credit: IOM/ John Walder
“My parents decided in 1998 that they wanted to move to the United States. They wanted a better quality of life for my sister and myself. They wanted us to have a better opportunity for our future, to be able to go to a good university, to have a good job. They felt we would probably have a better chance of doing so here rather than back home. So, my father moved here two years before us. He had a job but he felt he needed to pick up another job; so he had two jobs while we were still in Jordan. He would send money, clothes, and all sort of stuff.
After two years when he established himself and got an apartment, we moved here to rejoin him. It was difficult at the beginning. When my mom told us that we were going to move here, it was like moving to a whole different world. We were scared. We left our family, our friends, the home we grew up in, our culture, and our school.
The thing that I was the most upset about is that it was 1998 and the World Cup was going on. With my buddies, we bought these books with the stickers of each player. Whoever got all the stickers and completed the book first won a prize. I was in the middle of doing that and then we had to move. I wasn’t able to finish it. So, at 12 years old that was really my main concern.
On a more serious note, I was scared. I thought 'I don’t speak English well. Am I going to be able to make friends? Are they going to like me?' I didn’t know what to expect, I was scared. I felt I had to restart my life all over again.
At the beginning it was scary. It took a little while but we were able to adapt. That’s really the key to the move: you have to adapt. My model was and still is never forget your roots, just adapt to the new culture. That’s the message that I would preach to my kids and to anybody that is going to make a move like this. Don’t forget your roots, don’t forget where you come from but try to adapt and everything will be fine.”
Saif works now as an internal auditor for a Fortune 500’s insurance company in Wall Street, New York.