Meet Me in a Minute: Ruqayah Al-Salihi


By Jackie Bajric

Traveling 500 miles from her home in Iraq, junior Ruqayah Al-Salihi was off to Jordan to continue a safer life for her and her family. Although, she was leaving behind her father who was held back in Iraq to work in order to support his family on their ongoing journey to the land of freedom and opportunity, the United States.

After a period of time of settling in Jordan, Ruqayah packs her bags along with her mother and younger sister to travel roughly 6,300 miles from Jordan to their destination of Chicago, Illinois. It took six years for the whole process of her immigration to be over. Settling in the United States was difficult for Ruqayah, though she found it a more fit place to call home than Jordan.

“Being an Iraqi girl living in Jordan, there’s just no opportunity for you. They think, ‘if you’re not from our country, then why should we help you?’” Ruqayah said.

The main reason for her father to send her, her sister, and her mom to the United States was for safety reasons. Also, her mother’s family that already lived in America was an advocate for them moving to the United States. “It’s a good place for work,” they said. However, Ruqayah doesn’t like how all everyone worries about in America is work.

“Here [in America] it’s all work, work, work, work. All people are doing is working and only thinking about working with no feeling of life,” Ruqayah said.

When she grows older, she wants to move back to the Middle East, but in the safe and luxurious city of Dubai where she could fulfill her life with memories and moments instead of working like a robot behind a desk and computer.

Ruqayah was forced to adjust to the differences that came along with America. She wasn’t used to the new living style, the food, and school. Her perspective of America came from unrealistic movies that demonstrated America in an inaccurate way.

“I thought there was going to be a popular group that bullies everyone… because that’s what happened in all the movies,” Ruqayah explained, “Except it’s not like that at all.”

Ruqayah wouldn’t say that the stereotype of “all Americans are fat” to be true, although believes that Americans don’t eat right or for the right reasons.

“Here, everyone just eats to be full. In Jordan, food was an art, and everyone ate for the taste of the fresh ingredients,” she explained.

Ruqayah was afraid that it’d be hard to make friends in the U.S. but soon saw that everyone here is friendly; even boys. Back in Iraq and Jordan, boys weren’t a big part of her life; she had no male teachers, and went to an all female school which resulted in having no contact with boys.

“I use to never think about how I went to school. No makeup or anything. Just threw on my uniform and went [to school],” Ruqayah said, “Now I have to choose what to wear, and put makeup on. Not for the boys, but for the look. Even though I made good friends here, I miss mine from back home. We talk on occasion except the first thing they always ask me is ‘how are the boys there?’ Not even how I’m doing or anything!” Ruqayah laughed.

American classes also different. She was used to having the same classmates all day with the teachers switching from room to room, and all of the students were much closer.

“If someone had a secret, everyone in the class would know it,” Ruqayah said.

The hardest thing for Ruqayah and her family was leaving behind her father. To this day, she hasn’t seen her father since she left Jordan in 2013. There’s not a day that goes by where she doesn’t talk to him, though.

“I’m on the phone with him all the time,” Ruqayah said, “It’s especially hard for me since I am very close to my dad. If I ever needed to tell someone something, or someone to go to, it’s always him.” It’s also very difficult for her mother and not only because her husband is thousands miles of away, but her responsibility doubled; she’s cooking, cleaning, working, and raising two daughters all without a father figure in the household.

“It’s hard, really. But you have to sacrifice in the beginning and then everything will figure itself out,” Ruqayah said.

In the end, Ruqayah knows that moving to the United States was the best thing for her and her younger sister.