Syrian immigrant adjusts to university life


Growing up in Syria, Nadia Katbi never imagined she’d be the homecoming queen at an American college.

“I didn’t recognize what a homecoming queen became,” she said. “I become simply informed to dress up and show up on the basketball game. So, I sold a pretty get dressed and told human beings to vote for me.”

Katbi, 21, turned into crowned Gadsden State Community College’s homecoming queen alongside Michael Morrison of Lineville, who became named homecoming king, at the homecoming basketball sport Nov. 13.

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“It became very unexpected,” she stated. “I didn’t assume I would win. When they called my call, I became so amazed that I didn’t recognize where to walk to be topped. My mind went blank.”

The monumental second is a long way from her days in Damascus, Syria. At 15 years antique, she immigrated to america in 2012 together with her mom, Ibtisam Mubaied, and her brother, Mohammad Katbi. They got here on the urging of her uncle, Haytham Mubaied. He had moved to the U.S. Greater than 4 many years ago after marrying an American and determined his way to Etowah County, wherein he owns numerous small agencies.

“It simply wasn’t secure in Syria anymore,” Katbi said. “My uncle introduced us here as it changed into critical to him that we’re secure. Syria changed into a scary place. It wasn’t secure to go to school anymore. He thought it become quality to get us in a foreign country for our protection.”

Before long, Katbi and her family left their domestic and a lot of their belongings at the back of and headed to Alabama. She expected what she noticed on TV and within the movies — busy, crowded streets and big homes. But whilst she flew into the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, she noticed some thing different.

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“We saw all of those green timber,” she said. “There have been trees everywhere. Where are all of the tall homes? This isn’t always what we saw on TV. This turned into no longer what we anticipated, however we love it right here.”

Katbi enrolled within the Alabama Language Institute at Gadsden State to study English, and she commenced attending Etowah High School as a freshman. Learning a brand new language changed into now not an smooth assignment.

The other students inside the ninth grade were learning ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and I was mastering the alphabet,” she stated. “It changed into very tough.”

At Etowah High School, she became partnered with Lorrie Bowman, the English learner coordinator at Attalla City Schools. They labored each day on her English competencies.

“She got here together with her little iPad and she or he’d take me to the library to teach me,” Katbi said. “We couldn’t talk very well at first so we used Google Translate. It become my excellent pal for some time.”

As Katbi’s English stepped forward, Bowman decreased her visits to the high faculty to twice per week.

“She didn’t need me to need to rely on her,” Katbi stated. “She wanted me to stand on my own feet due to the fact I wasn’t going to have her at university.”

Like Bowman, students and college had been very satisfactory and accommodating as Katbi found out a new language and changed to a new subculture.

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“The college students on the high college had been pleasant from the first actual day, and they desired to talk to me however all I ought to say was, ’No English,” she said. “I was the best one to talk Arabic and the best Muslim. At first, I felt on my own, however every body changed into so excellent and helped me a lot.”

Now, she has just a hint of an accent while she speaks English.

“I can speak properly, but I nonetheless ought to work at reading and writing,” she said.

After graduating from Etowah High in 2017, Katbi began taking general studies guides at Gadsden State.

“College was like the first day of excessive faculty all another time,” she said. “I felt misplaced and became no longer sure what to do.”

She turned into connected to Student Support Services, a federally-funded program that fosters an institutional weather supportive of the achievement of low-income, first-era and disabled students at Gadsden State. It made all of the difference for Katbi.

“Student Support Services helped me so much,” she stated. “I nevertheless cross there every day with questions. They gave me direction.”

Now, Katbi is immersed in college life. She has maintained a three.Eight GPA and has been on each the President’s List and the Dean’s List. She serves because the president of the TRiO for Success Club and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Circle K service organization and Students Without Borders.

The scholar who learned to talk English simply six years in the past now tutors others in take a look at talents, math and biology at Gadsden State’s Cardinal Tutoring Center, which is below the route of one in every of her mentors, Farrah Hayes.

“Mrs. Hayes has helped me so much,” she said. “She is in reality supportive. She calls me her Syrian sister.”

With the encouragement and aid from her family, buddies and instructors, Katbi hopes to someday be regular into the nursing application.

“I actually have recognised due to the fact that taking health technological know-how lessons at Etowah High that I wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “In my country, they call nurses ‘angels of mercy.’ I need to be the ‘angel for our future.’ I want to be the angel that helps people in order to have a very good future.”

Her very own future seems to be getting brighter. She became an American citizen on July 24.

“The citizenship exam turned into very tough,” she stated. “It’s one hundred questions, and you need to be right at analyzing and writing. I had to have a look at plenty to put together for it.”

Monday, Katbi goes returned to her domestic u . S . For a month to visit her neighbors and family members. She will be sure to percentage stories of her achievements, along with her crowning moment.

“My mom had tears in my eyes after I won homecoming queen and that advised me how proud she is of me,” she stated. “I experience like I have subsequently labored difficult enough to make my mom proud. That makes me the happiest of all.”