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Barry Sherbeck

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This is the story of Barry Sherbeck, who grew up traveling around the Middle East with his missionary parents. He frequently returned to the United States, including for his college education, but also explored South East Asia as part of his job, where he met his wife.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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I was born in Northern Wisconsin, in June of 1963. We lived there for the first two years of my life. My parents had been preparing to move, so when I was about two and a half they took me and my two older brothers to the United Arab Emirates where they were going to work as missionaries and church leaders.

We moved to a city called Al Ain. My earliest memories were running around on this mission hospital compound, with camels wandering and red sand everywhere. We moved to Jordan in 1967 for one year so that my parents could study the Arabic language at a special language school.

After that year we went back to the UAE and I went to an Arab school. In that same year I traveled with my mom to take my brothers to a boarding school in Pakistan. I ended up staying too and attended boarding school in Pakistan for a few years.

We came back to the States for one year every four or five years. We would come back to see churches that supported my parents and see relatives and family and take a break from their work.

After one year, we went back and lived in the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. I was there from fourth grade through eighth grade. I went to the American School of Abu Dhabi. I have the strongest memories of growing up here, I had a bike and I remember riding it and I felt like Abu Dhabi was my hometown. I fell in love with photography and traveling while growing up in Abu Dhabi.

We moved back to Wisconsin for my 9th grade year. After one year, my parents weren’t quite ready to leave the States yet, so I went back to Pakistan on my own and stayed until I graduated 12th grade in 1981.

I came to the States to attend college, I attended LeTourneau University in Texas to study civil engineering, but transferred to UW Madison in my first year. I took one semester off to go back to the UAE and work on a new hospital being built in Al Ain. When I was there I realized I wanted to study more Islamic, South Asian, and Arabic studies so I switched to South Asian Studies major.

My last year at UW, I studied a year abroad in Varanasi, India. I studied the written language of Hindi and also the Urdu language. After college I worked for a company named 2100. I worked and traveled for a few years helping student groups that were trying to use visual communications, creating visual media for their conferences.

I attended one conference that was about cross-cultural communication while I was in was in Thailand. There I met this young woman Carol, who was a preacher’s and missionary’s kid who was from Malaysia. She was a journalist and was interested in photography. We spent a lot of time together for about a month talking about culture and communication and getting to know each other. Over the next 3 months, we were writing lots of letters and calling occasionally.

2100 traveled to Southeast Asia again and I met up with Carol for another conference in the Philippines. While we were there I asked her to marry me, and she said yes! I was in the region for another few months where we planned our wedding and got married where her family was from: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Carol had never been to the States ever and we decided we wanted to live there initially for a couple years, then potentially move back to South Asia at some point but nothing ever materialized. We wanted to start a family, so in 1995 we had our first daughter, and three years later we had our second. I have stayed in Madison for many years now, and my daughters have grown up and moved away for college but come back to visit when they can.