When Bosnian-born Izudin Huskic turned three, he watched his father disappear due to his county’s war. Then, at age 11, he woke up one morning to a face he barely remembered.
“My dad was alive,” Huskic said. “We packed and headed to the airport because my dad was taking our family to the United States of America, the land of the free.”
Huskic, who today is 19 and works as a project assistant for a civil engineering firm in Danville, reflected on his years growing up as a child who quickly learned English while his parents and older siblings grappled with America’s odd customs and foreign language.
“Adult immigrants use their children as translators,” Huskic said. “These children have many responsibilities, which can cause missed days at school and soccer games, and a missed childhood.”
Yet Huskic believes that while some immigrant kids aren’t as educated as the rest of American children, immigrant youth are more likely to succeed in life since they are given many responsibilities at a young age.
As an example, Huskic recalls going with his father to Bank of America in Oakland to open an account.
“I was twelve and had to translate the conversation in my broken English between my father and the manager of the bank,” he said. “My dad stood there as if he were deaf until I spoke in our native language.”
As the banking conversation continued, Huskic realized that he was able to understand and translate perfectly what the two men were saying to each other. Being forced that day to speak English built his confidence.
“As soon as I learned English, I started to read all the mail, pay the bills, and accompany my parents everywhere they went,” he said, adding that even when his family watched a movie he had to translate what was going on.
“In other words, I was, and still am, the mouth of the family,” Huskic said.
While Huskic currently still lives with his parents, he’s confident some day he’ll be able to move out on his own, though English is still a struggle for his parents. His father works in construction, and his mother works graveyard for FedEx.
“During the past few years I’ve given my cell phone number to banks and other firms so calls to my parents come to my phone,” he said. “Also, bills are paid every two weeks so I’m not obligated to be home all the time.”
Huskic acknowledges it often seems unfair that he’s had to take on responsibilities while other kids are free to play ball at the park. He also notes that being an immigrant child can mean years of embarrassment and putting up with the laughter of other children.
And yet Huskic chooses to focus on the positive side of what he’s had to endure these past eight years since coming to America: “I am proud to say I have learned the American way,” he said. “I now consider myself as a Bosnian-American with a bright future and a better knowledge of life than an average 19-year old.”
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