Zaíd shares journey to America

Alternative Copy Story and Photos by Susan Hubbard

We have several exchange students here in our community. Zaíd, a student from Iraq, is one of them.

Exchange students are on the rise in America. The amount of exchange students saw a rise from 304,467 students in 2014 to 313,415 in 2015, which is nearly a 9,000 student increase in just 1 year. Students from the Middle East are the second lowest percentage of students studying abroad, just above students from elsewhere in North America with 2.9 percent.

“I came to America through the United Nations,” said Zaíd. “My uncle applied for asylum in the U.S., and it was granted.”

Refugees from the Middle East are the most common type in the United States. Refugees from the Middle East account for a little over 40 percent of all refugees in the United States, followed closely by refugees from Africa, which make up about 37 percent. The number of Middle Eastern refugees has grown exponentially in the past few decades. In 1980, there were roughly 223,000 Middle Eastern immigrants in the United States. That number has since risen to 1,017,000, and is still on the rise.

The hardest thing for me to accumulate to in America was the language. When I came here, I spoke zero English.”

— Zaíd

“The hardest thing for me to accumulate to in America was the language. When I came here, I spoke zero English,” said Zaíd.

Learning English is the first step towards integration for refugees who have arrived in America. Different states have different policies towards refugee language education. The state of Washington offers eight hours of free English classes at local universities for adult refugees. 

“I’m happy here in America. I feel safe. It was easy for me to make friends,” said Zaíd

As much of a struggle it was for Zaíd to get here, he does not regret any of it. This is similar to what many of other immigrants say. A survey conducted by the University of Iowa has shown that 96 percent of all refugees in America say they are happy where they are in life and think coming to America was an improvement in their own and their families lives. Many of the refugees quotes things like the safety of their family and the opportunity to start again in America as reasons why. These advantages weigh out the negatives in their minds.

The American dream is all but forgotten to Americans today, but there are people who have never experienced this before that now have the opportunity. The American dream will shine again, on this new era of Americans.