When Sarah Abdullah left Iraq as a refugee, there was no going back.
A practicing pharmacist, she left the country after her hospital in Tikrit — a city about 90 miles northwest of Baghdad — was struck by a suicide bomber. She and her husband made their way to the U.S. in 2013, after the International Organization for Migration accepted their application. A year later, the city fell to Islamic State forces.
Abdullah, now 33, expected to start practicing quickly when she got to the U.S. But she soon found that Washington state, with its welcoming posture toward immigrants and refugees, is a difficult place for many foreign-educated professionals.
“It’s not easy at all,” Abdullah said of her attempts to practice in the U.S.
She started applying everywhere, but no one hired her. Employers require licenses to practice in Washington state.
“People were asking me ‘Do you have a license?’” Abdullah said. “OK, how do I get a license? I don’t know.”
She was told that despite being a trained pharmacist, she would have to work as a cashier, get retrained as a pharmacy tech and maybe one day become a pharmacist again.
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