Interview for

Gheath A.

7/24/2020

Interviewed By:

Chesley Chan

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 54:20
Summary

Born and raised in Damascus until the age of 16, Gheath discusses fleeing the Syrian War for Jordan and later the United States. He describes his difficult experiences in Jordan as a refugee, including working illegally to support his family and experiencing discrimination, and recalls aspects of his later adjustment to the U.S. with respect to language, faith, employment, and education.

Transcript
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Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Gheath A.

Date: 07/24/2020

Location: Narrator Location: Dallas, TX, Interviewer Location: Orlando, FL


Summary: Born and raised in Damascus until the age of 16, Gheath discusses fleeing the Syrian War for Jordan and later the United States. He describes his difficult experiences in Jordan as a refugee, including working illegally to support his family and experiencing discrimination, and recalls aspects of his later adjustment to the U.S. with respect to language, faith, employment, and education.

Topics: War, childhood, religious practice, conflict journey, employment, education, undocumented immigration, personal finance, mental health, discrimination, places of worship, faith, future, immigration process, cultural adjustment, language, pandemic, future


Outline

Section 1: (00:52-10:41)

  • Childhood, War - Born and raised in a beautiful home in Damascus until age 16, was young and so had good memories, though those older might have had a different experience. Had many friends when younger but lost contact with all of them after people leaving in the wake of the Syrian War.

  • Religious Practice - Comes from a religious family and is a practicing Muslim. Learned about Islam from mother who is Arabic teacher and now learns more about Islam through the internet. Learned more about his religion in US rather than in home country. War did not impact his view on religion.

  • Family, War, conflict journey - Family provided him with strength during war. Travelled to Jordan illegally with his family, walked the whole way. During the beginning of Syrian War, because of bombs, they had to move to different neighborhoods or cities for safety, but by 2013, they decided to leave the country. Especially important to leave because he was becoming old enough to have to join the military. Made it to Jordan and then were in a refugee camp called Zaatari.

Section 2: (11:01-18:54)

  • Employment, Education, Undocumented Immigration, Personal Finance, Mental Health, Discrimination - Was the only one in his family who could work and couldn’t complete high school back in Syria or in Jordan. He also had to work illegally, was treated poorly because of it and worked long hours. Made just enough to make rent, felt hopeless during that time, felt he didn’t have opportunity for growth, not able to move to different country.

  • Religious Practice, Places of Worship, Education- Went to mosque in Jordan every Friday. Lived in Jordan from age 16-20 and learned more about his religion during that time. Bought books, learned also about politics and war and revolutions.

  • Family, Religious Practice, Faith, Future, Education - Family’s relationship to religion also didn’t change. Jordan was also a Muslim country. To sustain faith, his mother would always reassure him, tell him they would go back and he could continue his education. When not working, spent time with family. Mentioned by interview that he is currently a political science major.

Section 3: (18:54-28:12)

  • Immigration process - Opportunity to come to US through a non-profit organization. Filled out a form, asked about their lives, health checks for travel. He really wished to go to another country, was happy to go, wanted his rights and looked forward to his future. Went to NYC for one night and then to Dallas. Did not specifically pick the US. Thought there was a system in place where they check to see if information matches with a country’s requirements.

  • Cultural adjustment, Language, Education, Employment- Did not speak much English, spent time around his neighborhood to see how Americans lived. Started a job at Samsung with the help of the non-profit organization which brought them to US. Didn’t make much but had rights in this new job and worked on English. Found friends through job, neighborhood, and Muslim community.

  • Places of Worship, Language, Cultural Adjustment- Went to mosque, first time to pray in English, went every Friday and made friends through shared language of Arabic.

  • Faith - In US, relationship with faith developed even though he went to mosque less than before. Questions from others about his practice made him want to learn more about its origins. Tried to be a good man, felt representative of his religion.

Section 4: (28:13-34:08)

  • Education, Religious Practice, Personal finance - Not worried about money, so he studied more, bought English and Arabic books. Reading about his religion and his nationality, felt he was also representing the latter. While learning, became more proud of his background.

  • Language, Religious Practice, Cultural Adjustment - Mosque was in English and had different races, adjustment. Fridays were a work day in US, sometimes unable to go and prayed at home. Members of mosque ask him about translation of Quran because he speaks Arabic, and so he felt the need to learn more. Talks about faith as everything, as a force to help others.

Section 5: (34:09-)

  • Education - Political science major, hard to work and study full time. Political science major, wishes to go beyond Bachelor’s to get a Master’s in philosophy potentially.

  • Family - Sister graduated high school and is attending college next semester. Spoke of being a role model for her, not letting her work in Jordan and in US.

  • Education- Entered US school system at 20, was a couple months away from finishing high school in Syria, told to take Texas Successful Initiative. English wasn’t the best at that time, didn’t pass test and took developmental classes for one semester before entering college. Later had to study for GED too for financial aid.

  • Family, Education - Sister came during high school, learned more English than him. Talked to brother about the kind experiences she had with teachers.

Section 6: (42:02-52:44)

  • Cultural Adjustment- Talked about how people understand life differently, act differently in public. But wasn’t a surprise for him. He watched Youtube and TV to better understand English and about US culture, especially in his last 6 months in Jordan.

  • Tradition - Traditions and celebrations, going to mosque, gathering with people and talking and eating together. Mentioned the holiday Eid coming up and spoke more about what Eid meant to him, the fasting, finishing the fasting and feeling of freedom, formal gathering with family.

  • Community, Education, Future - Spoke about being a part of Syrian, Muslim, and American community. Not a big community at school but likes speaking to people of his major. Wishes to study something he loves and not something for money. Wishes to graduate and then pursue Master’s in political philosophy.

Section 7: (52:45-54:01)

  • Pandemic, Future - He still went to work but unable to see many friends, lost regular life. But still expresses idea of life going on.