Marwan Zaid with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and RCC President Cliff L. Wood. Photo Courtesy of Marwan Zaid.
By Diana Lopez
As graduation day rapidly approaches, Marwan Zaid is faced with a not-so-sweet rocky road.
As an international student dedicated to pursuing his dreams, Zaid set his sights on success since the beginning. His hard work has paid off as he now prepares to graduate from Stony Brook University this upcoming spring semester with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
However, in order to meet his goals, Zaid had to sacrifice being with his family.
“Mom told me she was going to come to my graduation, I don’t know how that’s going to happen,” said Zaid who has not seen his family since he first came to the United States.
Zaid moved to the United States four years ago after graduating from high school in his homeland of Sana’a, in the Republic of Yemen. He graduated high school with the 16th highest grade in his class, but was unable to receive a scholarship to attend college.
“Yemen has a corrupted government, everyone who knows someone is going to receive the scholarship,” said Zaid.
Zaid resolved to venture into the United States in order to pursue a better future.
“Adapting to another culture is always difficult. You are always going to miss your country no matter how long you are here,” said Osmar Quevedo, Zaid’s closest friend and an immigrant from Paraguay. “But I think he [Zaid] is thinking about staying here.”
Zaid first enrolled at Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY, where he was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the Honor Society for Community Colleges.
According to the Rockland Community College website, Zaid participated in a Children’s Book Drive to promote literacy in Rockland County. This initiative collected over 4,000 books that were donated to five Rockland agencies for children.
His efforts throughout this campaign won Zaid, among other students, an invitation to meet President Clinton in the White House and the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence in 2012.
Zaid was accepted to Stony Brook University where he joined the school’s Sigma Phi Delta chapter, a social fraternity.
“The plan was for me to graduate and possibly go back home,” said Zaid. “It’s been four years and a half and I haven’t seen my family and every time we have to push it back.”
After the war began last year in Yemen, things have been getting harder for him and his family. All the companies left the country and the economy went down. Zaid’s family is now in deep economical struggle.
“Sometimes I cry at night,” said Zaid. He explained that what breaks his heart is seeing other international students who travel, knowing they have a home to go back to. “For me this home is not there anymore.”
“What kills me the most is during holidays everyone leaves, except me because I have no family to go to,” he added. “I have no money to go to my family.”
But through all the hardship that he and his family are going through, Zaid manages to keep a positive attitude toward life’s challenges. “If everything was easy, everyone would be rich in this world.”