From Syria, to Jordan, to Paterson, NJ: Two teen refugees share their stories
Life in Syria for teens Ola and Batoul was happy and perfectly ordinary, until war broke out and everything changed. Instead of worrying about exams, they faced daily fears of air strikes, shootings and losing loved ones. In search of safety, their families fled to Jordan. But living as refugees in Jordan presented its own set of problems — access to education was limited, housing conditions were harsh and the girls missed homes. After several years in Jordan, Ola and Batoul’s families were offered the opportunity to resettle in the United States. Now high school students in Paterson, New Jersey, Ola and Batoul describe their harrowing experiences of war and struggle for education.
My name is Ola and I am 17. I used to live with my family in Syria. We had a beautiful and wonderful life. I loved my studies.
We did not expect the war in my country. It sowed fear and terror in our hearts. The shooting was like rain — it led to the death of many people. We feared for our lives so we left Syria and went to Jordan. But we missed our country and our home.
Life was difficult in Jordan. Because of war conditions, I wasn’t able to study for a whole year. But we started to rebuild our lives. I began my studies again and completed 10th grade.
My family stayed in Jordan for more than three years. Then we had the opportunity to travel to the United States. We thought that we might have a better future if we came to America.
The biggest problem we have now is the language. But we all do our best so that we can learn and build our future here.
My name is Batoul and I am 16. My family and I lived in Syria. We lived a happy and simple life until everything was turned upside down.
Because of the war in Syria, our situation deteriorated and life became unbearable. We saw killings and aircraft fire right in front of us. The bullets still haunt us. For almost two years we lived in fear and terror, day and night.
My family decided to leave the cycle of death and we went to Jordan. We lived in Jordan for almost three years, far away from our beloved homeland. Life was very hard. It was difficult to rent a house and difficult to send the children to school.
After three years passed, we received travel documents to go to the United States. We came here to secure our future and our education.
Now we are able to continue our education. But after studying in Arabic for 8 years of school, we face the problem of needing to learn and study in English.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tess Thomas is editor of Assembly, a digital publication and newsletter from Malala Fund. She loves books, cats and french fries.