What does it mean to be international, immigrant, or American?
For some people, these terms are intertwined in a way that leaves all of them meaningless. In such situations, what matters the most is not how the society defines them – but how they feel about themselves.
Isho Abukar is a perfect example of this situation. Isho is from Kenya. She came to United States in 2004, when she was only eight years old. She is a junior majoring in social work.
Recently, I interviewed her to gain insight into her feelings and thoughts about living in United States and studying at Nazareth College:
Do you identify more with international or American students?
I consider myself (an) American. I am a citizen. I went to elementary, middle and high school in this country; I am a junior in college now. I speak English more than my native language. However, it’s still a challenge in the academic aspect because I didn’t start from kindergarten like most people.
What is your favorite thing about America – or specifically, Nazareth?
People are open-minded and welcoming at Nazareth.
What about your least favorite?
Nazareth is not diverse enough. I wish it was more diverse. Also, I wish we had a club for immigrants or refugees because there is definitely a difference between an immigrant and an international student who stays here for one or two semesters.
Are you involved on campus? Do you have a job?
Yes. I am club treasurer of the Center for Spirituality. We have meetings every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. We evaluate our programming and plan events. I also work on financial stuff like budget proposals, writing checks, and turning in receipts to the Undergraduate Association.
What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a minority?
The most difficult thing about being a minority is that we have different experiences than most of our classmates. Sometimes, we can’t relate. It creates an obstacle when making friends because we don’t have a lot in common. Also, I don’t know if people are afraid but sometimes they don’t want to approach or interact with you. I don’t think they do it on purpose. I think they are just not familiar.
If you could describe your culture to Americans in a few sentences, what would those words be?
My culture is influenced by my religion and the surrounding region we are from. My parents are Somalian. I would say it’s a mixture of religion and traditions passed onto generations. It’s definitely an interesting culture to learn more about. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask me questions (laughs).
Even though the title of this post includes the word “international,” the interpretation is really up to the readers’ initiative. Do you think Isho is more international or American? I would like to say it doesn’t matter what we think.
The reality, however, is that it does matter. It matters that minorities feel recognized and completely comfortable.