The student news source of Iowa City West High

Melting pot

January 20, 2022

Moving is never easy, especially when it is from a different country. Learning the customs and culture of a new place can prove to be a challenge, but one can often learn a lot about themselves through the process. For Layan Ahmed ’25, this was the case. 

Ahmed moved to Iowa from Saudi Arabia when she was 6 years old.

“It was a really long process,” Ahmed said, “but I think it was definitely rewarding.”

Sila Duran

Iowa was a completely different world from what Ahmed had experienced in Saudi Arabia. While her city was tall buildings and urban landscapes, Iowa was small towns and cornfields. Ahmed mainly learned about the differences between the two countries while in school.

“I think Islam was very ingrained into the culture [in Saudi Arabia] … You have to wear a uniform and be modest in what you wear and cover [your] hair, even when you’re young,” Ahmed said. “It was a little unusual for me seeing that people were wearing clothes different from the culture that I came from.”

During her time in Iowa, Ahmed has faced challenges as a Muslim student. She has often been put in uncomfortable situations when the topic of food comes up. 

“In elementary school, there’d be a lot of celebrations with food,” Ahmed said. “A lot of the food had pork gelatin, so I was put in this awkward position where I couldn’t really participate with my classmates.”

Wearing modest clothes is also a fundamental part of Ahmed’s culture. As a volleyball player, she has noticed that the clothes do not follow these cultural values.  

“I feel like I wear mostly modest clothing, and being in volleyball, that’s not really possible,” Ahmed said. “I felt like it was kind of hard navigating what I wanted to wear, what I couldn’t wear and what I could.”

Throughout her journey living in America, Ahmed has learned and reflected upon her beliefs and how her two cultures intertwine. 

The large cornfields that cover Iowa were vastly different from what Ahmed was used to. (Sila Duran)

“My religion, my ethnicity and my culture are definitely a big part of my identity,” Ahmed said. “I’ve learned that it’s okay to mix both parts of your home life and your school life. I’ve also learned to respect both cultures and kind of take parts from each to form my identity.”

I’ve learned that it’s okay to mix both parts of your home life and your school life.”

— Layan Ahmed ’25

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