Kadija and Idris  ·  Somalia

You Have to Be Able to Trust Yourself

" When we first landed in America, we found a taxi, but my family didn’t speak English. Everybody laughed when we tried to talk, we thought that no one cared about us anymore..."

Writing by Nicole Taylor
Photography by Kristi Burton
Kadija with her children settled in Utah

I was born in Somalia, but we left for Ethiopia when I was seven. In Somalia, there was shooting all the time. I remember tires burning in the street.

In Ethiopia, some men injured my dad. He told people what happened and he’d heard that in America you can study. We came here because of him. We all left together, we didn’t leave anyone behind.

Before I came to Utah, I had only been in school for two years. Back in Somalia, I was in Kindergarten - I was in little kid school. When I came here, I was fifteen so I started in the ninth grade, but I failed all my ninth grade classes because I was just sitting there doing nothing. I didn't know the language. In tenth and 11th grade, I started to pick up English. I didn't graduate on time, but I did graduate. I went to summer school. The language was difficult for me.

If I could give advice to another refugee it would be to learn English. Study English - no other subjects - so when they get here, they can help themselves. When we first landed in America, we found a taxi, but my family didn’t speak English. Everybody laughed when we tried to talk, we thought that no one cared about us anymore. We sat around for a long time, four hours, I think.

You can’t trust people to translate everything for you, you have to be able to trust yourself. To be able to do things yourself. It’s hard. My big sister dropped out of high school because of the language. I wanted to be the first in my family to graduate, so I could help them, and I finally did.

Graduating from high school is my biggest accomplishment. I want to use my education to help my family, that’s all I always do, and I’m willing to keep doing it. In the future, I want to join the Marines. It’s an active job. They fly. I like doing active things - sports, traveling. If I can learn something from the Marines, I can go back to my country and start doing what I learn here back over there.

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