Life Lessons I Learned From Having a Foreign Parent

If you have a parent from another country, you may understand the struggles of relating or understanding societal norms in America. Having a parent come to America from another country is a unique experience that not everyone goes through or can relate to. And just like everything in life, there are positives and negatives to the experience.

My dad is a Christian from Lebanon. Lebanon is a beautiful little country in the Middle East on the Mediterranean Sea, with Syria to the north and Israel to the south. He decided to come to America when he was 22 to get a college degree and make a better life for himself. My mother was born and raised in Michigan, and she met my dad in college — and the rest is history.

Having a parent from a different country has shaped me into the person I am today, and here are a few things I have learned from my dad.

1. I learned the meaning of hard work

Coming to America from a different country is not an easy task, and my dad had to sacrifice a lot to make it here. English is his third language, so that made going through college even more difficult. Knowing how hard my dad works has always motivated me to do the same. I’ve always taken school and my career seriously, even to the point where I was made fun of and people would think I was too serious or too driven for my age. The truth is, I want to make myself and my parents proud, especially knowing how hard they’ve worked to give my sister and I the life we’ve been able to live. To those who wonder why I may be serious at times, it’s because I have a responsibility to work hard and do the best I can. There’s no excuse not to.

2. Not everything is as big of a deal as we think

Throughout my life most of my birthdays have been smaller family parties, not these huge, elaborate birthdays that college students continue to do. A few years back I always wanted something like that, or to even go to prom in a limo or fly to Europe when I graduated high school. The truth is, a birthday is just another day, and you can always travel throughout your lifetime. My dad always says to keep life simple, and recently I’ve appreciated that more and more. It’s kind of ridiculous when some people in other countries struggle to put enough food on the table, but in America we make such a big deal out of turning 21. Being humble is more than narrowing your guest list from 500 people to 300.

3. An appreciation for different foods and cultures

Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve never been a picky eater. I’ll eat anything! I’ve never refused food or thought something looked too weird to eat, because my dad made sure to make traditional Lebanese food for my family a lot. Of course, I’ve had typical American food, but food and cultures from other countries have always interested me more than it weirded me out. I think this exposure at an early age shaped my appreciation and understanding for other traditions outside this country.

4. I grew up with a global perspective

This can be frustrating to explain to people sometimes, but the truth is, the rest of the world is not Disney. People who were born in this country and have never traveled are basically living in a bubble. Until you see other countries, or have a parent that has lived through different wars and turmoil, you cannot possibly understand what the rest of the world is like. There are evil and vicious people out there! There are countries who see bombings and attacks on a daily or weekly basis. When news anchors or politicians speak about foreign policy or matters related to that, it can be hard to not want to tell them they don’t really know what they’re talking about, or that they don’t fully understand. Having a parent from another country and listening to their stories really opens your eyes to the rest of the world.

I would say I have been blessed to grow up in the family that I have, and the lessons I’ve been taught. My experiences and opinions are what shape me as a person. Having my dad work so hard to come to this country and hearing about the stories from his childhood are values that will be instilled in me forever.