Journey to America: Enoch’s senior Santa Yousif shares her story

Image from

Maria Torres, Features Editor

Enochs is lucky enough to have students who have their own unique story about what their journey was like coming to the United States. Students who have had to share one bedroom with their parents and siblings. Students whose family made the decision to come to the U.S. for a better opportunity at life, for a fresh start.

Imagine, you’re eleven years old, and compared to all of your other friends you remember a lot more of your journey to the U.S.. You remember all of the scary events that went on during your journey while other people don’t even remember having a journey here. You remember all the fear you felt, the hope you had, the hope you lost, and even more the fear you felt when you thought of what would happen if you got caught leaving your homeland. This isn’t even a quarter of what immigrants go through when they make their way over to the U.S. Lucky enough for us Enochs has one student who went through all of this first hand. Santa Yousif was only one year old when she started her journey with her family over to the U.S. but her journey wasn’t a success until she was nine. 

 “I started my journey when I was only one, which just tells you how bad things were if my parents were like ‘yeah we gotta get out of here’ when I was that young” said Santa Yousif. When her parents made the decision to leave Iraq they filled out their forms for citizenship for Sweden and waited to see if they got accepted or denied.

Their original plan was to go to Sweden since half of her dad’s side of the family lived there. When they were denied citizenship their next plan was to come over to the U.S. since her grandparents and her uncles lived here. Her parents filed for citizenship and waited eight years to see whether they got accepted or denied. In that eight year time period, things were only getting worse and they couldn’t stay in Iraq.

Their next move while they waited was to go to Syria for a little bit and then go to Lebanon. They stayed in Syria for 6 years until they made their way to Lebanon which was the scariest part of Santa’s journey. Before they could get into Lebanon, Santa and her family had to go through a lot of checkpoints and every time they would always break her family’s belongings that weren’t allowed in Lebanon at the time. 

In Lebanon her family was finally able to reunite with her dad. From there her family finally got accepted for citizenship in the U.S., so they started making their way to Modesto, California where she would stay with her grandparents.

“I didn’t see how bad things were in Iraq until I left. I always knew bombings were happening and I would always hear of them on the news but other than that I never knew how bad it actually was. I lived in the cities so I ever experienced the bombings because they were only happening in towns. My mom did an amazing job at making sure I had a childhood and my brother did an amazing job at stepping up and took the role of being the man of the house since my dad wasn’t able to be with us until we got to Lebanon.” The hardest part of Santa’s transition from Iraq to the U.S.was the language barrier.

 “My first day of school was the day after spring break and I cried my eyes out in the bathroom. I went home and I was like I don’t belong here, and I never felt that way because I’m so outspoken. I like talking to people and making friends, but this was the only time I felt lonely and I didn’t know how to communicate with people, I felt like I didn’t belong here. I couldn’t answer questions, the only thing I could do was math since it’s like the same thing in every country.”

For Santa, elementary school went just fine, she was adapting and learning English and started getting into books which helped her later on when she had bad days and just wanted to get away from reality. But when Santa went into middle school she started to get made fun of for having an accent. Kids always called her the terrorist kid and made fun of her for having a harder time with school. This is when she really grew to love books and started to use them as her getaway from the reality she faced during this time. When she went into high school though, everything started to get better. People stopped making fun of her and quarantine helped her find herself, it allowed her to start fresh and put her best foot forward. 

After she was able to self-reflect and focus on herself, Santa realized that she should be proud to be different and that just because you don’t meet American standards doesn’t mean you don’t belong here. She learned to correct people when they start spreading false information unknowingly if she’s well educated on the topic. One of her main pieces of advice is to stand up for your Country if false information is being spread involving it or blaming it for something they didn’t do.

Just because your country had a downfall or made mistakes doesn’t mean they’re to blame for everything; and it’s okay to correct someone if they are wrong as long as you’re well informed. Santa also encourages people to educate themselves on current world news by reading articles from both sides and a neutral side to get the best information and to make a well educated stance on the topic.

Going forward Santa would love for the U.S. to work on making applications for citizenship easier to access and to make the waiting process faster. She understands there’s a lot of applications that the government has to go through but an eight year wait is too long, especially when you’re trying to leave for safety reasons.

Santa’s biggest piece of advice is to not be embarrassed if you’re a translator for your parents. Be proud of the journey they went on to give you a safer and better chance at life. Santa’s most important piece of advice is if people are blaming the immigrants for current world events that are going on in the U.S., don’t allow it. Santa is now a senior at Enochs who will be graduating this May, she’s trilingual, and an advocate for people who don’t have a voice. Santa is a great example of what an amazing human-being looks like. She’s proof that we are all the same, immigrants or not, and she’s a great example of how far people can go given the right opportunity.