When Senada Serifovski first came to the United States from Bosnia, life proved lonely and difficult.
Her sister lived here, but Senada had to leave her husband behind while she established herself in her new country. On her second day in the United States, she learned that she was pregnant. She then tried to expedite the process for her husband to join her.
“I was told it would take 3 to 6 months. It took around 3 years,” she said. “I only knew my sister and she didn’t speak much English, so she couldn’t help. I didn’t have a job or know anyone, or know the language. I didn’t even have enough clothing or a mattress; I slept on a blanket.”
Just four months after her daughter was born, Senada had to find employment, which in turn required her to find a babysitter. Soon after, she received more bad news: Due to a translation error, her husband’s paperwork – and thus his entry to the United States – was denied. He would have to begin the entire process over, proving that he was married to Senada and the father of her child.
The days were long, lonely and hard – but the Serifovskis made it through. Safet joined her in June 2002, when their daughter was two years and four months old.
“Life got much easier,” she said.
A better life
Senada Serifovski is no stranger to hardship. When she was just 15 years old, she fled her country during the Bosnian War, taking shelter for the next several years in nearby Croatia. She returned home and married her husband – he’s from Croatia – in 1998. But war-damaged Bosnia didn’t offer the opportunities she needed to live and start a family, so Senada looked to make a better life in the United States.
Once Safet joined her, the couple worked in a local factory. They split shifts – Senada worked first shift and her husband second – to accommodate their childcare needs. They expanded their family with a son in 2004.
Factory work can be hard on the body, and Senada hurt her back in 2006. Still, she kept at it until she was laid off in 2010. After a year off, she found another job, only to get laid off again last June.
It was time for a change – and Senada enrolled at SUNY Broome.
“I decided to go back to school because I didn’t see myself working in factories for the rest of my life,” she said.
The Office Administration major is now in her second semester and taking her first business classes, following a semester of English as a Second Language.
She isn’t alone. Her husband Safet will graduate this May with a degree in Manufacturing Technology, juggling full-time employment with a full course load. And their daughter, currently a high school senior, will attend SUNY Broome this fall to study International Business.
She has found a helpful guide in her advisor, Business Information Technology chair Mark Ryan. Favorite instructors include Myriam Stanton and Caroline Raychawdhuri in the ESL program, and Professor Denise Wells in BIT.
“The people are very friendly and helpful. At first, I was afraid to go to college because English is my second language,” she said. “You have a lot of opportunities with tutoring and the Writing Center.”
She is enjoying her time at SUNY Broome and had the opportunity to share her culture last semester during International Students Week, when she made goulash for the Dining Hall. After she finishes her degree, she plans to continue working toward her American dream.
“I want to get a job for a better and easier life, and health for my kids,” she said.