Life in a Suitcase: Bouchra
Meet Bouchra, a Moroccan woman who has made a new home in Boston.
Bouchra Samih’s parents and 17-year old brother moved to the United States from Morocco in 2005. She stayed behind with her other siblings, working as a nurse in a hospital.
Samih first met her current husband soon after her parents’ departure. One of Samih’s friends introduced them, and they spent a year slowly building a close relationship. It was during this period of time that his mother was suddenly hospitalized where Samih worked. Samih remembers taking care of her dearly — like she was used to doing with every patient — until one day her boyfriend’s mother approached him and said: “You can marry her, she’s a good and nice girl.” In 2009, the couple got married.
In 2012, Samih’s husband moved to the United States, and she was faced with the choice of remaining in Morocco or traveling abroad with him. The choice was not easy. In a recent interview with the Justice, Samih recalled: “I had everything in my country … I was a working nurse, I had a house, I was living good over there … but my husband was in the United States.” Ultimately, she decided to accompany him, and after receiving their visa, they settled down in Boston.
Samih’s transition was softened by the fact that her family had already been living in Boston for a number of years. Upon her arrival, she was reunited with her parents and younger brother, who by that time had graduated high school and college. “The hardest is when people come and find nobody,” she observed. Indeed, knowing the difficulties many Moroccans faced when immigrating alone, her parents had welcomed and helped multiple individuals find roommates and jobs.
For Samih, the biggest challenge was the language. While she had learned basic English growing up, she stated that it was not easy talking to people, and that she knew she had to work on her skills if she wanted to be employable. Consequently, she attended an English academy in Boston for two years, and ultimately gained the confidence and knowledge needed to succeed in the workforce.
Samih came to Brandeis three years ago. Even though she had obtained her degree as a Medical Assistant, and found no “obstacles in [her] career,” she decided to join the Brandeis community. She’s happy here, working as a member of Einstein Bros. Bagels staff. Even though she considers Massachusetts to be one of the most expensive states, Samih has no plans to move elsewhere. Along with her husband, who works at a restaurant, she was able to buy her own house last year, which has greatly increased her comfort and happiness.
When asked about what she misses from home, Samih’s immediate response was her sister, who still resides there. Her other sister lives in Spain, she added, and one of her brothers lives in Paris. Fortunately, she travels to Morocco once a year and reunites with the rest of her family. While sometimes this is not possible, due to the price of the tickets, she works hard to make sure she can at least go every other year. Samih shared with excitement that three months ago, an airline started a direct flight from Boston to Morocco, so that she no longer needs to travel to New York and wait for hours to fly home.
As for what she likes most about the United States, Samih quickly said, “The freedom. … Here everybody practices their own religion or [doesn’t] practice a religion. … People do whatever they want to do.” She mentioned, for example, having to wear a scarf back in Morocco, and added that she chooses not to wear one here because no one will criticize her making such a choice. Jokingly, she also explained, “In my country, men can have four wives. … I am happy that here, my husband can only have me.”
In addition, Samih showed appreciation for the food here, saying, “I love the food here. It’s different.” She especially loves macaroni and cheese and fried chicken, explaining that in her country, all the food is accompanied by bread, and that it is interesting to see how dishes here are prepared and presented. Samih believes getting to know the food in a new country is very important and a crucial part of the immigration process.
When asked about the advice she would give those who decide to leave their home country, Samih said: “Remember that it’s not easy. It’s not easy to change culture, to change your language, to change clothes and get used to a new weather. … You need to make a sacrifice. The first two years are hard for everyone. … When I arrived, people didn’t find jobs easily and often struggled with the language … but after that, it is worth it.”