I had no friends and did not know where to go for fun, so I only played with my brothers and sisters in our house. In school, it was hard for me to find my classes, and I never talked to my classmates because I didn’t know English. My classmates assumed I didn’t want to talk to them, and they left me alone. After a while, I started to try and talk to other students, but it was hard because my English was not good, and I was very shy. The adjustment to a new culture was hard. I am from Somalia, and I came to America in 2016 with my family. Not speaking English was a huge barrier for myself and my family when we arrived. I was thirteen years old, and I lived in Kentucky for about two weeks. Then we moved to Minnesota, and I was so happy to see my cousins for the first time in ages. We stayed with my aunt there, but then we had to move again. We moved to a small town not too far away and lived there for a year and a half. Finally, my family moved to Fargo, North Dakota. I don’t know why we moved so much. After a few days, I started middle school and met a lot of people, but again, I didn’t talk much to them. In Africa, all the students knew each other from when they were very little. I was always surrounded by friends. Making new friends in a new country was very hard. Not being able to communicate re- ally made me feel sad. My self-confidence was very low at that time, and I felt like I was alone. I had no friends, and I hated going to school. People would quietly make fun of me and think that I didn’t see, but I did. Since I am Muslim, I wear a hijab. Students also made fun of how I dressed, and I didn’t have enough English to say anything back to them. Praying is a part of my faith as a Muslim. Usually, my family would do afternoon prayers around two. At school, I found some other students who also went to pray, but we stopped because we were trying to wash our hands and feet in the bathroom sink and other girls started making fun of us. When I went to high school, I didn’t even ask if I could have a break to pray because I was too shy and didn’t want to be different from the other students. When I started high school, I finally felt like I was able to communicate more in English. One day, I met two sweet girls in my Partnership for New Americans Class. They asked me if I wanted to be friends with them. When I heard them say the word ‘friend’ my heart started beating fast and a smile came to my face. “Friends?” I asked. They nodded their heads, and I told them that I would like to be friends. I felt happy that I had finally made friends. I had been so lonely, and life was really hard when I had no one to talk to. They helped me practice my English, and I started to be able to speak, read, and write more. My family and I have overcome so many barriers. We have worked hard to fit in at our new home in the United States. Life is not easy for a Muslim refugee living in the Midwest, but I think things got better for me because I had a good attitude and was able to make friends. I will keep trying to overcome barriers.
© Fatuma Ramadhani. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.