I recently listened to this podcast talking about being an immigrant/first generation in America and I wanted to share some of my thoughts, being an immigrant kid myself. When my family came to America, I was really young. Being a child, I was able to assimilate to America fairly quickly, and now as an adult I often get the annoying, “you really don’t have an accent” comments from white folks. Growing up, my mom didn’t know much English so I often played the role of her right-hand man & her interpreter. I know a lot of of us kids from the diaspora can relate to being a child and having to interpret for your parent, literally serving as a bridge between your parent and the rest of the world. As an adult I often reflect on how my mom managed to move to a new country and raise my siblings and I. But as a mom myself now, I understand the drive that she had that really pushed her to ensure that we were able to have access to the tools we would need for a great future. If you think about all that your parents endured to get you to a western country, it’s honestly insane. They did not know what they were bringing themselves and their children into. If any of us had to uproot our lives and move to a different country today I’m not sure how we would react. As I think about this, I’m in awe that our parents were capable of such an act. Not only did they sacrifice to get us here but they also scarified to ensure that we had the building blocks to thrive, to ensure that we were caught up with our non-immigrant peers, and to ensure that we still were connected to our culture and religion.
Since a lot of our parents made this huge sacrifice of bringing their families to a new land and striving to better our lives, it makes sense that they really push this need for formal education. Most of us understand the pressure to succeed in school, as that was greatly valued in our homes and communities. Even from a young age, we understood that doing well in school was the best way we could try to repay our parents for all of their efforts. I was the first person in my family to attend and graduate college. I remember studying for difficult courses and the thing that motivated me more than anything was thinking about all of the scarifies that were made in order for me to have the opportunity to attend college. A lot of my friends are also first generation immigrants and can relate to the struggle of finding their own way through college. Because our parents did not grow up in this country with these systems, we did not have assistance in navigating through the obstacle course that is higher education, but we somehow found our way and are now able to guide the younger generations that come after us.
Being a first generation kid is an interesting experience. You’re often feeling caught between two worlds and attempting to find some sort of balance. For me, being a first generation Somali woman has taught me to be resilient, independent, and appreciative. Although at times it may be difficult, I wouldn’t change my experience. If you relate to this, let me know what being a first gen kid has taught you.