My Move from Liberia to America

My name is Sarah Mulbah. I’m 18 years old and I was born on March 16,1997 in Milovi, Liberia. I’m the only girl in my family, but I have three younger brothers. My dad’s name is Stephen Mulbah and my mom’s name is Konah Mulbah.

We value the African way of life and practice it in our daily lives. We still tie leppe, a colorful long scarf that we use to tie around our waists or sometimes use as a head dress. We still wear our traditional clothing like the kaftans (also called boubous), full length embroidered robes with bold patterns. We used these under the leppe to create a complete outfit. African clothing has changed over time; however, the greatest impact on clothing began in the 20th century as a result of trading with Western countries in Europe and North America. Africans began wearing their garments differently. Instead of creating the outfit by tying the leppe a certain way or pinning it into a certain shape, cloth was now cut into a shape like a dress.

Kente (Batik) Cloth in Market - Kumasi - Ghana by Adam Jones via Flickr

Kente (Batik) Cloth in Market – Kumasi – Ghana by Adam Jones via Flickr

Another change in these traditional garments is that today they are mainly worn by East African women, but originally they were only worn by West African men. This happened because some women began seeing women in different cultures through traveling and then women began wearing their clothing differently. Traditional African women’s clothing comes in various styles, prints, and colors ranging from earthtones to vibrant indigos. Women’s clothing today may included beaded skirts, blankets, and veils with elaborate designs, images, and symbols.


My first time in American the food I ate left me not feeling good because I wanted to eat rice. African food includes rice, cassava leaf, and plantain. But the American food I ate was pizza that didn’t taste like the pizza I’m used to eating. I like hot sauce on my pizza and I was used to crust that was thinner. I also had mashed potatoes and gravy in the school cafeteria which also tasted different than the mashed potatoes I was used to. We don’t eat gravy on ours.

Before coming to America, in my home country Liberia a virus called Ebola caused so many people to die in West Africa. I saw my neighbors affected by this virus–seven people died from one house. My father had to put up a fence around our house to try to keep us safe from the virus. I thank God for keeping me and my family safe–none of us contracted the virus before coming to America.

Dr. Jordan Tappero from CDC Global via Flickr

Dr. Jordan Tappero from CDC Global via Flickr

Coming to America was a dream come true. My dad was the winner of a U.S. lottery program in 2013. He was the primary applicant and my brothers, mom, and I were dependents and benefitted by travelling with him to the United States on October 12. 2014. We travelled by air and landed at JFK airport in New York at 10:00pm. When we arrived at the airport security had to check us for the Ebola virus because they had to makes sure that we didn’t bring the virus with us. My uncle Fatorma Siafe received us at the airport. His large form greeted us with a smile because he was happy to see us.

“Welcome to America, I missed you.”

I told myself that life was going to be hard and it would be hard to get used to the people around me and the new school with new teachers and a new way of life. Life here is different because in Africa we have to get a car to take us to school. Here, the bus picks us up to take us to school. My first time in the high school everything looked different to me because the school in Liberia is not the same. My school in Liberia would fit into one hallway in this new school and we only turned on lights in the school at night–they weren’t on all day. And at home, the school is surrounded by a fence so children won’t run into the road. At this new school we eat inside instead of outside. Here I have free books but in Liberia my parents would have to pay a school fee to buy my books. I also have access to computers in this school, but not in my old school. This is exciting, but because I’m not used to it, it is also hard. Teachers assume that I know how to use the computer, but I’m learning how to use it. This is hard.

"Trial by Sasswood" by Even Bench via Flickr

“Trial by Sasswood” by Even Bench via Flickr

I’m excited for my future because in my new school I have opportunities to learn and the teachers provide me with those opportunities. I’m so happy that I will have a future, but I haven’t decided yet what to be. But once I learn more I know that I will be able to become who I want to be in this new place. Then I want to return back to Liberia to help my people with having better schools and opportunities.