I didn’t have money for my visa fees or my flight to the UK. I’ll never forget how people I don’t even know on here sent me money so I could continue my education. Then, term started and my uncle nearly died in a horrific and bloody work accident that my mom witnessed.
My family scrambled to pick up the pieces while I constantly worried. From an ocean and time zones away, I liaised with doctors, lawyers, therapists. I was living off the generosity of my college and friends. I picked up a job and balanced that with being a full-time student.
I was furious and I felt powerless. My education could not save me despite everyone telling me so. At that time, it did nothing for my family. I was reading about international refugee law while my uncle bled out on a factory floor next to my mom.
I was in a classroom in Europe discussing and debating refugee inclusion and integration, when I couldn’t make sense of these things for myself and my family after twenty years in America.
Two years later, the dust has settled. My parents have their house; my uncle suffers from phantom pain. Mom works at the same factory still being underpaid while I conduct research from conference rooms in Washington. Life has gone on.
I glance back to my mom sleeping with her head propped on the bus window. And I breathe a sigh of relief that somehow we keep on keeping on despite how much more the world owes refugees and asylum-seekers resettled and yet to be. I can’t hold back the tears.
I am a first-generation, low-income refugee proudly the product of a working-class mother. Today I will receive my M.Sc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies from the University of Oxford not in spite of, but because of that fact.