By Autumn Alexander
It’s been three years since Yousef Alsdudi has seen his home town of Gaza, Palestine.
The 16-year-old high-school senior came to the United States on a vacation in June 2013, but a brief trip stateside turned into a long-term residency as the violence in Palestine grew and prevented his return.
“I remember when I first got here after two months, I would almost cry every night, because I was so homesick – like I just couldn’t deal with it,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do.
“I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have a lot of family here, obviously.”
Alsdudi, who now lives in Lexington, left behind his dad, his mom, his brother, and three sisters. He lives with his stepmom, aunt and younger sister. Leaving family behind remains the hardest part of being away from Gaza.
“I know it’s been really hard on them,” he said. “I have never been away from my family for more than a week. Now it’s been three years since I have seen them, so I think it’s been kind of hard on both of us.”
Alsidudi, also left behind his friends, a number of whom died in the violence of the Israeli-Palestinian war.
When Alsdudi came to the United States, he also did not know any English.
“That was really hard,” he said.
He began to teach himself and became fluent within a year.
“There wasn’t one way I learned English,” he said. “I kind of just listened to people around me and started talking.
“Sometimes I didn’t even know what I was saying. That got me in a lot of trouble,” Alsdudi said laughing.
He laughs about it now, but he said there was a time when not knowing English was not funny.
“It took me a while to adjust here,” he said. “It was a whole new world for me. I mean the culture, the language. It was too much to take in at once.”
Alsdudi acknowledges his speed to adapting and learning English as one of his greatest accomplishments.
“I learned English impressively fast,” he said. “I surprised myself.”
Although, Alsdudi is proud of his accomplishment, coming into anything new there are adjustments.
Alsdudi hopes he is adjusting well but says it is still hard sometimes.
Even though, Alsdudi now speaks English well, he is not afraid that his Arabic has suffered. His first language should be useful in the coming days when he goes back home to visit his family. He plans to depart for Palestine on June 12.
“Well, my plan so far is to go back, visit, and then come back here to the U.S. and study,” he said, “So, no, no plans on staying in Palestine.”