Meriem's Story

October 19, 2017

Posted in: Student Stories

Meriem was living a comfortable life in the beautiful port city of Casablanca, Morocco where she held a clothing design job—a coveted role given her love for fashion.

A year ago Meriem left that life behind. She traveled across the world on a fiancé Visa to live with her future husband in the United States.

Living in Seattle Meriem felt lonely, out of place and wanted to help her husband financially but didn’t know where to start. She needed to gain English-speaking skill and was looking for help.

“In the beginning I was stressed out, because I just left my country, so I was kind of home sick,” said Meriem through the translation of Seattle Job Training and Education Case Manager Sawsen Mohammed. “I did not like the life in the United States.”

Meriem’s husband helped connect her with Seattle Goodwill, and once she met Job Training and Education staff, her opinion on life in the U.S. slowly shifted.

Meriem enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses, took computer classes and eventually took Goodwill’s Retail and Customer Service class.

“I was just struggling with life and wanted to enroll in any classes to develop my knowledge to gain skills and employment to get any job,” Meriem said.

On top of wanting to create some financial stability for her and her husband, as an expecting mother, Meriem desired the means to provide everything she could for her first baby.

Meriem struck up a close connection with Sawsen, who is familiar with the Muslim community, immigrated to the United States years ago and saw a lot of herself in Meriem. Sawsen has worked extremely close with Meriem, discovering her barriers while helping her navigate her new life.

“I had no friends, nobody,” Sawsen said. “I don’t know where I am supposed to go, so I see myself in Meriem. I try to talk about her barriers, and after that we have a good relationship. We can face them one by one. By supporting her, she can support her family, too.”

Midway through Meriem’s Cashiering and Customer Service class, she confided in Sawsen, telling her cashiering wasn’t a great fit. Sawsen brainstormed an idea where Meriem could work in Goodwill’s e-commerce’s jewelry department, so she could be connected to her love of fashion and design.

Meriem and Sawsen regularly checked for openings, and when a position came available Meriem applied. Sawsen asked Meriem mock interview questions, preparing her for her first U.S. job interview.

“I told her this is my first interview in United States,” said Meriem, speaking on her own in English. “She told me, ‘You are doing good.’”

Meriem continues to take ESOL classes and is building more and more confidence in her English-speaking ability. She is thrilled to have found work to support her family and dreams one day of resuming a career in fashion design.

“I feel warm, secure and comfortable to come to Goodwill,” Meriem said. “I feel like I come to my home. When I see the students, we talk like brother or sister or something. I do not feel like I miss my family over there, because I see all my family here. They let me feel like I am in my home.”

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