It is no secret that the Fargo-Moorhead area is a booming town for immigration. People are, however, quick to class most migrants in the area as refugees or labor migrants. We sometimes forget about the educational migrants, the affirmed international students, who come from all over the world to study in one of the three universities (North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College) in the area. In this blog post, we will profile one of these unsung migrants: Fartun Jamal.
Fartun Jamal, a senior at Concordia College, is no stranger when it comes to educational migration. She has experienced studying in Somalia, Kenya, Malaysia and now the United States.
Jamal faced a language barrier when she first moved to Kenya. Her elementary education in Somalia was easy. Even though teachers generally taught in English, it was common for them to explain complex ideas in Somali. In Kenya, on the other hand, the language of instruction was strictly English.
“In Kenya, it was very difficult at first because the teachers taught only in English and I had limited English at the time,” she said.
To rectify this problem, Jamal was taken to a Language Center to learn English for a year before she enrolled in a Kenyan school. Thankfully, the school that she enrolled in had a lot of non-English speaking international students. The school offered English as a Second Language as an option for these students which Jamal did not hesitate to take. Jamal’s school in Kenya was based on the British educational system. At the end of her secondary education, she was required to take the International General Certificate of Secondary Education examination (IGCSE). For a Somali girl who had to face hardship with a language unfamiliar to her, Jamal passed her IGCSEs and even got an A in English Language.
Because of her excellent grades, Jamal was given the option of furthering her education in any country she preferred. The choice was not hard; she wanted to go to Malaysia.
“When I was in high school many of my friends went to Malaysia,” she said of her decision to study in Malaysia.
She spent a year in Malaysia taking a pre-university foundation course. If in Kenya her problem was the language, in Malaysia, it was the challenging Australian System that the foundation course was built on.
“It was hard. I loved chemistry but I used to get Ds in it,” she said. “The course was intense with a lot of analysis.”
True to her character, Jamal did not let this faze her and was able to complete the course successfully. Now it was time to think about university and funny enough a university in the United States was far from being an option.
“The U.S was not on my mind in the beginning,” she said. “I wanted to go to Spain.”
Even though Spain was her preferred choice, Jamal applied to many universities worldwide. Concordia College and the University of Manitoba in Canada were the first to contact her. In the end, she chose Concordia College.
“It seemed liked they really wanted me here,” she said of her decision. “Also, Concordia gave me a good scholarship based on my academics.”
Initially, Jamal encountered problems with the issue of plagiarism in university. She was unfamiliar with the idea of giving credit to a source even when she paraphrased the original text. She also had a problem with spelling. She was used to the English way of spelling rather than the American way (e.g. labour vs. labor). Apart from those minor mishaps, studying in the United States has been a pleasure for Jamal.
Although, studying here has been good, Jamal has a few complaints about how attendance is viewed in college.
“In Malaysia, they treated you as an adult and attendance was not required,” she said. “Here in Concordia, attendance is important and they treat me like the way they treated me in high school.”
Jamal believes that in college, it is up to students to decide to show up to class or not. In the long run, she believes that they, the students, will be affected in the long run and they need to figure that out on their own.
Her view on class attendance does not mean that she skips classes. As a global studies major and a political science minor, Jamal is working very hard to achieve her dream of becoming a global humanitarian.
“I would love to do something with advocacy and social justice especially of women and refugees.”
To achieve this, she has not only interned with Lutheran Social Services but has also worked with the Dorothy Day Food Pantry. She has met many other immigrants and refugees from working at these two places and has a good idea as to why the Fargo-Moorhead area is attracting groups of immigrants and refugees.
“The Fargo-Moorhead area is cheap and there is a possibility of getting jobs,” she said. “The life over here is easier than where they were living.”
For Jamal, the part of the Fargo-Moorhead area that is most attractive is the social life.
“I like the nightlife,” she said. “It reminds me of back home but on the other hand there is a time and age limit. Some stores close early and you cannot drink until you are 21 which is different from where I am from.”
What does Jamal dislike about the Fargo-Moorhead area?
She quickly frowned when asked this question. “Is that even a question?” she asked in reply.
It was obvious what she disliked: the blistering cold winters.
“The winters here make you lazy,” she said. “I used to be involved in a lot of sports like soccer but now I have pot belly.”