My first immigrant experience in America

hombre vestido con camisa a cuadros en un campus
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I like to start my story with a very old, yet meaningful, anecdote in Kurdish culture: “A traveling fox is better than a sleeping lion.”

I see myself very lucky to come to the United States of America. This country has opened for me (as a refugee) and my family many opportunities in many aspects of life. The beginning of this journey was full of difficulties and concerns but awesome at the same time.  The point I like to address here is sharing some experiences and information that might benefit other refugees in the future. My first few months were very confusing and full of cultural shocks.

My first immigrant experience in America was very confusing and full of cultural shocks. The reason was the difference in cultural backgrounds and social and communal values. For example, I never see a family that sleeps with a dog inside a home. Back in my culture, people keep dogs outside a home. Another example, I never saw a gay or lesbian. All these things were like a big shock at the beginning. The situation changed after a while. I think the main reason for that change was a better understanding of American culture.

My experiences in America taught me one great point: Never stay at home or never stay isolated in your community (sleeping lion). This strategy would lead to nothing in regard to English language and American culture. All refugees (especially the recent ones) could avoid cultural shocks and social confusion once they act like actively and positively.

I would mention some of the following important points that helped me a lot from language to school and finally a good job:

1. I found many of my best friends in a local church called BCM. That church was close to the university and was offering many various classes for language, cooking, and sewing. Refugees should participate in such a kind of activities for better understanding of the American culture.

2. The best thing for a refugee to do in America is a hard effort for the English language. Without language, nothing can be achieved in this country. For example, getting into a college, finding a good job, etc. These are all impossible without a good language ability. Unfortunately, most refugees learn a little bit of language and stop there. They should always improve and check their level language abilities. This can be done through taking some courses and standard English tests.

3. Even if a refugee has financial difficulties, there are always options for learning. I remember I was unable to go to English classes due to financial difficulties, but I managed that through finding some free classes offered in churches. I also found volunteer language partners for this purpose. In short, I learned a language without going to class.

4. Many times I mentioned that a refugee should not be isolated from his surroundings. One of the biggest mistakes refugees do is to only depend on a close friend of their families. A great network of social ties and community participation could help refugees in improving their language skills and knowledge about the American culture. Thus, they find a job or a college that they like.

My point in this story is that I in the best interest of all refugees, especially who are new to America and had problems with language and culture, to act in a way that involves them in the community activities and away from isolation. In short, refugees should be like awoken fox rather than a sleeping lion.

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