’t believe I’m buying this ticket.
I worked my way through school, sometimes too broke to even afford books or a bus pass to get to school. I was a student activist, down for the struggle, but not that many people understood my struggle. Even in community college there were a few quarters I couldn’t pay tuition. During those times I’d spend my time studying in Santa Clara University’s library. I was lucky to meet some Muslim sistas at a MSA event, they gave me a ride and we’ve been tight since. One of the sistas lived by me and she’d pick me up and take me to campus just to hang out. There were two amazing Iraqi sisters at SCU, one began teaching me how to read and write Arabic. I wanted to travel so I could learn to speak and read Arabic and understand what I read and recited from the Quran. Likewise, a bachelor’s degree was a dream but I was just happy to be able to learn and be in that environment.
But there were people who believed in me even when I was ready to walk away from the whole academic thing. Spring Break was the farthest thing on my mind. I was just trying to break in. Life circumstances positioned me in a place where I finally got my foot in the door. I went back to community college and was accepted into SCU. But that door shut closed on my foot and all a few quarters later. No Spring break, just a three year break paying off tuition bills and learning how valuable education was through my bull %*& jobs. I did visit my family in Jacksonville Florida, which coincided with Black College Reunion, so maybe that counts. During that Spring break I didn’t know a single student at BCR.
Three years later, I wasn’t thinking about Spring Break. Debt paid off, I finally received a decent financial aid package and went back to school to finish this time for reals. Finally I did the damn thing, graduating with honors. I had my Kente cloth and my three sets of honors ropes, and even a phat medallion from an honors society. So I applied to graduate school, I loved this stuff. They would pay ME to study? What? I would get to travel to cool places? I could write my books and teach? Two things I loved to do. But Spring break was not on my mind. Break? Give me a break, I was riding on some high achievement high.
I got into grad schools, 5 fully funded and two in the Bay Area. Who would have thunk? In the bidding war, Stanford offered more funds. I loved Cal, spent a summer there attending Arabic classes. I always loved the East Bay more than any other place in the Bay, and Cal offered me a really nice financial aid package. But Stanford offered to send me to the Middle East to study Arabic for the Summer. I felt like I was walking on clouds. 12 years before, I used to ride the bus from the East Side of San Jose to Cupertino, just hoping to make get out of junior college. So, getting into these programs was kind of wild. A former college drop out, who used to get picked up by TABS for skipping class and get kicked out of of Mt. Pleasant for scrapping now becoming a scholar?
Fast forward to my first year in the program. Grad school kicks everybody’s butt. Especially if a program commits 5 years to funding you. Spring Break last year? Man, I was just finishing up incompletes, praying that I’d pass. In my department, B is failing, B+ means you’re wack. A- means you’re scraping by, and an A means you are okay (maybe). I’ve been working my &^%$#@ off since I got here in Summer of 2004. This last summer, I went to Vermont for nine weeks and Morocco for a Month, both times to study.
Spring Break? I wish….academics don’t break. A few weeks ago, my advisor gave out the command that I needed to hit up some archives. “What are your plans for Spring Break?” I wanted to say, “Sleep without guilt” but of course I had nothing to say. Great! So then he said I should find some Arabic sources in Chicago or at the University of Durham in the UK. I’ve never been to either place. I had to look into it and see if it was worth my while. I also had to find friends and family who would front me until I was reimbursed by my department.
Today, I just bought my ticket from New York to London, leaving on March 25 and returning on April 1. My job is great right? It is amazing, I should be super happy. And a huge part of me is. I just purchased my ticket and I’m like “Whoa! London for Spring Break” (Well actually Durham which is a few hundred miles away) Nobody in my family has been to Europe nor North Africa. I am about to see the London Bridges yall! But I’m too tired for all that excitement. Maybe it will hit me as I cross the Atlantic. I’ll sleep on that flight, maybe even on that train. Until then no sleep for Aziza. But on the real tip, this is better than Spring Break. I hope I come back with some good stuff from those archives, inshallaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!