When I moved back to Austin to attend the University of Texas I visited the middle school I attended during my first years in America, Murchison. The memories I have of that time are anything but pleasant, for I couldn’t speak English, stood out like a sore thumb (with my foreign clothes and hijab), and I had 0 friends or acquaintances to spend the lunch hour with. I knew I was different.
Therefore, when I reconnected with the teachers that helped me during that time and was invited to speak to the new ESL students at Murchison (most of whom were from Muslim-majority countries, which was not the case when I was one), I couldn’t accept it fast enough. I had the opportunity to speak to the AVID students (which is a program I was in that helps first generation college students) and to speak to the ESL students about my journey. I told them that my only obstacle was not believing in myself, that they all had a responsibility to make their own luck, that if I can succeed as a Hijabi woman, as a first generation American, as an Iraqi they can too.
I will never forget the look in the little Hijabi girls’ eyes when I told them that know what they’re going through, that while they had their ESL refugee friends, I was alone, that I am proud of myself and everything I’ve accomplished. I will never forget the love I felt from them, and the spark I saw in every one of their eyes.
About a week later, one of the ESL teachers told me that one of the students had chosen to write about my visit for their journal assignment. Although he got a few details wrong (I was 10 when I arrived, and my first teacher was Mrs. Leslie Cochran) it warmed my heart to see what he had written about me.

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