Evan and I were not able to visit our family over Thanksgiving break because we both went away for the holiday. During the previous visit, we had tried to explain that we wouldn’t be there. I hope they understood, because it is sad to wonder if they waited outside for us. Before we leave for Christmas, we should talk to the translator to make sure that our family knows that we won’t be able to see them every week. Still, Evan and I would like to come back at least twice over break so we don’t lose the connection we’ve gained with them.
Last Sunday, a few of us organized the clothing donations in the basement of Damen. We seem to be acquiring piles and piles of clothes, which is amazing, but it has been a bit of challenge to find times to organize. With finals coming up, classes are ending and it is hard to get people together to work on it. We have the Christmas party soon, so we will have a table set up for a clothing drive again. I know we’ll be ready by then, but we’re probably cutting it close. It’s still something that I enjoy doing, and to see so many people giving us their donations is really inspiring. It’s a joy to see all of the contributions people have made to LRO and the class through bake sales and the donation drives and the giving trees.
With the semester coming to a close, I have thought a lot about this class and how it has changed my perceptions and ideas about refugees and our Rogers Park neighborhood.
Before starting this class, my perceptions about refugees was based primarily on what I saw on TV or the few people I had met that were refugees and came to the U.S. from Slavic countries over a decade ago. To me at the time, life in the camps were hard but when they get to the U.S. they can start their new lives, no problem, end of story. Based on my previous knowledge this seemed to make perfect sense to me. This class has blown the door off of this perception. I never really thought about the struggles refugees go through between coming to the U.S. or some other country and that decade afterwards when they seem completely adjusted and prospering. Thinking about it now, it almost embarrasses me how naïve I was at that time to think that moving to the U.S. could be easy when there are so many complicated things about our culture that I have learned to accept without fully understanding. I see now that probably one of the hardest parts of a refugee’s life is adapting to their new country since many times it is completely different from anything they have experienced. I can definitely see how the U.S. could sometimes seem even scarier than a refugee camp since there is almost always no common language and sometimes, as we saw in the movie about the young men from Darfur, there may not even be a strong social network like a family to rely on. Refugees come to the U.S. with very different backgrounds and experiences, so adapting to the U.S. is a different process for each person, but I can imagine adapting to a new country still is never easy or without struggle.
Another perception that this class has blown out of the water for me was the makeup of our neighborhood, Rogers Park. I was well aware that our neighborhood had many different peoples with many different backgrounds, however I never really thought about it in depth. In my mind, these people had come to the U.S. like many other immigrants in our nation’s past, simply looking for a better life. I never really thought further into their backgrounds. Now however, especially since I am now living off campus, I have been really looking and wondering about the many different people I see in Rogers Park. I don’t think that they are all necessarily refugees because I am sure many are not, however I definitely think harder about what that person’s story might be. I would have never guessed that such a wonderful and nice refugee family simply lived right down the street from me who could possibly use my help or friendship.