Graduation 2016: North Rowan prepared her to go back to Yemen

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SPENCER — When Rim Abdulrub came to North Rowan High School her freshman year, she said she was shy and quiet. Her family moved from Yemen in December 2012, to follow her dad’s work, and a month later, Rim found herself enrolled in an American high school.

“It was hard for me the first year,” she said.

Everything was different from her home, she recalls. The way people talked, the dress code, the food. And the language. At home in Yemen, Rim attended private school and spent several years studying English and French. But studying a language in class and then being immersed in it were very different things. Rim said she could understand what people were saying, but she often had difficulty speaking.

That first year, she said, she overheard a lot of other students talking about her in the halls.

“I think they had never seen a Muslim girl wearing a scarf,” she said, pointing to her purple leopard print headscarf.

And the language barrier was frustrating for another reason – grades.

“I was really upset my first year because I want to do my best, I want to answer but, at the same time, I don’t understand,” she said.

But Rim pushed through her first year. She said she spent the spring semester reading as many books as she could, and used a laptop to learn new words — smoothing her way into fluency. She learned to brush off criticism.

“If I was listening to people I would never be who I am now,” she said.

Rim no longer considers herself to be shy. She’s made some great friends at North Rowan High School, and is now fluent in English – she can understand conversations and express herself.

“Now I can do everything,” she said.

But she misses her home and the family that still lives there. When her family moved, her father promised she could go back after she finished high school. This summer, Rim will be packing up and returning to Yemen. She knows she’s changed a lot, and thinks that her experiences at North Rowan will only help her in the future.

“I feel great, I’m proud of myself,” she said.

When Rim gets home, she plans to go to college and study in the health sciences. She’s torn between becoming a nurse or a dentist. Normally, she said, college students in Yemen have to take extra classes to make sure they’ve got a good grasp on English – but she won’t have to. She’ll be ahead of the curve.

Studying abroad in a different culture and speaking a different language every day can be difficult, she said, but she had some advice for others who might be considering it: “Never give up, and be confident. Don’t listen to people, don’t listen to criticism, be yourself.”