Winter in Minnesota: Through One Refugee’s Eyes

“It felt like the light was coming! I knew I was moving and improving. When I moved here, I signed my name with an ‘X.’ Now I can actually spell and write my name!”

When Abdullahi first arrived in Minnesota, he didn’t know how to navigate many aspects of life in his new home, not even how to use a stove. One thing, however, surprised him more than anything else – winter.

Before he arrived, people warned him about the Minnesota cold. But experiencing it was something Abdullahi could never have imagined. Located very near the equator, Somalia experiences average temperatures above one hundred degrees for nearly half the year. The contrast with Minnesota, he says, is simply indescribable.

It was winter when Abdullahi moved here three years ago with his wife and children. Abdullahi was sitting by the window one day, and it started to snow. This was the first time he had ever seen it! It seemed so strange to him that at first he thought his upstairs neighbor was throwing little pieces of paper out the window.

Since that first snowfall, Abdullahi has tried to adapt with each passing winter. But it’s not easy. Last year, he slipped on ice on his way to school, and he still feels pain from that accident. Despite the difficulties, however, he doesn’t complain. “Allah is the planner. This is my home now, no matter what.”

School, on the other hand, represents a much more welcome change. Abdullahi had never attended school before coming to the English Learning Center. As the eldest of six children in Somalia, his first priority was caring for his family’s livestock. There was no time for anything else.

Now, education is the priority for Abdullahi and his family. His wife also attends classes at the ELC, and while he knows his children will choose their own path he hopes they will first get as much education as possible.

For himself, Abdullahi takes pride in his achievements. He started in Beginning English and recently advanced to Level 1. When he learned about his progress, he said, “It felt like the light was coming! I knew I was moving and improving. When I moved here, I signed my name with an ‘X.’ Now I can actually spell and write my name!”

In addition to English, Abdullahi is studying math. Since he has learned to add, he can predict total prices of purchases when he goes to the store.

In the future, Abdullahi hopes to speak English fluently. He explains, “The direction of life is with the language. It is the key. If you know the language and you are able to communicate with people, they will help you when you need it.”

As a studious and eager student, Abdullahi will surely continue learning for many winters to come!

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Our Saviour's Housing

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Minneapolis, MN 55404

Phone | 612.872.4193
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English Learning Center

2315 Chicago Ave. So.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Phone | 612.874.9963
Fax | 612.871.0017