Stories of Refugee and Immigrant Youth in California

Refugee Transitions and California Humanities (California, United States)

I have only one life but I do have many dreams. My name is Jyoti, and I am 23 years old. Before coming to the United States, I lived in Nepal in a refugee camp for 15 years. I was born in Bhutan, and then there was a political situation where Bhutan’s government didn’t want Nepali people, so a lot of families moved to Nepal. We were Nepali but from different country, so both governments didn’t want to accept us, so we lived in a refugee camp.

Moving to a new country is not always easy. When we first come here, we don’t know anything. We don’t know how to get a job. Most of us don’t speak the language. People say America is the land of opportunity. We come here for a better life. Sure we can get there, but getting there isn’t easy.

Refugee Transitions presents Pursuing Dreams: Stories of Refugee and Immigrant Youth in California.

Refugee Transitions got involved with my family and I when I was in the 11th grade. We have this past life from our country, and then we have to get to this new life. So Refugee Transitions is kind of like a bridge from between our past life and our new life. My mom didn’t get a chance to go to school. Refugee Transitions assigned a tutor to her. Mari used to come to our family and teach my mom English.

Life was hard. And then when this organization brought Mari to our family, it gave us hope. We got involved in each other’s life, it wasn’t just tutoring anymore. We kind of became a family. So it was like a fusion between two cultures and two families. Without Mari I wouldn’t be able to go to college. College was one of those ways you can have that American dream. She gave me hope that I can do that if I worked hard. She actually didn’t say much, it was that she listened. That I had that someone who is listening to my problems and who actually cares if I succeed or not in my life.

I’m studying business management at San Francisco State University. When I graduate next year, I’m going to be the first one from my family to finish college.

Refugee Transitions helped me a lot, and it has given me a lot in my life, so I wanted to give back to my community. So this year I got a really good opportunity to tutor Oakland International High School students, and then one of the girls one day came to me and asked if I could help her choreograph a dance, and I was super excited because I love dancing. And now we have a whole group of girls dancing together. All my dance members are refugees from Nepal like I was, so we share a similar experience. I feel like they can count on me as a mentor, or a tutor, or a friend, or a sister. That if they need anything I’m going to be there for them, and I do hope that they know they can do anything because people do care about them, and there will be help.

After finishing college, one of my biggest dreams is, I want to work where I can help people so that I can be useful in their life, and hopefully inspire them to be something they want to be.


Excerpt from #FrontièresWalls — Volume 1 Issue 1 of STORIES. Full text available in the print publication.

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