Growing up as a Rohingya in Myanmar meant worrying everyday - about our future, our safety, or having food to eat. I struggled every single day in Myanmar, because our family was poor. My community was not able to live peacefully even though they have lived in Myanmar for many generations and centuries. This is because the government believes Rohingya don’t belong there, so it treats us unfairly and denies us citizenship.
When I was 3 years old, my dad migrated to Malaysia to try and provide a better future for us. For 5 years my family stayed behind in Myanmar. Most days at school I was bullied because of my religion. Still, even as a kid I knew I needed to get the best education I could and worked hard despite the challenges I faced. Our lives did not significantly improve when we finally had the opportunity to reunite with my dad in Malaysia. Because of government policies in Myanmar, many Rohingya lack proper documentation and those who have it, face ethnic discrimination in “safe countries”. My brother and I were not allowed to attend public schools and my dad had to work low-income jobs. My family and I soon realized we were not going to have good and a peaceful life in Malaysia.
According to the daily life I was going through in Malaysia, I knew that I was not going to have the future that I always wished for. We dreamed of living in a place which would accept us as citizens with equal rights and treatment.
Without any other options for a secure future, my family applied with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to begin the resettlement process. We dreamed of life in a country with freedom, happiness, and access to a good education. After a long 3-year process, my family received our documents and assigned date to come to the United States of America. We knew we were going to have a better life in the USA, and that the country fit our dreams of education, liberty, and freedom.
We arrived to the “Land of Freedom” also known as the USA in October 2015 and my family’s life has totally changed since then. The biggest challenge I had to overcome since moving to Dallas was learning English. It took me 5 months of working really hard because I wanted to learn English as soon as I could.
I realized that giving up wasn’t an option for me and that hard work would never affect my life in a negative way, so I faced these challenges with no fear. Motivated to achieve more, I kept pushing myself and working hard. I was assigned to the 6th grade when we first moved to Dallas and after a year, I had the opportunity to apply to the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. After completing a round of interviews and two entrance tests, I started at BOMLA in 8th grade. BOMLA has been a great fit for my academic goals and I plan to stay there until I graduate. To support me in school, my family recently moved closer to my school so I can spend more time learning and less time traveling to school.
For the past 12 years I have been seeking freedom, and now no one can stop me from becoming who I want to be. My dream is to become a doctor and give back by helping others around the world. I believe that every human is created equal and deserves to be treated that way. The USA has given my family the opportunity to restart our lives and we are very proud to be Americans.
Sometimes looking back on everything that we overcame to be here, I can’t believe this is real, but I know it is possible because we are in a great nation. In the United States, no one can be denied because of where they are from, the color of their skin, or their beliefs.
For that reason, I am happy to be an American, because the USA has given me a chance to prove to the world that I am worth it.
Story By: Mohamad Faizal
Mohamad and his family were resettled by the IRC in 2015. He is in the 8th grade at Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and dreams of one-day becoming a physician to help others around the world.