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Sam: Expat Against the Odds

Originally from Iraq, I grew up in Kuwait where I started working with my grandfather selling fish at the age of 9; I never knew what vacation or time off was, and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with nine people. My dad was a driver and my mom was cleaning lady; after school, I used to go work with my mother so that people would give us food and hand-me-down clothes. I lived in a very tough environment where I experienced poverty, hunger, pain, and disappointment. Sleeping on the floor was not the most comfortable thing, but having done it for 18 years, I never knew what it felt like to sleep on a bed.

I left Kuwait in 1980 with failing grades from high school. I begged my dad to believe in me even when I was a failure in my family's eyes. Despite struggling to take care of seven kids, my dad finally agreed to give me one more chance to change my life. He had to borrow money just to buy me an airplane ticket to the USA, so I could follow my dream. Convincing him was tough, but I promised him that he would not regret his decision.

I arrived with $200 and a dream. Things were tough: I worked three jobs, slept at the university engineering lab, at my friends’ apartment, or in my car, and often had to eat at homeless shelters. All of that was acceptable because I had the determination, a dream, and desire to be someone.

Through believing in myself, I completed my engineering degree as well as a master’s. I bought houses for both my parents and have sent them a monthly salary for the past 30 years, just to thank them for believing in me. My struggles have given me the opportunity to speak publicly in many high schools and private companies, sharing what it takes to be successful, how to follow your dream, and the importance of believing in yourself. Today I am the Vice President and partner at MENA lighting LLC.


Sam grew up in the Middle East and from a young age always knew he wanted to go abroad and experience the world. He credits his positive attitude and the desire to make his parents proud for helping him to overcome a wide range of challenges both before and after moving abroad. Living abroad has opened his eyes and driven him to work on making the world a better place to live for everyone. He currently lives in Dubai, where he is a part of the InterNations community.

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Albert Robley

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