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A New Life in America

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    Immigrating from Jordan to the United States caused many changes in my life and my family’s. The reason for our immigration was to find a better life. In America, there were more opportunities, such as jobs with better salaries and more academic majors to choose from. Little did I know that moving to the United States would affect my personality, change my social life, and test the bonds of my family.

    Living in America had a big effect upon my personality. In Jordan, I used to live with my parents, and they were responsible for my studying and living expenses at the University of Jordan. My father used to work by himself to support our family. This is because Jordanian tradition dictates that girls stay under their fathers’ care until they graduate from college and find work to help their families. I thought that coming to America would be like entering heaven, a place where I could make all of my own decisions and be safe. When I came to California, I experienced great difficulty in my first year. I couldn’t go to college because I had to be a resident for at least one year. Since I couldn’t go to college to study Business Administration like I wanted to, I joined an ROP regional occupational program and studied computers for one year, and then started my first job at a restaurant in Parkway Plaza. I was very shy in the beginning because women in Jordan wouldn’t work in restaurants, but the job helped me a lot. I started to feel more independent and self-reliant, no longer dependent upon my family to support me, even though I helped them with the expenses for our house. Moreover, I began to communicate with different kinds of people through my work, which helped me to become more outgoing. Finally, after one year, I entered college and worked at two different jobs simultaneously. As a result, my life was busier than ever before as I worked to support my family and myself. I became a stronger person who is more open-minded and able to see what is right for the future. No one else will affect the decisions I make again.

    Another thing I noticed when I came to America was that I missed the social life I had in Jordan. During the first year, I had no friends, and I felt lonely and homesick. My social life was more committed in Jordan. Everyone cared about each other. If one felt sick, all of their friends and relatives would surround him and be supportive in good or bad conditions. I also used to go to wedding parties and clubs with my friends, so one big thing I missed while in America was the lack of Jordanian people. I had to start from the beginning to make new relationships, and it was very hard for me because there were few Arabic people who shared the traditions and language I had learned in Jordan. That was important to me at first, but things changed after one year when I met a friend from Iraq. Her friendship made me feel more comfortable. It was hard for all of us to start a new life in a far away country, but making new friends made the transition easier.

    Most importantly, however, immigration to America affected my family as a solitary unit. When I came to the United States, the first thing that happened was that I lost my father. He used to be the primary support back home. We couldn’t do anything without his opinion. He used to tell me what is right and what is wrong, and I used to listen to every word he said and respect any decision he made. After he died, my brothers and I started to work harder to support the family, busying ourselves with jobs and studying. My oldest brother opened his own business in Los Angeles and my sister got married and remained in Jordan. In this way, life has kept us apart. Now each one of us is busy with our own lives. Before, we were a "one-bound" family who would sit and eat together at one table and meet as a family at the end of the day. Now, when my brothers come from work, I might be sleeping because I woke up early for school. Even on the weekends, my brothers are busy with their girlfriends and we cannot plan to do something or go somewhere as we did when we were one family. This has affected our relationships a great deal; now that everyone cares mostly about their business, the strength we shared as a family has changed. Losing Dad was a big part of this. It brought a great sadness and loneliness to my mother. She used to depend on my father doing everything because she doesn’t know how to speak English. Now, she waits for me or for one of my brothers to take her places.

    Even though moving to the United States caused traumatic changes in my personality, social life, and family relationships, I feel more comfortable now than when I came. I am more independent and able to do what is right for me. Also, I have more opportunities which maybe I couldn’t have afforded in Jordan, such as working and studying at the same time, buying a new car, and spending on myself from my own salary. I miss the relationship my family once had as well as my old friends, but with time I can make new relations and continue shaping a new life.