Finding a New Community in the US

By Insaf Abdulla, Primary Teacher

Stepping off the plane from Kuwait to the United State during the first Gulf war, my then-husband and I viewed America with all the feeling one might expect as immigrants to a new land. What did our future hold? What would we do for work?

While the situation we had left behind in Kuwait was one of war and uncertainty, we knew America would only provide the stability we hoped for if we worked hard enough for it. My path from that moment to now as a Montessori teacher has been a long one, but it was necessarily so.

In Kuwait, our lives were very social. Long conversations with complete strangers were commonplace. We had a strong sense of community because of this openness. There was always a willingness to help someone when help was needed, to go the extra mile for a neighbor.

When we first arrived in America, I didn’t really see this in practice. My husband was a trained mechanic and found work in the area. While I had previously worked for the airline, I stayed at home at the time to look after my first daughter. When I could, I would teach at the local mosque. However, there was that sense of profound loneliness and jarring displacement that accompanies leaving what I knew behind.

Back home, you could duck into any corner cafe and find a friend to chat the afternoon away with. I longed for the same kind of community for my children. Eventually, I grew in confidence. I would talk to people at the bus stop or the laundromat, the library or the grocery store. I met so many people and made many life-long connections just by deciding to speak to complete strangers!

This country began to slowly become less intimidating as we carved our own place and made friends here. Over time, my family grew to four beautiful daughters and one a strong son. Despite the difficulties (and many, many hours of late-night work), my life has grown invaluably.

One day, a friend invited me to observe her class at a Montessori school. When I saw how the children were being taught, I was reminded of the social openness and communication that was part of my life in Kuwait so many years ago. The children were being taught to respect each other, to be polite, to be self-sufficient. They were being shown how to work together to achieve communal goals. Though I’d made this country my home for many years, it was at this moment that I truly felt as though I had finally found my place.

Now I am proud to be a teacher here at MCS. Every day, I get to do what I love with some of the best kids in the area and get to help shape them to be the best leaders for tomorrow. This is a place where communication is prized, and after being so unsure of my own voice and place in the community when I arrived, my classroom has become my home away from home.