Zina Jadooa, the international patient coordinator at the International Center of Mayo Clinic, was born and raised in Baghdad, where she graduated from Baghdad University with a Bachelor of Arts in English.
Jadooa spoke about her experiences at the Rochester Art Center on June 30 as part of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. She stayed after her talk to answer some questions for the Post Bulletin.
How did you come to Rochester?
I arrived in 2010 as a refugee with my family — my husband and three kids. We were assigned to live in Rochester, and I haven’t moved to any other place. Before that, we lived for 10 years in the United Arab Emirates, and we left Iraq around 2001, 2002.
Why have you chosen to remain in Rochester?
The biggest challenge was that we moved to a different country, and then to a second one. So my thinking was that this is my home. I felt the education system is fine. It’s safe here, it’s more family friendly, and that's why I was like, “We’re staying here.”
My husband left [Rochester to return to Iraq] for four years, so it’s kind of like, “I can’t move alone.” I have to at least stay until we decide where we’re going to live.
Then I started my job at the refugee resettlement agency, and then I started my job at Mayo, and I felt more secure. It was kind of like I was tying myself here much and much more.
You said you feel pressure as an Iraqi to put your best foot forward to represent Iraqis. Isn’t this a lot of work and a constant effort for you?
It is. But I feel like it’s getting better a little bit, because people are probably understanding a little bit more. I think American people need to be a little more open to the outside world, especially the Middle East and what’s happening.
Most of the people are more accepting than before. I think the media is trying to do a better job and focus on better things. Also, when you have good reporters back home that work internationally and show the world about Baghdad and Iraq, specifically, there’s less negative thoughts and ideas about Iraqis.
What do you do to hold on to your Iraqi culture, and how do you encourage your kids to hold onto their Iraqi culture and share it with other people?
For Ramadan, I decorate my house. I share food with neighbors even if they’re not fasting. I have people over. I try to involve my kids in the kitchen. They fast; even if it’s hard, I say, "Do the best you can." We try to do family religious gatherings from time to time.
They see me dress up in certain cultural gowns and sometimes ask me about them. Getting my boys more involved with Arabic friends, that opened them up to wearing traditional male head cover. I’m doing my best to try to express to them and show them pictures. They’re close to family members back home, too, on social media, so they see.