Salt Lake Community College hosted a Bruin Voices discussion earlier this month to educate students and faculty about the plight of those less fortunate.
Through engaging and respectful dialogue, SLCC financial aid advisor Dr. Kamal Bewar gave a presentation on refugee and immigrant students to explain the different situations and procedures faced by this population.
“My goal was to educate or utilize some of my expertise in part of supporting and helping refugees and immigrants here at Salt Lake Community College,” Bewar says.
Bewar talked about the academic, social and financial challenges for refugee and immigrant students, including the procedures they have to go through to obtain aid, residency status, degree translation of previous schools and satisfactory academic progress.
Bewar also explained the contrast of educational systems in the United States and the Middle East.
Education in the Middle East is mostly free, which is impactful to refugees once they are told their education in the U.S. has to be paid. Most refugees are also unfamiliar with two- and four-year institutions; the whole education process is new to them.
Bewar and the attendees discussed cultural and social issues which this particular group encounters as they establish a new and different lifestyle.
Many of these students have different beliefs and social norms which are unfamiliar to American culture. For example, interaction with women is completely distinct; men are not allowed to touch, observe women without a scarf and have intimacy before marriage.
Bewar emphasized that it is important to not assume that all Middle Eastern students are Muslim and to keep in mind that they go through many struggles and may have been forced to leave their countries.
Each refugee has a unique situation, and Bewar stressed the importance of understanding these differences and demonstrating kindness and compassion toward refugee and immigrant students.
“There are many things to support [the refugee community] academically, financially and in many different ways,” he says. “I think [SLCC] will be tolerant and [prioritize] support to that particular group.”
In addition to the support services on campus for refugee and immigrant students, SLCC recently reopened the Refugee Club. English professor Jason Roberts serves as club advisor and works with members to create awareness and better understand how to help this group of students.
SLCC student and Refugee Club member Faruk Askar says the club is ideal for his situation.
“I was part of Jason’s class when he mentioned that he had this idea of reopening the Refugee Club,” he says. “What he mentioned [that] struck me the most is in this school there is a community mostly for everyone but refugees. I feel like they should have a voice somewhere.”
The Refugee Club meets Wednesdays at 1 p.m. on second floor of the Student Center in the multicultural area.