A Leap Worth Taking: My Journey as an Arab American
7‑Eleven Area Leader, Rahma Ali, Shares Her Story as part of Arab American Heritage Month
As a native of Morocco who came to the United States many years ago to attend college, I’ve had a unique view into what it means to be multicultural.
Morocco, highly diverse itself, is a mountainous country of western North Africa that lies directly across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. Perhaps best known to many Americans for the movie “Casablanca” which takes place in the country’s largest city, Morocco has long been a crossroads between Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East — with diverse cultural and ethnic groups migrating through the region and leaving their mark on it throughout history.
I left everything familiar to me after graduating from high school with my parents’ encouragement, guided by my father’s firm belief that opportunity and education go hand-in-hand with success and prosperity. At first, not surprisingly, it was really difficult to adjust to a new country, new language, new ways of teaching and learning. I grew up speaking Arabic and French, and learning English and then applying it in other areas like math, proved especially challenging.
Fortunately, I had a number of people — from friends and family to teachers and coworkers — help me throughout my journey. Today, I consider myself a blend of both cultures. I’m inspired by both my Moroccan roots and my experience and life as an American. I make time to cook and enjoy Moroccan food with my son, just as my mother did with me, and I’m able to try different food from other countries here in America without having to travel. There are so many Arab people who have contributed to American progress and culture, which is why I think it’s so important that we celebrate Arab American Heritage Month.
Becoming an Arab American, for me personally, has been filled with sacrifice, hard work and triumph. The sacrifices of leaving my family and culture behind, which made for some hard days when I was finding my way, eventually led to the joys and satisfaction that come with feeling like I really belong and can thrive in a new culture. It wasn’t always easy, but today I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Part of what provided me with such encouragement was seeing people like me and other diverse backgrounds across 7‑Eleven. Once I started meeting franchise owners, store operators and other associates, I knew I belonged here and could make it. That had an enormous impact on me.
And no one had a bigger impact on my life than my father, who was always my number one fan even when he was away from home serving in the Moroccan Army. In line with his military service, he instilled in me a strong sense of discipline, courage and accountability — qualities that have all served me well in my journey.
As he liked to quote, “Mistakes make you wiser and pain makes you stronger.”
Thanks for letting me share my story. And shukran to all of 7‑Eleven's awesome Arab American customers and supporters!