Iraqi and Utah students work together to close culture gaps

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 8:33 p.m. MDT

Yusur, a 15-year-old who choose to cover herself with a veil and wear sunglasses to shade her face, said she believes that a bridge can be created between Iraq and the United States, but not at the expense of losing her culture and religious beliefs. 

"My opinion before I got here was that life here was very easy and easier then Iraq," Yusur said. "I was thinking that Iraq is a hard country to live in and that America was easy, but I discovered that no, America is very hard to live (in)."

Life is harder, she believes, because of the variety of different cultures.

Because her family is not here and because she is a girl, she feels an obligation to keep her traditions and customs.

Elise Grizzel, 15, expected the Iraqi students to be much more conservative and was surprised at how much English they speak. She and her host sister Yusur are very different.

"She (Yusur) is almost like a newborn baby to this culture," Elise said. "It's amazing watching her adjust and try to expand herself. I think she is having a hard time because she is trying to stay with her past and her culture. But, the more I get to know her, the more I understand why."

Fifteen-year old Shadan said she has realized that there are more similarities between Iraqis and Americans than there are differences.

"Before I came here (to the United States) I didn't know the world had so many different cultures," she said. "It is nice to know that even though I am different and from a different country, I am still human. I have the same rights (as) everyone in the world."

Once Shadan returns home, she said the first thing she wants to tell her parent is that Iraq needs change.

"We need change in our lives," she said. "We need more freedom, definitely. We need to start working on things, you know?" 

E-mail: jreyes@desnews.com Twitter: @_JulianReyes_

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