How I Discovered My Strength
It all started when I moved to the United States. I had a blissful life in Yemen with plans
and goals that I believed I could achieve. Nevertheless, I understood that life was dangerous in a
place where bombs are the style of the season. As soon as the civil war began, my family and I
were forced to jump on the first airplane to the United States. Without any previous notice, my
life flipped upside down.
As my father dropped me off on my first day of school in the USA, I knew that I would
not appreciate the change. Not only was it my first day in the new school, I was also adapting to
a new life in a new country, where I would have to learn English when I only spoke Arabic. As I
gazed upon the brownstone enormous building, I couldn't help contrasting it to my cozy but
baronial school in Yemen.
When I walked into the alien place, the differences expanded. I stood against the wall,
with my pink Hijab, black Abaya, and matching pink shoes, glancing at the other girls to
determine if I could blend in. But as I listened to the foreign language, I knew life would not be
that easy. When I looked up, all the students were chatting with friends. No one stood looking
pitiful and ignorant by themselves, except for me. At that moment, I missed my friends terribly. I
missed the cold, sunny mornings when I would meet my friends in the playground of our school.
Each complaining about the ever long list of chores and homework.
As the principal, Mr. Abdullah, took me to my first period, my imagination kept drawing
canvases of things that can go wrong on my first day.
Mr. Abdullah said smiling at me, “Welcome to Salina School Reem. I looked at your
placement tests. They are really impressive. I have great expectations.”
“Thank you.” I murmured.
When we reached Mr. Omar’s classroom, my heartbeat quickened with every step. My
natural self-confidence and reassurance vanished. When Mr. Abdullah introduced Mr. Omar, I
couldn't help notice his kind eyes and encouraging smile as he welcomed me.
“Welcome to my class.” He said in English and even though I knew what welcome meant
he quoted it in Arabic.
He pointed to his students, and they quoted him. “Welcome!” they all said.
Mr. Omar pointed to a seat next to an Arabian girl, who I learned later named Maria, who
moved her stuff from my chair with a frowning huff and eye roll. She made it clear my presence
wasn't really welcomed.
After a couple of weeks of fighting the hurricane that became my life, I was exhausted to
the bones. The school was like walking blindly in a field. I had no sense of direction nor did I
really want to, I didn’t want new friends I wanted to go back to where I knew everyone and
everyone knew me.
Moreover, I was constantly hiding my inner emotions of loneliness and shame. Yes,
shame. I was mortified that I could not acquire the language fast enough. The way other students
viewed the newcomers, stereotyped the idea that we are naive and ignorant. But those student's