FALMOUTH — When Joseph Nano arrived in the United States from his home in Syria in 2012, he and his family were only planning on a short trip to visit family.
But when the crisis in Syria continued to escalate, he and his family chose to stay. While his father returned to Syria, Nano, his brother and his mother stayed here with family. Nano enrolled at Falmouth High School that fall, speaking barely any English.
He wasn’t able to take classes like English or world history because of the language barrier. But did take math as well as English Language Learner classes for three hours a day.
But Nano accepted the challenges presented to him, and, after considerable hard work, eventually took honors and advanced placement courses.
“My parents left everything and came here,” Nano said. “That was motivation for me.”
Each year Nano said he worked hard to meet new challenges. By the end of his sophomore year, he said he was able to “have basic conversations” with his friends. By junior year he challenged himself to take regular English classes and honors math.
And, by senior year, he decided his challenge would be to write a book of poetry for his senior project. He said the book, which will have over 20 poems, was a way to show his friends different angles and perspectives of the world. He’s also helping a friend make a movie about reaching out to foreign students.
“I wanted to do something for Maine’s community,” he said.
Nano, 18, will be attending Boston College in the fall, with plans to study biology on a pre-med track. He said he wants to become a surgeon because he wants to “do something that will really help the world” and because Syria needs more surgeons. Nano said studying medicine is his way of fighting terrorism.
“I know I’ll face more hills and maybe mountains, but I’m working hard to reach the summit someday,” Nano said.
The transition from his home in Damascus to Falmouth had its challenges. Nano said making friends was hard at first because of the language barrier. And he missed his home and friends in Syria. But he said he just had to deal with it.
“I have to move on so I can stand strong and help my family,” Nano said.
But Nano said he was grateful to the Falmouth community for helping him. He never thought he’d write poems, but now he’s written a book. He never thought he’d be a successful student here, but now is headed to college.
“I was just a visitor who ended up as an immigrant,” he said. “Now I’m a permanent resident.”
Joseph Nano, a senior at Falmouth High School, came from Syria in 2012. He is attending Boston College this fall and plans to become a surgeon.
Falmouth High School commencement is at Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St. in Portland, at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 6.