Raya Feraydooni

July 21, 2022, July 22, 2022, and July 23, 2022. Remember these dates because they mark the beginning of a young girl’s story. In just two weeks, she packed up her 16-year life and moved halfway across the world. Yes, that girl is me. I arrived in the United States two weeks before my junior year, with a suitcase half empty because the TSA told me it was “too heavy.” I had to leave behind memories, family, my language, and a sense of humor unique to my home country. 

On July 21st, my 16-hour flight landed. On July 22nd, I took the AccuPlacer half asleep from jet lag. On July 23rd, I had my intake, the last one for my year. 

“I’m not your typical American high school student—I came from Iran two weeks before junior year. Believe it or not, I ended up at SAS because I googled ‘best high school in Florida,’ applied, and was literally the last person to take the AccuPlacer and do my intake for SAS Kendall. I had no idea what a normal high school experience was, but my two years at SAS felt like a movie.” These were the opening lines of my class of 2024 graduation speech, a speech I once thought I’d never give. Thanks to Google, I found the best thing that has ever happened to me. 

SAS changed my life in the most literal way. As a new immigrant, I had no clue what AP courses were or anything about U.S. history, yet I had to take AP U.S. History. I faced language barriers since English was not my first language. I had to understand what an AP exam was and where to place the AP ID label. But at SAS, they don’t treat you differently because you’re different; they make you embrace it. With dual enrollment classes, allowing me to take college classes alongside my high-school classes, I had the chance to catch up on what I missed in the past 11 years of school while sharing my immigration story. The teachers were incredibly supportive and always available.  

At SAS, teachers are in their rooms in the mornings to tutor you. I went to Ms. Soria’s class every day to improve in APUSH while sharing our immigration experiences. Whenever my dad visited, she was the first to know and would celebrate with me. Ms. Tercilla helped me score a 4 on my AP Lang exam and encouraged me to give the graduation speech for my class. Mr. Lindsay helped me build my Silver Knight project, connecting my old home with my new one. 

I came to America with an empty suitcase, and thanks to SAS, I’m leaving with a suitcase full of knowledge, memories, and kindness. My immigration caused me to lose a lot, but SAS gave me a sea of knowledge and an amazing family. I can’t wait to use everything I’ve learned at FIU and in my future. 

Raya Feraydooni 
School for Advanced Studies Kendall.  Class of 2024 
Florida International University, Class of 2026