I once read that “There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home.” I’m 19 years old, from Syria. I was a Syrian refugee in Jordan for three years, and now I live in the U.S. To me, home isn’t just a building; home is a place you find compassion, warmth, family, safety and happiness.
The war started in my country of Syria on March 15, 2011. It was the hardest time in my life. We were living in a safe place before the war started. We didn’t imagine that the war would happen in our country. Every night and all day we were hearing the guns and the bombs. My brothers were very young. They were always crying and scared; not only them, everyone in my house was scared and crying. We stayed in Syria during the war for two years; for two years we had been in a state of terror, fear, and concern of anything happening to us. Suddenly, my dad went to Jordan to look for a good place because it was the only place near my city in my country that we could go. We left Syria on January 2, 2013.
It was a rainy day in the evening; everybody was inside because the army was shooting at everyone they saw. We got in our car and they were shooting at us, but we kept driving and went away from them. It was hard to leave our home country and leave family members and everything that I know behind, but we had to do it because our lives were in danger. We thought we would go back in a few months. We didn’t know it was going to take so much time.
When the driver got close to the border, he left us. There were too many people going to Jordan. We walked for two and a half hours. The army from Syria was watching people who were leaving, and they threw a bomb at us. Nobody got hurt, and the soldiers from Jordan put us in a tent. In that time, we learned the value of our home. We didn’t like to live in the camp. We went to Jordan, but we didn’t know anything about Jordan. I didn’t go to school in the beginning. I told my dad I wanted to go to the school. “No,” he said, and I was crying and watching the students from my house windows. When my dad saw that, he took me to the school to register. I was so excited and happy! However, all my happiness just left, I was surprised when they said I must go in the afternoon because Syrian people are not allowed to go in the morning with Jordan’s people. It was hard for me because some teachers and students were racist and selfish. They were saying a lot of bad things about Syrian people. I wasn’t feeling good about it. Also, my dad didn’t have a job because they didn’t let him work, and it was bad living without a job. However; after two years he got a call from someone that helps people to travel to the United States. He was so happy, and he told us, “we have to go to the United States.” We weren’t happy about that, but he said, “you all will have a good life, safe place, and better education there, and I will have a job.”
We arrived here in Arizona on July 21, 2016. I didn’t speak English at all. It’s completely different than Jordan. They have different cultures, language, religions, places... everything new. We weren’t feeling good in the beginning. For almost three months we didn’t go anywhere even to school. Then we finally started to go to school, and they put me in 9th grade even though I was seventeen. I was crying and asking a lot of questions to myself because I wanted to be in college. They told me, it was better for me because I don’t speak English, and I will be happy when I learn. My dad got a good job. My brothers and sister went to the school. My mother took care of us. We felt like we were finally living in a good and safe place. We started to go out and meet friends. It was hard, but we had to because we didn’t have a choice. We started to see how people are very nice and helpful. In my school many students asked me if I had no hair because of my Hijab. I felt bad and embarrassed because I do have hair and I’m proud of my Hijab, but I couldn’t show my hair to them. In that time, when I figured out that some people don’t know about Islam, I just ignored anyone who made comments about me. That’s when I decided to write a story about it. I have a notebook having too many stories like this. In the school the teachers are nice, respectful, helpful, understanding. They help me with everything I need.
Over the last 8 years, my family had got in hard time and had problems, but we must not focus on what we have done before and focus on what we have now because everyone will get in hard times. We don’t have to stop our life when just one thing hurts us. We must live and start a new life. Even though we had to move around a lot, being with my family was most important. A home doesn’t have to be just a building. I know the value of love and safety. That is what home is.
Kholoud is the 2nd place winner for the 2019 essay contest.