The Refugee Club at Salt Lake Community College is a diverse group of fun-loving students with one goal: community.
The group is designed to help students study, acclimate to the culture, and create a community of other individuals in the same situation. Members of the Refugee Club consider themselves Americans and they want to make life for themselves and others better. They have come a long way to attend a community college and take advantage of the educational opportunity. They are people, they are students, and they are dreamers.
Brian Silva, a computer science major from Chile, says he got involved with the club because he does well in school, but he likes to see what other people do to make studying better or easier.
Jesse Mlu, an international student from France, had other reasons for joining the club.
“I wanted to see people from different backgrounds and the struggles they are facing so we can learn how to help each other,” Mlu says.
Mlu has always wanted to help people. He came here when he was 10 for better education and wants to be a business entrepreneur so he can help people who are struggling in third world countries.
The club focuses on culture, and for good reason. When asked, almost all of the group was most shocked by the drastic change in culture when they came to America.
The American culture is much more private and closed than the Chilean culture, for example. In America, when we see someone we don’t know well walking down the street we usually wave, nod, or give a hand shake. However, in Chile you would give someone you know a giant hug and maybe a kiss to greet them.
“We are more than just refugees, we are people,” says Sarah Achir, a pre-health science major from Iraq. She left Iraq when she was 14 and lived in four different countries in four years during her journey to the United States.
“It is not as simple as just getting on a plane and then you are in the United States,” Achir says. “I had to leave Iraq when the war started, so we went to Syria, but then it became too dangerous there and we tried to go to Iran but there were problems there. We then went to Turkey and then finally to the U.S. I missed so many years, it is difficult because you stop studying for yourself and then you have to learn the traditions and customs for each new country and then the next year you have to move again.”
Not all members of the club came to SLCC to escape bad circumstances. Some of the members came for the chance to receive a better education.
“I just came here for a better education,” says Gemechu Ahmed, a student doing his general studies from Ethiopia. “Back home, we only get to go to school in Ethiopia until the third grade, then your education is over.”
The Refugee Club meets every Wednesday at noon at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus on the second floor of the Student Center.