Young white woman with black hair smiles and leans over by large body of water and beach

Away From Family

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By Olivia Juliano

Amna Jabbar, current Oakland University student studying Environmental Health and Safety, has lived away from her family for the past several years. Without her family, Jabbar has had to take on responsibilities uncommon for a teenager or young adult, such as cooking, cleaning, and keeping up with bills. She lives in Auburn Hills, Michigan, while her family resides in Saudi Arabia. Her move was never easy but she has a drive for a successful future.

OJ: Describe the places where you grew up. What was your life like there? 

Jabbar: I was born in Chicago and when I was five my family moved to Saudi Arabia. My dad works for a company called Saudi Aramco – the biggest oil company in the world. Aramco provides housing for their employees, which we call camps. We have our own schools, grocery stores, restaurants, beaches, and hospitals.

The camp I lived in had people from 87 different countries. Growing up around such diversity has taught me to be accepting and compassionate of all types of people. It’s the biggest lesson I have learned from living there.

OJ: Where did you move to and how did you accomplish that? 

Jabbar: When I was 14, I made the decision to attend a boarding school in Bahrain and moved into a dorm. Luckily, being right next to Saudi Arabia I was able to visit home every weekend. At the age of 16, I made the decision to finish high school in Michigan at Cranbrook Kingswood Upper Schools. I lived my last two years there and eventually found myself at OU for college. 

OJ: Did anyone leave with you? 

Jabbar: Unfortunately, I had to make these moves on my own but I always had the support of my family. My moves got further and further away with time. Due to my parents’ jobs, they were never able to move. 

OJ: Did you pack anything special when you got ready for the move? 

Jabbar: When moving so far away it was important to me to bring all the memories I could. This meant pictures, memorable clothing, childhood toys, and anything valuable gifted to me by my loved ones. It helped me feel close to them. It was important to keep items with me that helped me feel close to my friends and family. 

OJ: How did you feel when you left? 

Jabbar: I was upset when I left even though it was my decision. I found myself pushing blame onto my parents for forcing me to move out even though they were wanting me to stay home. I was projecting my fear through anger, and was scared to gain all these responsibilities at the age of 14. I knew that was the last time I would be living at home.

People around me judged me, and thought I was some troubled kid who was kicked out of my home. I wanted to be a good student and study hard. I always dreamed of a good, successful future and that’s what I wanted to pursue. 

OJ: How is your life different where you live now? 

Jabbar: I have learned to be comfortable with the responsibilities I gained. More importantly, I have learned how to be independent. I live by myself and have my own apartment.

Some days it’s hard to live alone. It can be emotionally draining, and a part of me misses living at home; being surrounded by comfort and commotion. I find myself going through times where I isolate myself from life. I’m still working on trying to find a balance between working, school, and my social life. 

Young woman with long, black hair and white-and-black checkered shirt smiles on bridge with trees in the background
Amna Jabbar poses in the Cranbrook House and Gardens in October 2017. She first came to Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, during her junior year of high school, graduating in the spring of 2018.

OJ: Do you have any plans in the future for you and your family? 

Jabbar: As of right now, I am on my own. I do visit my family, but with COVID it has become hard. I’m trying to push through this for now, but hope to travel once things get better. I’m not sure what the future holds for me. Perhaps my family will move back here to Michigan.

OJ: Is there anything you hope your family knows about you after all of this? 

Jabbar: After living on my own for so long, it becomes hard for me to visit back home, and spend long amounts of time around others. I just want my family to know I always appreciate and love them, regardless of the distance and rare visits. Even though visiting and living with them sometimes is difficult, I’m always grateful to be blessed enough to spend time with them.

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