StoryCorps Mariko Ueda + Nassima Benhammoud

Nassima Benhammoud is a 30-year-old Algerian and Mariko Uedo is 35 and from Japan. They both live in Atlanta as their husbands pursue post-graduate degrees. They are two of a group of about 30 people that belong to the Georgia Tech International Student Spouse Group, which is how they met and became dear friends. Here’s Mariko describing some of the activities this dynamic group has participated in together.

Audio Transcript

Mariko Ueda: We often gather every Thursday afternoon. And sometimes we do some games to remember each other’s names, or to know some American customs. And they sometimes invite people from different places or different part of the Georgia Tech. So some day we had like a police officer, officers.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah, I remember that. It was amazing.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah, and we learned about how to protect ourself in the United States. [laughter]

Mariko Ueda: Yeah, we visited police station, too.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yes.

Mariko Ueda: And some— The other time, we studied about our personalities?

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah, we did some personality test. And we were different, right? Do you remember, yeah?

Nassima Benhammoud: Yes, completely different. The opposite!

Mariko Ueda: Yeah.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah. So you were like extrovert.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yes.

Mariko Ueda: And I’m introvert.

Nassima Benhammoud: Exactly.

Nassima Benhammoud: And I think this, the thing who make us so close, it’s because we have the same situation. We’re not allowed—because of our visas—we’re not allowed to work. And we’re both married. We’re both far from our families, friends.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah, that’s true. 

Mariko Ueda: Yes! Why do you think we are so close now?

Nassima Benhammoud: I don’t know, I think you’re just like me, but I told you, in the opposite way.

Mariko Ueda: Okay.

Nassima Benhammoud: Like, you’re so quiet, I’m so loud, maybe. [laughter] But we like the same things.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah.I’m really interested in knowing different people, different cultures, different perspective, way of thinking. So in that point of view I’m very curious about your life too.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah, me too. I am learning lot about your life, and Japanese life.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah, but it’s like, now I feel that we cannot like, work, or we don’t study anything, but from each other, we can learn different things about the world.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah that’s good.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah, I really like that.

Mariko Ueda: So which changes like, me as well. Like how we think about—

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah, about us.

Mariko Ueda: About life and, yeah.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yes.

Mariko Ueda: But, do you feel like I’m from different country?

Nassima Benhammoud: No. You know, I don’t know. You’re my first Japanese friend.

Nassima Benhammoud: So I cannot compare you with the other Japanese. So I really know

Mariko Ueda: Ok. I do something differently from the people you— in your country do?

Nassima Benhammoud: I think maybe the religion, yes.

Mariko Ueda: Religion? Okay.

Nassima Benhammoud: The only thing different between us.

Nassima Benhammoud: So only if it’s related to the religion, something related to the religion, it’s gonna be different. But other things, yeah. We’re the same, I think. That’s why we’re close, don’t you think?

Mariko Ueda: Yeah.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah, that’s true. But at the same time, we have like more than 30 members in the group.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah, now! Yeah.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah, in the Spouse Group we have a lot of friends who are close, who are close to many. We’re like always hanging out together. And going dancing or parties.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah, we’re like really from everywhere.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yes!

Mariko Ueda: Like we have friends from Chile, yeah, Ecuador, Columbia, China.

Nassima Benhammoud: From Chile, from Korea, from China, from everywhere!

Mariko Ueda: Yeah, Germany.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yes. Brazil.

Mariko Ueda: Netherland. Yeah, Brazil.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah. So what I like about the group is we can help each other.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah!

Mariko Ueda: So whenever you need help, you can ask anyone.

Nassima Benhammoud: You just ask, yeah.

Mariko Ueda: Then if someone you ask, if she cannot help you, she will introduce someone else.

Nassima Benhammoud: Yeah.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah. So it’s a small community, but very helpful and big.

Nassima Benhammoud: It’s a great group.

Mariko Ueda: Yeah.

Nassima Benhammoud: Seriously I’m happy that I know— that I know this group.

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Produced by Melissa Terry from interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.
Special thanks to the interview participants, StoryCorps Atlanta, WREK Atlanta 91.1FM, WABE 90.1FM, and Institute Communications