Husna Ibrahim - Aspiring Professor of Sociology and South African Refugee

My name is Husna Ibrahim. I am obtaining my Master's degree at Southern Illinois University in hopes of becoming a Professor of Sociology in the future. I am Somali-South African and this is my story. 

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 5.57.34 PM.png

My name is Husna Ibrahim and this is my story. In 1995, my parents immigrated from Somalia to South Africa for a new future. Within the same year, I was born. Growing up in South Africa, I was living within two cultures. At school, I was immersed in the South African culture and environment. The way people spoke, their beliefs, and everythingrelating to culture I was fully submerged in while at school and away from home. When I arrived home and my community, it was a completely different reality. I then began to be immersed in the Somali culture. From the language, food, and daily activities, it was a different living experience due to the change in culture and environment. Even with juggling the dual identities, I really loved South Africa because it really helped me become the person I am today.

Suddenly, my life changed when xenophobic attacks against Somalis became prominent in South Africa. Immediately, I felt like an outsider and that my identity as a Somali was something to be ashamed of and bad. These thoughts and feelings I started to have become worse over time and life for a Somali in South Africa was becoming more and more unsafe.

Fortunately, the United Nations in South Africa were helping combat the unsafe conditions for people who have been displaced and victims of xenophobia. Due to our fear of becoming victims of a heinous crime, my family and I were able to flee to America with the help of the United Nations. I knew that a life in America would be better and my family would have better opportunities there. And so in 2010, my family and I set forth onto our new journey.

Even with knowing the benefits of America, arriving here was still a huge change I had to face. I had to go attend a new school and adapt into American culture and society. The adjustment phase was slightly easier for me because I did not have a language barrier. But even without a language barrier, my family and I still had to learn many basics of life in America. We learned how to ride the bus, how to register for school and other programs, where to buy groceries, etc. As time went by, things began to feel more familiar and America started to feel like home to me.

Having experienced part of my life as a refugee, I look back and understand that it did impact my sense of identity and belonging by having that label. Being a refugee to me initially was to find a place that would be accepting and embrace who I am. Now as an adult, I know my identity is much more complex and my past is truly important. I might not consider South Africa to be home but it was a part of my past that was influential in my upbringing and who I am today. I also learned that home is not limited to only a place but the people, memories, and feelings associated with it as well can be home as well.

I look forward to the future but understand that my experience as a refugee is a very important part of my life but it is merely a part of my story. My experiences as a refugee take away from the rest of my story such as being a college graduate while being a first generation college student and female of color. To me, I look back and being able to navigate in systems and spaces that members of my family could not have is incredible.

Success, regardless of being a refugee or not, to me is simply pushing yourself and finding your passion. I definitely found my passion through my studies and my engagement with the community. I see my life as something bigger. It takes a lot to pursue your passion and learn to not let just one event or experience define who you are as a person. When I think about being a refugee I understand that hate and fear are not a good way to live life. I have so much energy and love that I can personally contribute to the world and society as a whole thatstereotypes or false perceptions of me is not going to affect me.

I just want to tell youth that there are like-minded people out there that are loving and kind who want to see them succeed in life. That the definition of success can be different for everyone. I support youth taking time to reflect and develop themselves into the people that they want to be. Never worry about fitting in because your set of experiences, identities and dreams are unique and wonderful. Nobody can take these things away from you. Everyone has something to give and positive things to contribute to society. There is strength in being who you are and embracing that as well as finding and keeping people around you that truly love you and support you. I just wish that all the youth today knew that and aspire to do great things and be great people.

My current aspiration is to become a professor of Sociology. I am currently striving towards that goal by getting my Masters in Sociology at Southern Illinois University and hopefully God willing my PhD after that. I have some big dreams and that's okay because it I know that I can achieve it. I encourage others to dream big and be brave enough to go for those dreams. Empowering youth has driven me to want to be able to teach sociology some day because sociology talks about many important topics like race, gender, culture and media for example that help youth learn more about themselves and also about society and ways to create positive change. To upcoming refugees that are trying to succeed I would say to be proud of who you are and find the things you are passionate about and be brave enough to pursue it.

Felicia Philibert