From California to Amman and Back – How Brightways Global Academy Helped Me Succeed
By Maryam Khan
It was August 2015 – the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I stood in the midst of family and friends who had gathered to give their tearful goodbyes. I was leaving behind the life I had always known and beginning a new one across the world in Amman, Jordan. My stomach churned with nervous excitement at the thought of what lay ahead – a new culture, new language, new friends, new school… new everything.
Until tenth grade, I was like any other teenage American girl. I attended high school, spent time after school in extracurricular activities, and spent the weekends with my family and friends. When I was 14 years old, my parents decided that our family needed to experience life outside of our “comfort zone.” My brother and I had already been learning to speak Arabic and my parents knew a few people who had moved to Amman, Jordan's capital city, and enjoyed it. So, it was decided: we would move to Jordan for a year.
Having never lived even outside of California, much less the United States, I was lost and afraid at first in Amman. Gradually though, the warmth of the community and the beauty of their culture helped me overcome my homesickness and appreciate the opportunity set before me. I enrolled in a small private school in my neighborhood and made friends. I learned how to play the frame drum, or the daff, how to dance the dabka, and sing traditional songs called anasheed.
My greatest fortune, however, was my time spent with the Syrian refugees. Those who had once been only numbers and statistics on the television became my neighbors, classmates, and friends. I heard their stories firsthand and witnessed their grief and heartbreak. As a result, I spent much of my time dedicated to their cause – raising money through bake sales, collecting and distributing donations of household items and clothing, and – when I had achieved enough fluency in Arabic – translating for English-speaking doctors who had come overseas to treat them.
After a few months in Amman, my family had adjusted to life there and we all agreed to stay longer than a year. At that point, we decided to investigate better educational opportunities. The academics at the private school in which I was enrolled were not at American standards, especially in English proficiency. A friend of mine, who was also an American living in Amman, told us about Brightways Global Academy. It was the only online private school for Americans living overseas I could find that would provide me with an American high school transcript. It seemed the perfect fit for me, so I enrolled.
From day one, my Global Academy support teacher, Terri Beede, was a constant source of advice and support. Ms. Terri looked into our private school’s curriculum and determined whether each subject was up to par or not. If a subject level was not high enough, she provided us with online resources or other alternatives to keep my education on the level of my American peers. She also applied my work with refugees and other activities into academic categories that fulfilled some of my educational requirements. When I reached my senior year, Terri helped me look into colleges and advised me on what they would likely expect of me.
Because of Brightways Global Academy, I was able to complete high school overseas assured that I would not experience any drawbacks as a result. I graduated in June 2018 and, after taking a gap year, moved back to America for college.
Today, I am studying at Scripps College in Claremont, California. I have not yet declared my major, but I plan to pursue an education in writing and/or literature. In the future, I hope to use my experiences and education together to give voices to those with whom I formed such close bonds thousands of miles away. My dream is to shed light on the situation of those Syrian refugees and present them as real people who are suffering, instead of the faceless sound bites so often depicted in media today.
I would like to thank Terri Beede and Brightways Global Academy for the great role they played in bringing me to this point – for supporting and advising me, and for helping shape me into the person I am today!