For refugees and immigrants who relocate to the United States from conflict-ridden nations, college provides an avenue for many of these people to reinvent themselves or start a new life.
“I got to the United States and started school within the first two weeks. I didn’t even have my documents yet, but I knew I needed to start bettering my life right away,” says Sanaul Haq, a refugee from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Sanaul arrived in the United States in May of 2014. In a short period of time he moved between North Carolina, Michigan, Virginia and finally to Utah in September. Sanaul is currently taking general studies courses at Salt Lake Community College and is interested in pursuing an International Relations degree.
“It’s difficult, I’ve been out of school for about eight years, so getting back into it isn’t easy,” says Sanaul. “I’m trying my best and trying to overcome every obstacle I can.”
Difficult is a modest term considering Sanaul’s story.
At only 25 years old, he moved to a foreign country on his own, leaving his family and work, which is a dramatic transition. Sanaul works on campus at SLCC and is employed by Walmart, all while attending school full time.
One of the most difficult parts of leaving Afghanistan for the U.S. was the reality that Sanaul would also be leaving his credibility back home.
“It’s hard. I worked some really highly respected jobs for years, worked with all different kinds of cultures, had a lot of responsibilities and learned different languages,” says Sanaul. “Then I come to America and I have a hard time getting a job at Walmart.”
Sanaul wants to eventually return to Afghanistan to advocate for people who have no access to resources or education, specifically, women.
“You know, to help the poorest people in the world, it’s the greatest thing you can do with your education. If I can be a voice for those people who aren’t able to do it themselves, that’s what I want to do,” says Sanaul.
SLCC provides multiple resources for refugee students.
The college houses the Office for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, located in the Student Center at Taylorsville Redwood Campus, and the Refugee Club which Sanaul helps to manage.
“I’ve felt a lot of support from SLCC in the short time that I’ve been here. They helped me get my student accounts set up and helped me deal with all the new student paperwork,” says Sanaul.
While Sanaul is transitioning to life in the U.S., he often notices a difference in attitude between himself and his American classmates.
“I do see a lot of students that don’t appreciate how easy they have it. I’ve been in places where students have it pretty rough,” says Sanaul. “They don’t have access to the things students here [in the U.S.] do. Ultimately every human being should be grateful for where they are and what they have.”