Refugee students from Congo adapt to life in Baltimore

Opening ceremony of new PNC headquarters in Goma

Congolese families fleeing their villages due to fighting between the government and rebels groups (Photo: MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti)

By Asende Baele

At Patterson, there are refugee students from all over the world. Many of these students are from Congo, a country in central Africa.

The refugee students from Congo are coming to the United States because of they want a better life. In the Congo, they had a bad life: there was not enough food, they drank dirty water, and they did not have a good education. Their parents were farmers and they worked very hard to help them to pay for education, to buy food, and to pay for other basic necessities. If they were not plowing their fields all year they would not be able to buy anything. Wars have also been taking place in Congo and it is not safe to stay there. These are some of the reasons why young people from Congo are coming to United States.

One of the Congolese students, Luc Mtembezi, explains why he came to America. “I come here because in my country, my life–it was not a good one. I think it is important to me to be here. I needed education.”

Some people wonder why are all these refugees from different places  are coming to the United States. This is one of the reasons. But it is not easy to come to a new country and start over.

Nia Ramadhani, one of the refugees, explains the challenges she faced adapting to her new life as a student at Patterson: “My first day to come to school, I was so scared because it was my first day and I did not speak English. That was my problem, because some people come to ask me where I am from I was telling them, I don’t know. So right now I’m so excited that I speak English now.”

When refugees come here on the first day to go to school, it is hard for them to adapt or to understand. One of they English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, Ms Avellaneda, works with these students after school with the Refugee Youth Project to help them make this difficult adjustment.

“I really enjoy working with my students from Congo.”, Ms. Avellaneda explained. “Despite the fact that they have experienced difficult situations and hardship as  refugees, including learning how to adapt to US culture and life, they are very motivated and work very hard to learn English. They inspire me to work hard and always do my best. They also have a great sense of humor!”

All the refugees from the Congo work really hard to improve their language and they focus in class because they need to see a better future than the one they would have had if they had stayed in their home country.

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