Junior Yassmin Zaarour took a deep breath and walked in the doors on her first day at Martin. She first noticed how big the school is. But her teachers were warm and welcomed her with a smile. She felt very comfortable but also surprised by how different Martin is from her old school.
To escape from the financial crisis, Zaarour left her home, family, and friends to find hope for a better life in America. She may have been born in America, but the only home she really knew was Lebanon.
The dollar crisis in Lebanon is out of control. The Lebanese liquidity issue is an ongoing financial difficulty affecting the nation of Lebanon, starting in August 2019, which was further exacerbated by both the Covid pandemic in Lebanon (which began in 2020) and the 2020 Beirut port explosion.
“Everything is way too expensive there,” Zaarour said. “You can’t live. The government is completely falling apart and the people of Lebanon are getting no support.vAlong with no electricity and no water, there is no gas. The students had no ways to get to school so all the schools were shut down.
What was supposed to be a summer vacation to America to visit her aunt and uncle, Zaarour’s short stay turned into a life-changing move. That adjustment couldn’t be easy for anyone, but Zaarour said she is making the best out of a hard situation, especially since the living conditions in America have been better for her.
“In Lebanon, there was no electronics, no running water, and schools have been closed for at least a year,” Zaarour said.
From going to a small school, to an educational break, to the diverse Martin High School with over 3600 students are tough transitions. Zaarour said she’s never been to a place this large or diverse.
“Well, that’s what I like, actually,” she said. “It’s so spacious, not like schools in Lebanon. It’s awesome! There are no pep rallies, no music, the teachers are more strict, and teachers in Lebanon yell more.”
Zaarour said that she will miss being able to see her family and best friend, plus she feels kinda restricted in her aunt’s house and misses being able to be free at “home.”
“You know how it feels when you’re at someone else’s house? Like you can’t dress comfortably or you feel kinda awkward,” she said.
Zaarour said she misses her parents a lot, especially considering they are stuck in Lebanon and she can’t see them until next summer. Her parents are not allowed to leave Lebanon, so she will have to make the long journey alone. Zaarour said that of course she is happy to be with her extended family and in a financially stable country but it’s hard without her parents.
Imagine being shut in and never going out because you couldn’t afford to go anywhere or do anything. This was much like our year of quarantine, except instead of staying home to avoid getting sick, they had to stay inside because they couldn’t afford to leave.
“Me and lots of my friends developed depression and anxiety from not being able to go out and not being able to afford living,” she said.
Being able to dance and laugh and express school spirit is something Zaarour can now enjoy freely.
“Now I’m excited for pep rallies and spirit days,” she said. “There was nothing like that in Lebanon.”
While her English is strong, Zaaror said she struggles with the language, and faces challenges talking with other students and teachers.
“It’s hard but I’m happy to be here,” she said.
History teacher John Holten said he thinks Zaarour has been adjusting and thriving at Martin.
“I can already tell that she is very unfamiliar with US history in general and just how things work here, so I’d be very curious on how things work, where she came from and how much it’s different,” he said. “If she was comfortable talking about that with the class I think it’d be a great educational resource. She definitely adds a different perspective on how daily life is lived.”
Photo by Lorelai Hofer