If you clicked the link from our e-letter and are looking for the interview with the Eritrean Refugee, it's on this page. Sorry for the inconvenience. This is the story of an Iraqi woman from Baghdad who did not want to give her name or release her photo, but was happy to share her story. The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of World Relief Durham or any affiliated partner.
When did you come here?
I came here in June 2009.
How did you feel when you first arrived in America?
First, there was a delay in our airplane because of a storm in Chicago, so we [including her husband and baby] at first stayed three days there. I had family there in Chicago. So we called them and said, “Hey, we’re here, we have a delay, we’ll stay for three days if you can come.” They came and we saw them. It was a very nice three days because we hadn’t seen them for 15 years. Then we came to North Carolina. I had no one here, just a friend that came to the airport to take us to our home. So it was nice, here there are a lot of trees and not that many buildings, and you know it’s different from other cities. We like our apartment. We found that our friend had prepared everything at home for us and for my baby. So it was good the first two weeks, then you start thinking about your future and what you’re going to do: I have to look for a job and these things. So I am still looking for a job now–two years and two months.
When did you learn English?
I already came in knowing English, but I improved it here for the past two years.
How did you learn English in Iraq?
In school and in college. We start English in the 5th grade until we graduate from the university. I knew a little bit, but I improved myself.
Does everyone take these English classes and some know it better than others?
Yeah, if you are more curious and smart, you learn more. If you just want to know the basics and that’s all, you can pass.
So you speak Arabic and English?
Yes, and I want to learn more Spanish and French. Tell me about your transition here. Did you leave a lot of family behind in Iraq? Yes, I came here in June 2009. In July 2010, my brother and his wife came. In September, my mom and my other brother came.
How do you feel about leaving Iraq?
I left Iraq in a very bad situation, so even the good memories that I have from my country are no longer happy or good to remember, because the bad things go over the good things over there. So I’m not going to say I’m happy. I left everything there, my memories, my home, my history, everything, but to start here all over again– it’s hard but it’s worth it. I think it’s worth it for me, and for my children.
Did you leave a lot of friends in Iraq?
Yeah, I had a lot of friends. I have a lot of friends here but not in this state. But it’s better than staying there.
Was it hard to make friends here?
No, it’s not hard, but you know if I came here at a younger age, maybe I would have been more adjustable with the culture and the people, because you’ve got school, like at college you get to know more people. But I don’t have a job. I went to school at the community college taking classes over there. I have friends, but you know they will not be like your friends in high school that went with you to college and up until you’re married. All those memories will be with your friends in your country. But I thought if I had a job or I went to school maybe I would have more friends.
Is there anything else you want to tell people about coming in as a refugee?
I always encourage people to come in here and start from the beginning. It’s okay. You think it’s a waste of time–no, being in a stable situation, a safe situation, is the best thing that you will ever imagine. And you may lose someone that you really love, and you may change the place, but I always encourage people that if you have the opportunity to be here, you should be here. Especially for highly educated people in my country, because it’s bad for them to be over there. But you know these obstacles that you have, you imagine in your mind that when you come in here that maybe they will have more opportunities for you to find a job than lower-educated people. They don’t have any bachelor’s degrees or masters or Ph.Ds. and you can’t find a job here because the degree that you have is from your own country, not from here. That’s the difficult thing that you can live with, that you used to be a doctor or engineer in your country and here you have to accept that you are doing housekeeping or something like that, that’s hard. When you come here with a lot of dreams in your mind and you can’t find even the half of the thing that you can do, it’s hard.
Has it been that way for you?
Yeah, I’m looking for jobs. I went to school. I took a certification in health care and have a college education. I have experience working in hospitals and I know so many medical terms. I even took my degree in Durham tech with high grades so they offered me free classes over there but still I can’t find a job here. Durham’s a medical city, but it’s hard if you don’t know someone that can hire you. That’s the only problem.