Man in cap-and-gown attire poses with smiling parents.

Immigration as Pretend Vacation

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By Anthony Dombrowski

No matter what our own individual immigrant stories are, none of us could imagine what life would be like outside of the United States.

Just how different would our everyday lives be somewhere else? That’s something that really never crosses our minds.

We also don’t think about what it can be like immigrate to a new country. Having to leave everything you’ve ever known behind to come to an unknown country and start a new life.

That is something we’ll never have to really think about, unless you or your loved ones have experienced it first hand.

Eli Bashi experienced it first hand with his parents.

Though they never talk about it, they still think about their experiences from the process each day.

Bashi is a freshman at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. His parents, Rita and Terry Bashi, came to the U.S. from Iraq at a very young age.

He was just 16 and she was 12.

Coming to the U.S. was a long, tricky process for them.

Because of fear of an incoming war, Bashi’s grandfather on his father’s side urged them both to leave the country.

Although, in Iraq, people are not allowed to just move from there to America. So, Bashi’s parents had to think of a way to get to the country.

“They had to claim they were going on vacation to Egypt,” Bashi said. “They stayed there for six months and a family member in the U.S sponsored them (to come to the country).”

To make it look like they were not leaving Iraq, the Bashis had to leave everything they owned behind. All they took with them were a few basic things you’d pack if you were going on vacation.

When they arrived to the U.S., it was really a fresh start for both of them.

At such a young age, adapting to life in America was a challenge.

“They told me how hard it was to transition to the U.S.,” Bashi added. “They had to learn English. They only spoke Arabic and Chaldean in Iraq, so they had to learn a new language.”

On top of that, his father couldn’t go to school and he had to work right away when they arrived.

His mother did go to school, however, it was difficult because she didn’t know how to speak English yet.

“It (adapting to life in the U.S.) had to be hard to start,” Bashi mentioned.

It took time, but, once they started to adapt to the culture and life in America, it became easier for the Bashis to focus on their future in their new home.

Young man smiles next to his parents, the men in suits, the woman in a black evening gown, trees and lawn behind them.
Eli (left), Rita, and Terry Bashi pose for a picture in the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan, on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. Rita and Terry came to the United States from Iraq when they were both teenagers. Photo credit: Eli Bashi’s family archive

About 30 years later, Bashi was born.

Now, at 18-years-old, he couldn’t imagine what life would be like outside of America.

“All I know is growing up in Michigan,” Bashi said. “I don’t have any idea what it’s like to grow up outside of the U.S.”

For two teenagers beginning a new life and adapting to a new country’s culture and lifestyles, it was a scary transition for the Bashis.

However, close to five decades later, they are living happily with their child in Troy, Michigan.

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