10th grader at Thomas Jefferson

Where are you from?



What was it like growing up? 

My life was scary. You couldn’t improve yourself- you were basically just trying to stay alive with all the terrorism and with ISIS there.  They blow up everything, you can’t save yourself. You could wake up and go to work and school but it was so dangerous you never knew what would happen next or if you would make it home. It was just a lot of bad things there. The government just steals the money from the people they don’t care that people are hungry. 


What brought you to Cleveland?

I was placed in Cleveland with my family 2 years ago. I was in a refugee camp for 1 year before I came here. There were really nice to us there, they were American and they treated us better than the Iraqi army. 


What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I thought I would have a good life. My cousin was here and some other family and they talked about America all the time. They always told us the life was hard here but it was good, it was better. When I got here I thought that I was in a movie. In Iraq, all I knew was that it was a great country, and much different from home, I knew I was going to change from the inside, I was just so happy. 


What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here? 

The culture here is so different. We had freedom but not in culture there, here you have freedom in everything. My religion says you can’t do this and that and we don’t do it. I could only talk to my family, I couldn’t make friends because I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t go to the store, I couldn’t play I suffered inside and just started to make sentences and write them in my notebook. My neighbor helped me practice English. The weather was also different to get used to, back home it’s to dangerously hot things could blow up. Here it gets hot but not all the time. It also gets really cold.


What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

We practice our religion and we still speak Arabic with my parents, English with my siblings. My parents actually don’t like us to speak English at home, they want us to preserve our culture and speak Arabic at home and English at school. 


How have Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

When the airplane stopped at Cleveland, I had my uncle wait for us to take us home. It seems the security knew we needed help, everyone had on hijabs and he told us welcome to America, and he helped us. He gave us his phone and let us call my uncle so he could find us. 


What do you love about Cleveland?

I love Cleveland because most people are not racist. They don’t hate groups of people. Cleveland is my city! I love it here for so many reasons. I never want to move from here. I don’t’ want to have to start a new life again. I know everything in this city now, I know where to go to get to where I need to go, what I need to eat, I know everything. 


What’s your favorite thing to do in Cleveland? 

I like to go shopping at Macy’s and Target. 


Why is it important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

Because you can learn about other cultures. People come here to have a better life and more opportunities. 


Why is it important to travel abroad?

Because it’s important to learn new food, new people, new language and new culture. It’s always good to learn new stuff, see how people practice religion in other places.