Teens4Refugees Has Q&A With Refugee from Aleppo

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http://www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/13.jpg

Emily Peterson, Staff Writer

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On Monday, January 9th, about 20 members of the Teens4Refugees Club talked with 18-year-old Heba Halak, a Syrian refugee whose family found asylum in Elizabeth, NJ two years ago. The students sat in a circle created by desks and had an hour long discussion with Heba, asking her questions about life in Syria before the war, how she came to America, and how she has managed adjusting to the American culture.  Here’s what they found out:

She currently lives in a home with her 5 siblings, her mother and her father. Before the war, her family lived a comfortable life and her father worked as a lawyer. After their home was destroyed during a bombing, they fled to Turkey and lived there for three years while going through the asylum application process, which often involved driving over four hours to get to cities where they could carry out the interviews that are part of the refugee application process.

Since then, Heba completed a year at an Elizabeth public school, attended English as a Second Language summer classes at the International Rescue Committee in Elizabeth, and is now pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Biology at Union County College. After finishing her degree, Heba hopes to travel to New York City or California to go to medical school and become a pediatrician.

When asked about adjusting to life in America, Heba explained that at first she was very nervous, as were those she left behind. Many of her relatives that still lived in Turkey and Syria expressed their concerns that Heba and her family would abandon their religious and cultural practices once they settled in America.

Despite her initial anxiety about leaving the life she knew in Turkey, Heba expressed her deep love for her new country and how she plans to continue to make her future in America. She does miss Syria and hopes to be able to go back someday. However, she insisted that she does not agree with many of the cultural traditions, including arranged marriage and the segregation of boys and girls in the school systems that existed in her home country. She described herself as being very open minded and is dedicated to learning as much as she can to achieve the most success in her new country. Also, she loves pizza.

When asked about the incoming presidential administration, Heba explained that although she was called a terrorist on the day after the election, she is not scared by the rhetoric of President Trump. She stated, “I am a legal refugee so by law he can’t do anything to me or my family. My concern is for those who still remain in Turkey and Syria who will likely be shut out of this place that is so full of opportunity.”

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