‘I feel grateful to fit into a new, peaceful country’


Yosra Girdia

My life seems to be like a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

When I was 15, a newscaster on the television alerted our area that we needed to leave Benghazi, Libya immediately. We would have only six hours before bombs would be dropped on our city. In that moment, our family was immobilized with grief and  embraced each other through tears and prayers. As soon as we could, my family left our war-torn city for Darfur in Sudan, my parents’ homeland, only to be met with more chaos and violence.

Tired, hungry and terrified, we ended up in a refugee camp between Egypt and Libya. Although we were safe, we had lost our home.

In 2013, after a year in camp, the United Nations gave us permission to travel to the United States. I eagerly looked forward to the journey because I missed being in school. I had great hopes for the education I would receive in the United States. When I entered school, my hopes were not disappointed. I was thrilled by the quality of education in U.S.

However, school was not without challenges. I knew only basic English, so I had difficulty completing class assignments.  To make matters worse, there was an instance in which a fellow student called me a terrorist in the middle of class. My classmates know that I am a Muslim because I wear a hijab, and this traditional piece of clothing is part of my of identity, and I am proud to wear it every day.

I don’t blame that student for calling me a terrorist, because I know that many people base their opinions about Muslims from what they see in the media. However, I also know that this was only one individual, and the rest of the students have all been accepting of me and my religion.

I really appreciate that I am Muslim, I feel that I had a positive experience at Lynn Classical High School.

But I wish that more students and people who have never had a chance to meet a Muslim would get to know me.

I thought back to my studies in the refugee camp, and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt stood out in my mind. “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out of the best schools  that I have ever attend and get to have negative experience eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.”  I hoped to live this quote.  

Eventually, my U.S. experience became positive. Kind, caring, nonjudgmental and supportive teachers encouraged thinking and use of the imagination which is illegal back in Libya.  Without fear, I started reaching out to others and meeting this new world head on. I feel grateful to fit into a new, peaceful country that treats people with dignity and respect.

Today, I dream of empowering girls in my home country. My mother’s family did not believe that girls should be educated or speak out, but people think differently in America. Furthermore, my experience impacted me so that I hope to go back to Sudan, especially Darfur, to open schools for women. I am proud to say my father supports my goals. It is because of America that my family and I began to embrace life again.

Running for days to escape war and living in camp conditions was all worth the suffering. The challenges made me stronger and gave me a sense of purpose. I survived for a reason. I believe I can fulfill my purpose in life much more profoundly because in my heart, I can call the U.S.A. my home. The Hollywood blockbuster isn’t over. You just read the opening scenes.

Yosra Girdia​ is a senior at Lynn Classical High School.


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