Sarah Al Shahad: The War

Sarah is a recipient of the Fawaz Kannout Memorial Scholarship Fund. Given in conjunction with the MALA Scholarship Program, this scholarship recognizes compassionate and ambitious individuals who are committed to strengthening and serving their communities through cultural engagement, inclusive discourse, and progressive thought. To learn more about MALA’s Scholarship Opportunities, click here.

Being in a war is much harder than everybody thinks. More than 7,000 people are killed in my country every year. ISIS killed more than 1,700 Iraqi soldiers; most of them are between 18-25 years old. In one day only, they killed all of those people and then they shared the videos killing them and throwing them in the river. All people in my country were sad and cried because of these videos. People also got scared because they might be killed at any time. My family chose to leave my country because they had the opportunity to travel to the United States. I felt sad and I did not want to leave my country. At that time, everybody wanted to leave because of ISIS so I couldn’t stay there even if I wanted to. The hardest thing was when I saw my friends, family, and my school for the last time and I knew that I could not be there again. I was crying all the way here and remembering all the nice things before ISIS came in. The last thing that I received from my country is a picture of the capital of Iraq from the airplane.

At 9:00 pm I arrived in New York City with my family. Everything was quiet and there was no news about ISIS or how they killed more people. I chose to be stronger and attend school to achieve my dream which is being a physician or surgeon to help people. I started attending school but I was upset because everything was different and I didn’t know people in the school. Also I could not talk to people because I couldn’t speak English well, which was the worst thing at that time. In the first semester my grades were not good because I didn’t speak English, but I was trying to get good grades because in my country all my grades were good and I didn’t want that to change. The biggest thing that makes me feel sad is I had completed all my 9th grade in my country but they said that I should be in 8th grade because I didn’t finish the final exams in my country. That was really hard for me because I lost one year of my studying.

After that, I didn’t give up. I moved upward and my goal was having a good grade in all my classes. I attended many clubs and I did a big project about the human memory and I got an excellent rating from the University of Toledo. Also, I got the first place for best project related to behavioral science and I got the Toledo Area Academy of Professional Psychology Award. I was volunteering to teach the Arabic language for more than 100 hours and I was volunteering in a nursing home to help the elderly. I loved doing that because I remember my grandparents when I helped them. Also, I’m a member in the National Honors Society and I have a GPA of 3.95.

In the end I got stronger just like I wanted. I didn’t give up even if I missed my country, my friends and my family. I kept my smile because life is hard but I need to be stronger to move past what happened to me in my country. I got good grades for all my high school years and I attended summer school to finish early because I had to take many ESL classes during my high school years. I was trying to be able to speak English but I learned more and I can speak English much better now. The biggest thing that makes me feel happy is there is no more ISIS in Iraq. Only a few of them, but many people died to get them out of our country. Iraqi people are still sad because most of them lost somebody that they loved.

It’s still hard for me. Four years without my country, friends, family is a lot and even if I have a lot of relationships with people here, I still cannot forget people in my country. I love my country and the thing that might make me happiest is to see my country much better than it is now. There are many things that people should try because people In Iraq deserve a good life but they have been in a war for many years and they saw many unacceptable things during those years. I hope that the Iraqi people move past what happened and work hard to live how they want and achieve their dreams.

Through this, I learned that life cannot stop just because something bad happened to me. I need to move upward all the time. I will never give up. I need to do the best that I can do even if I feel upset. Now is the time to attend college and it is time to achieve my dream and study what I wanted since I was in first grade. I will do everything to be able to achieve this dream even if it is difficult and requires more schooling. I want to be a heart surgeon to help people and to help my mom because she has a heart disease. I remember when I was young and she had a surgery; I could never sleep at night and I watched her all night and see if she is breathing because I was afraid to lose her. I hope that I can do something for her even if that will take time.

I worked so hard during my high school years to achieve this dream and to be able to do what I want to do the rest of my life. I hope that I can achieve it as soon as possible. Even if your life is difficult, you still need to dream and work hard, then wait for the day that your dream is fulfilled.