“No one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
Warsan Shire- “Home”
Despite recent hurdles, America has remained a land of hope and dreams, a land of opportunities, a land of the free and the home of the brave.
Today on the stage of Clarkston Campus Library Hall, I witnessed five young souls – Shahed, Douna, Ali, Kpor and Ogbai – all forced out of their different home countries, proving their bests in the United States.
“Typical Students with Atypical Stories”, Dr. Mary Helen O’Conner, Assistant Professor at the University, began her session with the short documentary on the remarkable journey of these ‘typical’ students. The video was about the stories of their past, their adventures in search of a safe land away from the ‘shark’ and how they had made Clarkson their new home.
The auditorium echoed with Dr. O’ Conner’s resonant “teacher” voice – “less than a year ago, I had to use google translate to talk with her”, she exclaimed, ” today she is studying with a pharmacology major!”. Today, overcoming all odds of language and culture their enthusiasm and their gratefulness for the opportunity of education, is more than evident from their academic achievements.
“…and this is what Clarkston campus is all about.”
Clarkston Campus (also known as Perimeter college) – Georgia State University is a faithful portrayal of the Clarkson city in the DeKalb County, Georgia. Known for its ethnic diversity – “the most diverse square mile in the United States of America” and “the Ellis Island of the South.”
Ali, 27 years old, from Somalia, with a straight GPA 4.0 is on the presidents list. When questioned on what he wants to do later in his life, he answers – “The first thing that children at my country witness is violence. We should stop that.” “I want to go back to my country and open a school.” “Our culture always teaches us to give back – I want to repay to this (Clarkston) community for this opportunity of education and life, and I want to contribute to my people back home.”
Shahed, who was forced out with her family from Syria has a daunting tale of her own. “Most of the health care providers have fled from Syria, and there is no one to take care of the sick”. “Because I survived, I got a chance of education”, she pauses- “I want to go back and help others in need.”
It was evident that, a degree of gloom is creeping from the scars of their past, memoirs of hatred they had witnessed, pain they had endured. When you hear Ali, you can’t believe that a few years ago, this boy couldn’t even speak English, “yes, we are refugees but please don’t ask us to forget our culture”.
“Integration and Assimilation can’t be aloof.”
On our first day of 2018 Fulbright Global Health Innovations Seminar, 86 Fulbrighters from 54 nations are witnessing you tell your story Ali. We are living James William Fulbright’s 1946 dream, I wish you my friend, a life of an “American dream.”