Many new students arrive at Cedar Park High School every year, but rarely do these students come from a foreign country. Jesse Vielleux, junior, moved to Cedar Park from the Middle East this summer. He is originally from the United States but moved to the Middle East eight years ago. After living in the desert for so long, his return to the United States was bittersweet.
“Being the minority there and coming back and being around all these white people is really weird,” Vielleux said. “Americans are in their own world, like [the way] everyone only speaks one language. Over there, it’s way more culturally diverse.”
Vielleux lived in Buraime, Oman but went across the border every day to Al Ain, United Arab Emirates for school, shopping, church and other basic living necessities.
“Oman is a poorer country and it was a lot cheaper to live there, but UAE has an abundance of oil,” Vielleux said. “Everybody in UAE is so rich that there’s not much crime and not very many policemen; there’s just no point in stealing anything.”
Vielleux was actually born in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1993. He moved to the Middle East when he was nine years old with his parents and two younger sisters. His dad and a couple of business partners wanted to start a water business in the humid climate there because they had created water machines that take moisture from the air and fill an empty purifier with clean water. However, the company was unsuccessful and Vielleux’s father found a job in Texas working as a water engineer.
Since September 11, 2001, American prejudice against Arabs and anyone associated with the Middle East has become prominent. Despite being Caucasian, Vielleux has had to deal with the repercussions of this when traveling through airports.
“We have Arab stamps on our passports, so airports sometimes do extra checks on us,” Vielleux said. “We moved a year after September 11 so it was crazy getting over there the first time. The Arabs over there do not like what happened- a lot of them say that the terrorists are not true Muslims.”
Once he was through airport security, Vielleux had to adjust to many differences between the two countries, such as the difference in climate and the difference in education.
“It’s really nice and cool here. It was so hot there; the temperature can get up to 130 degrees in the summer,” Vielleux said. “It’s a little humid here but the humidity is way worse in Dubai, sometimes 90 percent.”
In regards to education, Vielleux greatly prefers American schools, due in part to Oman being about 60 years behind in technology and infrastructure.
“School was terrible there. There’s just no reason for the kids to study or work because their dads are rich,” Vielleux said. “It was a really poor facility and there were no organized sports. [Here] the level of teaching is way higher and the schools are just way better— even the ghetto schools are probably better.”
Vielleux is not the only one appreciating the structure of education. Kenna Vielleux, sophomore, is Jesse’s younger sister who is also noticing differences in the way schools are set up in America.
“Over there, education isn’t as important for girls, so they didn’t care as much,” Vielleux said. “Here, the teachers are also more one-on-one.”
The cultural diversity where Jesse used to live included a variety of ethnic foods. Coming to the United States, he happily acquired a taste for American cuisine.
“I love the food here. I love a good steak, and proper beef. The beef there was from New Zealand and Australia and it just wasn’t as good as it is here,” Jesse said. “Taco Bell is awesome! They had McDonald’s over there and a lot of main restaurants, but even those are different, like the Coke tastes different.”
It appears that the Vielleux family has settled into life in Texas quite well, but the obvious differences between countries will always remain. Their travels have given them a broad worldly perspective unique to culturally experienced families, making Jesse a very interesting classmate.