THE AMERICAN DREAM ENTICES MANY TO TAKE A RISK AND MAKE THE TREK TO THE UNITED STATES. WITH THE ILLUSION OF PROSPERITY AND SUCCESS, THE ALLURE IS APPEALING. ACCORDING TO THE PEW RESEARCH CENTER, MORE THAN 40 MILLION PEOPLE1 WHO LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES ARE IMMIGRANTS. THIS ACCOUNTS FOR 13.4 PERCENT OF THE U.S. POPULATION. IMMIGRATING TO THE UNITED STATES IS NO EASY TASK, AND EACH PERSON’S JOURNEY TO THE UNITED STATES IS UNIQUE.
HOPES AND CHALLENGES
In 2013, Nada Bastami emigrated from Sudan after her husband was selected for the lottery. The “lottery” is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. It releases up to 50,000 immigrant visas each year with a random selection process allowing entry to immigrants from various countries.2 Bastami, a mother of twins, had a dream to come to America because of better education opportunities for her children, gender equality, enhanced quality of living and the reputation for being the most immigrant-friendly society in the world. Once she arrived, she learned that while the United States had its perks, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Adapting to a new country while trying to maintain one’s cultural identity can be challenging. One of the barriers is learning a different language. Bastami says she is grateful for places like Rochester Adult and Family Literacy (RFL) at the Hawthorne Education Center. She says RFL is a “second home” to her because she was given an excellent foundation that better equipped her to obtain a job and engage in her new community.
Another obstacle is cost of living, especially the cost of child care. She says new immigrants would benefit from “increasing opportunities for immigrant parents (mothers) by having accessible child care especially in the education centers where parents and their kids can go together.” Immigrants benefit from learning about government resources and the rules of their new country. It is also helpful for them to get help meeting people from their home countries so that they can maintain a sense
of identity while adapting to a new culture
Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (IMAA) is another great resource for resettled refugees and immigrants. It provides services in 50 different languages to help with issues such as employment, language and health. Navigating permanent residency can be daunting all on its own. IMAA provides guidance and access to low-income legal aid if necessary.
LIVING THE DREAM
Given the challenges, Bastami says it is worth it to come to America. She says, “Rochester is a great place to live in the United States. Minnesota is safe, quiet, has fun activities for every season and is home to friendly people. There’s something for everyone to appreciate.” Bastami adds, “Americans have been very accepting and polite…everyone is looking for equality – equal opportunities in education, health care and work. All people are equal here regardless of belief, background or color.”
Bastami and her family have been grateful to have the opportunities here in America, and she does not take it for granted. She says, “We receive, but we should give something back to this great country. This is what we should raise our children to do as well.”
THE WORLD IN OUR BACKYARD
If you’d like to learn more about other cultures, the Rochester International Association (RIA) hosts an annual World Festival in the spring. Many different cultures participate in the event and share their traditions, which may include performances through dance, poetry and song. Food from around the world also helps share customs. This year’s World Festival was held April 28 at Mayo High School. Learn more by visiting ria-minnesota.org/worldfestival.
There are ways you can help welcome someone who is brand new to the area from another country. You can help them find resources such as RFL, IMAA and RIA. Honor their customs and traditions by asking about them. Invite them to dinner to share your customs. They’ll probably return the favor, creating a beautiful new worldly friendship.
Danielle Teal is a freelance writer.