The American dream: Building up to success

By Amenah Morad | May | June 2020
Imagine starting life from the beginning, finding a new home, learning a new language. It’s a little hard to imagine, but every year about 775,400 refugees come from all over the world to get a second chance and start a new life in the United States. What is life like for a refugee? Many might ask this question, but not many people know the struggles of being a refugee. I, Amenah Morad, am a refugee and this is my story.  I don’t remember what happened or why we moved because I was very young. At four years old, the situation in my home country was getting worse every day because of the wars. Eventually, it started becoming too dangerous to raise a family. So, my parents decided to sacrifice everything… their jobs, families and friends, educational degrees, and our house and move to the United States of America. They did everything for my siblings and me to live in a safe environment and have bright futures. My family was lucky enough to not have to live in a refugee camp, a place where refugees wait until they can relocate. Instead, we were able to live in Turkey while we waited for our VISAs to be able to go to the U.S. We lived in Turkey for about three years until our VISAs came. My family was very patient during that time. It was especially hard for my parents because they were far away from their families and had to figure everything out by themselves. After living in Turkey for two years, I turned 6 years old, so I enrolled in school, entering the first grade. I didn’t like school too much since it was very hard for me to adapt and learn how to speak Turkish. I always felt that I was behind everyone else because of my lack of communication skills.  At home, my two brothers and I spoke Arabic, meaning we didn’t get practice with the new language beforehand. It was hard to understand what the teacher was saying at school and making new friends was even harder. My dad tried to help me by taking Turkish lessons, taught by my teacher, so he can come back and teach me what he has learned. This helped me a lot because he was able to explain everything in Arabic and I could understand the lesson being taught. While my 4-year-old brother and I were at school, he was enrolled in preschool; my mom stayed at home with my youngest brother, who was 2 years old at the time. To provide for our family, my dad had to find a job. To this day, I feel bad about what had happened. My dad was the manager of his own engineering company back in my home country but in Turkey he had to work as a teacher teaching Arabic to students who wanted to become bilingual. It was hard for him to teach them Arabic because he didn’t know how to speak Turkish. Through all of the language barriers, he was still patient and he always tried to the best of his ability to persevere relentlessly and learn the language as much as he could. I still wonder how he was able to juggle everything and still have time to spend with us. After living in Turkey for three years, our American VISAS came, we were finally able to travel to our new home. In 2013 we were finally in America. Of course, starting life all over again for the third time, wasn’t easy. To start, my parents had to redo their college degrees, since their bachelors and masters weren’t American. They had to find new jobs, a new home, learn another language, raise my siblings and me, and redo their college degrees. I guess that’s because of where my family and I are standing now, my parents’ hard work and sacrifices have paid off. Many families say that they aren’t very close to each other and that they don’t spend as much time together as they should. It is hard for me to hear stories like that because my parents have always said that families should stand together and always be there for each other. As I have gotten older, I began to acknowledge what my parents have done for my siblings and meI. I have always tried to make them proud, and lift some of the weight off their shoulders. My parents have always been my inspiration to do my best, I want them to know that they have always been there for me and their hard work has made an impact. After living in America for one year, in third grade, I graduated out of English Language Learners class. This was a very big moment for me because it takes years for people to graduate, and I did it in one year. The principal of our school was so amazed by my progress that I made, that she left a bouquet of flowers on my desk and an award, stating her appreciation. In fourth grade, I was put in gifted math and English classes, which is an accomplishment because not many refugees make it into these types of classes. In fifth grade, I got the Student of the Year award out of everyone in the fifth grade. In sixth grade, I got put in all advanced classes. In seventh and eighth grade, I was the winner of the Middle School Spelling Bee and I was placed in advanced classes, scoring 4s on the state tests.  I have had many successes in my life, but that is only because of all of the support that my parents have given me. I always try to give back, but I don’t think that I can ever do as much as my parents have done for me. I want to thank my parents for everything that they have done for me throughout my life.

Amenah Morad is a student at Tierra del Sol Middle School in the Lakeside Union School District

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Association of California School Administrators