Rania Khirfan’s Story
As retold by Alyssa Linn
To my father, school was never “optional.” He always told us, “You can decide if you want to eat or not, but you can’t decide if you want to go to college or not.” To my father, you did not have any option other than college; a person was lucky if they were given the choice to choose what major they want to study. I always knew I wanted to go to college. But when I started my journey, I never planned it would go quite like this . . .
It began back home in my country of Jordan. High school is very different from high school here in the U.S. It’s so hard, much harder than college. Your last year of high school is the one that matters. You have to take a bunch of tests, called Tawjihi, and your score determines everything. Your future depends on one number. There are geniuses that will get a 99.9%, but that is one in millions; most people are lucky enough to get a 60-70% and pass. Personally, my last year of high school was the worst. It was filled with tons of work, studying, and stress. I had to make sure I got good grades to get accepted in one of the top public universities. After hours dedicated to homework and studying, I got a score of 76%. Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t get into a public university. My only other option was to go to a private university, which was so much more expensive. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I was determined to get accepted into the best university possible. School was never “optional”.
Immediately, I began to look into private universities to continue my education. I got accepted into Zarqa Private University and began to study Law. At first it was difficult to adjust, but once I did, the time passed so fast. The next thing I knew, it was four years later and I was ready to graduate. Those years were full of hard work, but also joy, great teachers, and great friends.
I officially graduated from law school in 2001 with a plan to start my two years of practice immediately. However, soon after graduating, I heard my mom on the phone with one her friends; it was the same thing I heard when someone proposed to every one of my sisters. I was going to meet my would-be husband’s family and if everything went well, the wedding planning would begin. Two months later, I was married to Mohammed. But there was one unexpected turn of events. Mohammed, who was originally from Jordan, had been living in the U.S. for 15 years. Moving to the U.S. was going to be a huge adjustment, but I was ready for the challenge.
Five days after the wedding, I was in an airplane for the first time flying to my new home. I was so excited to start married life with my husband, and I couldn’t wait to get home to take off my high heel shoes! After settling down in the United States, I began to look into practicing law. I wanted to continue with my masters. To continue, one year of school cost $18,000.
And if the cost wasn’t a big enough problem, I learned that I couldn’t get my master’s degree here. The U.S. didn’t except the law degrees from my country. I also learned that if what I already had wouldn’t transfer, I couldn’t start practicing law anywhere. I decided to move onto plan B, which was start over with school; but, three months later, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. College was going to have to be postponed a little while longer . . .
Twelve years of marriage and four kids later, I knew it wasn’t time to give up. School was never “optional.” I had encountered many diversions, but I was determined to go back to college. Once I told people I decided to resume my college journey, they were asking me what I was to study. I told them nursing. I feel like I could always help someone at a hospital. Whether it is volunteering or just talking to patients, I would be doing something to help.
I walked into admissions at Mott Community College to apply for the 2016 fall semester. While I was waiting, I checked a catalog for classes and I picked two that sounded interesting; they were not in nursing. The advisor asked, “What is your major?”
“Business management!” I said.
When I was registering for classes, I thought business management would be helpful to my husband’s business. I told myself that I would give it half a semester and if I didn’t like it, I would change to nursing. Well, I ended up falling in love with it. The two classes I chose were Introduction to Business and Introduction to Marketing. My professors were so great. I truly believe they are the main reason I changed my mind. I heard the examples they gave and could automatically apply them to my life.
Looking back on my journey, I would not change a single thing. Despite all the twists and turns encountered, I did it. I stayed motivated. I never gave up. I took the circumstances as they were and made the changes accordingly. I was able to adapt without any regret about the decisions I made regarding my life.
Honestly, I attribute a lot of my resilience to my parents. My father helped me set the morals and goals that gave me the desire to go to college, and the support my mother gave made sure I reached those goals. I can proudly say I am back in college, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Immigrant & International Students’ Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.