The Healing Power of Education: A Fictional Ending to A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

Topics: A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone: Chapter 22

It felt like there were butterflies in my stomach as I entered the car with Laura to attend my first day of high school in New York. It had been a few months since I fled Sierra Leone and arrived in America. After reaching Guinea, I contacted Laura through a public payphone and told her about the situation that I was in. She immediately wanted to help me. She got in touch with some people at the UN and told them about what had happened to me, so they arranged the paperwork and flight tickets for me to come live in New York.

After arriving in America, I stayed at a UN children’s shelter for a few weeks, while Laura filled out the documentation needed to be my adoptive mother. I’ve been living with her for 4 months so far, and she has treated me just like a real son.

“Ishmael,” she said, snapping me out of my thoughts, “I know you’re feeling nervous about the first day of school, but trust me, everything will be fine.

And you know you can always talk to me about anything you want, right?”

“I know mom,” I said with a smile on my face. “I’m nervous, but also very excited and grateful for this opportunity. It has been quite some time since I have attended school with so many other children, that’s all.”

“It will feel weird at first Ishmael, but you will get used to it, and come to enjoy it.

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I remember my high school days,” she said with a laugh, “We were quite the trouble-makers, me and my pals. You’ll do great, I know it.” Smiled back at her, but didn’t say anything in return. We continued driving in silence for a few minutes, and I began to see a huge brown building looming ahead with the words ‘UN International School’ written on it.

“Look, Ishmael!” Laura exclaimed, “It’s your new school!” My heart rate quickly elevated, and I felt an odd mixture of feelings welling up inside. Laura pulled up to the school parking lot, and we exited the car. The school was beautiful, but intimidating at the same time. It was massive, with tall wooden beams and pillars holding it up, and row upon row of shining windows to look through. My old elementary school in Sierra Leone looked like a warehouse compared to it.

“Well, what do you think?” asked Laura.

“It’s amazing, but it’s so big. I’ll probably get lost the first couple of days.” I said.

“There’ll be people to show you around, don’t worry, Laura assured me.

When we entered the school, it was buzzing with children of all ages and nationalities. I saw kids that looked as young as 5 years old entering with their parents, to teenagers who looked like they were in grade twelve. At first, I thought I would stick out at this school, but seeing all the diversity in the school’s foyer made me change my mind. There were a few people at the front of the foyer wearing large UN badges and name tags, so we went up to them for directions.

“Hi!” a perky blonde lady said as we approached her, “How can I help you?” Laura answered her, saying, “This is my son Ishmael Beah, and we were wondering how to get to his classroom.”

“For sure!” she replied, rummaging through some papers on a clipboard she was holding. “Ishmael Beah…room 236. Ok, do you see that man to my left?” she asked, pointing to a stout, Mexican man a few meters away. “His name is Hernandez, and he will take you to your classroom. Have a great day!”

“Thanks so much,” Laura replied. We walked to Hernandez, and Laura told him that we needed to get to room 2356.

“Sure thing,” Hernadez answered with a warm smile. “Follow me!”

We followed him up a large winding staircase and reached a long hallway of classrooms, mine being the fifth to the right. “Here it is,” he pointed. “I hope you have an enjoyable first day.” After we thanked him, Hernandez left, going back to the foyer to attend to other families.

“Well, this is it,” Laura said, squeezing my shoulder and wrapping me into a tight hug. “I should get going. I know this won’t be easy for you, but you’re a fighter, you’ll get through. Tell me all about today when you’re done, OK?

“Of course, I will,” I replied. “I’m happy about this opportunity.”

“I know you’ll love it! Bye Ishmael,” she said, waving at me as she went back down the hallway.

“Bye,” | waved back. The first thing I noticed when I entered the classroom was the color. Everything was so bright, much different from my old school back home. The wall was plastered with bright world maps, posters, and various other ornaments and trinkets. There were about 20 desks in the room, and 15 or so were full. There was a huge diversity in the student body. I saw kids from the Philippines, the Middle East, Korea, India, South America, and many other countries. I took a seat next to a tall Filipino boy and smiled at him and said hi. He responded with a grin and fistbump.

After the chatter of students died down, our teacher introduced himself. His name was Mr. Emmanuel, as we found out through his brief explanation. He was a short, jolly man from someplace in the Middle East, and he had been teaching at this school for three years now.

“Enough talk about myself, let’s talk about you guys now,” he smiled after he finished his introduction. “All of you are vastly different people who come from unique cultures and backgrounds, and I know you all have incredible stories to share. When I call your name for roll call, if you feel comfortable doing so, please tell the rest of the class a bit about yourself and where you are from! I love hearing stories, so this will be great!”

At first, I did not like this idea. What would the other kids think of me if they found out about my past, that I escaped a war-torn country? But my fear quickly diminished as I heard my peers telling their stories. I became so engaged that I forgot to worry. The stories I heard were as unique and fascinating as the children there. Some were devastating, some were hopeful, and they made me a little less frightened to share mine.

“Ishmael,” Mr.Emmanuel called.

That day, I shared some parts of my story with my peers, and to be honest, it felt pretty good. No one was judging me for my past, but rather, intently listening to my stories and experiences. Sharing my thoughts with other people felt quite healing and therapeutic. My first day at the UN International School was one that I will never forget.

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The Healing Power of Education: A Fictional Ending to A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. (2022, Aug 10). Retrieved from

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