Shadan A.

  • Oregon

What does America mean to you?

By Shadan A.
Tigard, Oregon

America means opportunity to my parents. It’s the country for a free opportunity for safety, education, future success, and a better lifestyle for their children. There was a civil crisis in Iraq soon before my parents decided to move to America. This civil crisis affected everyone’s lives, jobs, and overall lifestyle, hence why my parents didn’t want me to experience the life they lived. Their lifestyle after the 90s was filled with wars, bombings, and dictatorships, and this affected my parents’ mentality and health very much so they finalized that they didn’t want to raise me in a dangerous community that risked our lives. These complications in Iraq, caused my parents to decide to immigrate to America in 2010. Our first destination was Boston, Massachusetts, and my parents had to start again from 0. Back in Iraq, My parents attended the best colleges, received high degrees in education, and were close to a successful life in Iraq. Our family tree is huge in influential people in Iraq. My grandfather from my dad’s side was Hafiz, who was someone who memorized the whole Quran and had a huge role in representing Islam to the people in Baghdad Iraq. My grandparents from my mother’s side were both lawyers and had big roles within their community/neighborhood. But all of this history and significance was irrelevant and they had to start over. After our arrival, we received help from immigrant support organizations, but that didn’t bring back the life we could have had without all of these complications back in Iraq. But as time went on, my father found a good job within his field, but ironically experienced the same civil racism that caused my parents to immigrate in the first place. Aside from my father supporting his family financially, my mother had to manage to raise me in a new country with new cultures my parents had to get used to and help with the finances. Through raising me, My mother focused on maintaining the same religious beliefs and traditions and trying to not let me fade away from the true meaning of our religion of Islam, and our Arab culture. The year 2012 was when we settled our lives in Oregon, my little sister was born in 2014, and in 2019 my mother’s Down syndrome brother had to move in with us, of course, we as a family went through many complicated events but we thank God for the privilege we had even if we had a little. All was well before but even better after 2020, because my father finally found a job he was happy and comfortable with within the field he studied in, we moved to our dream home, and everyone was healthy and happy.

My parents realized further that settling in America doesn’t automatically grant the aspects of the American lifestyle, it comes with hard work, persistence, and most of all privilege. That is why my familys immigration story relates to how they went from living a stable and set life in Iraq, to starting again from 0 when coming to America, to finally living the lifestyle my parents expected to achieve for us. My parent’s immigration story challenges the expectations of the American lifestyle because it isn’t guaranteed to be experienced in a good way, even how hard someone works for it. But no matter what my parents persisted in their hard work and determined to change our lives for the better. Lessons learned by my parents after their arrival in America and journey as immigrants is that America is still better compared to the country we moved away from. My parents didn’t want me to walk down the streets wondering if I’d be able to come back home safely, or constantly see people getting beaten up or killed in the streets. But at the same time, there is always something within them that wishes to raise me in a community of our culture. No country is perfect, especially America but besides all of America’s flaws and bad aspects surrounding its history and origin, in our point of view coming to America was the best decision for the goal of opportunities of freedom, safety, education, and a well-deserving lifestyle.

Thanks to my parents’ hard work and determination, I was granted the opportunity of a free and best education in the state, attending the International School of Beaverton. As the oldest daughter who immigrated with my parents, I developed a passion for completing my education in the best way and living the life experiences that my parents desired for me. Not in ways of forcing me into a career or school or path in life, the desire to go to the best college, getting my degree, graduating high school with the best grades from my hard work, a good reputation, and living a financially stable life. I’m not halfway through these goals, I still have 2 years left to graduate high school, but with my determination, faith, and belief that I can make my parents and myself proud, I will achieve these goals. My education, career, and lifestyle aren’t the only opportunities that were given to me, I was given the opportunity to become the best version of myself through my character. The most important aspect is to become an honest, loyal, caring, loving, and open-minded person and focus on the way I shape myself because if I don’t focus on that, I won’t be able to be close to reaching the rest of my life’s goals. Shaping and finding myself is one of the most important and very first steps to achieving the life that I want. America granted me the opportunity not only for education, safety, and success, but also to find myself, and my passions, and become the best person I can be.