Audio Recording of Interview
Fatimah Halwah, a Syrian refugee, discusses her experience moving to the United States and assimilating into schools in both Arizona and Maine, while navigating the transition in a large family. Fatimah describes how religion has become more important to her family after immigrating to America, her passion for poetry, and the hope she has that the U.S. will become a more welcoming place as it becomes more diverse.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Fatimah Halwah
Date: July 14th, 2019
Location: Washington DC
Content Warning: Graphic description of violence, mentions of war.
Summary: Fatimah Halwah, a Syrian refugee, discusses her experience moving to the United States and assimilating into schools in both Arizona and Maine, while navigating the transition in a large family. Fatimah describes how religion has become more important to her family after immigrating to America, her passion for poetry, and the hope she has that the U.S. will become a more welcoming place as it becomes more diverse.
Topics: Family, Religion, Violence, Discrimination, Education, Asylum-Seeker, Assimilation.
Section 1: 0:00- 9:44
Violence: Fatimah describes some of the violence she endured while living in Egypt and Syria, including bombings during Ramadan and students holding knives to her neck when she went to school.
Family - Fatimah and her parents, 8 siblings, and grandparents escaped war through moving to Egypt before eventually resettling in Phoenix, AZ. When the Halwah family first came to the United States, their large family lived in a two-bedroom apartment.
Friendship / Community - A young college student named Lindsey would visit the Halwah family and play with their young children when they first resettled. Lindsey helped teach the children English, as well as ensure that they were not being exploited by a malicious landlord. Fatimah recounts the close-knit community of Syrian refugees in Phoenix, AZ.
Language Learning - Fatimah’s desire to learn English grew when she entered school and yearned to understand what the other students were talking about. Fatimah’s younger siblings have the best English skills out of their family members, while their parents do not speak any English.
Section 2: 9:88: 24:02
Education - Fatimah discusses her experience moving to Maine and what the school is like compared to Phoenix. Fatimah also discusses her experience in a program meant for young Syrian Refugees, in which they go to DC and discuss their experiences. Fatimah’s parents were hesitant about her going but Chris, a man who helps with resettling refugees, was able to convince them.
Loneliness - Fatimah and her siblings struggled after moving to Maine in terms of making friends. They described Phoenix as a more welcoming environment for Syrian refugees.
Religion - Religion has become more important to the Halwah family after moving to the United States; Fatimah suspects that is because there are fewer Muslims here.
Future: Fatimah explains how she hopes to one day be a dentist, and give her extra money to refugees.
Section 3: 24:02 - 33:32
Friendship: Fatimah discusses her experience during the program and how close-knit the group of Syrian students is.
Customs: Fatimah believes that she would have a better time in Maine and make more friends if she did not have a Hijab. She believes that her Hijab is off putting to other people, but she is proud to wear it and believes it makes her unique.
Education: Fatimah discusses her favorite class at school and why she loves her geography teacher. She plans on going to college in Phoenix. Fatimah explains that, as part of her program, she experienced helicopters shooting into her elementary school. She is planning on presenting her experience as part of the program she is in in DC.
Passion: Fatimah explains her passion for poetry, and how poetry has allowed her to share some of her harder feelings and experiences. She says she only writes about Syria.
Hope: Fatimah ends the episode by explaining that the resettlement process would be a lot easier for refugees if the US allowed more refugees in, so that they are able to make stronger communities. She also recommends that people go out of their way to meet and care for refugees, instead of making unfair judgments.