Ten years ago, 15-year-old Khadijo Abdulkadir arrived in New York City. But as she took her first steps off the airplane and into the United States, there was one thing she and her family forgot onboard: her sister.
Abdulkadir and her family were being resettled to Syracuse, New York from a Kenyan refugee camp without any problems. Now, her first minutes in America were spent searching for her sister in a place where she couldn’t even speak the language to ask for help.
“That was my first interaction with anybody that speak different language than I was,” Abdulkadir said. “We were so vulnerable enough to not even be able to say, ‘My sister is in the plane, can you get it for her?’”
First Days in America is a set of non-narrated audio and digital stories that highlight the experiences of immigrants in a changing America. This project was produced at Syracuse University in May 2019.
All stories were produced as part of Next Generation Radio, a week-long digital journalism training project designed to teach those interested in radio and journalism the skills and opportunity to report and produce their own multimedia story.
Those chosen for the project were paired with a professional journalist as their mentor, to create a non-narrated audio and digital story that highlights the experiences of immigrants in a changing America.
Abdulkadir eventually made it to Syracuse — sister in tow — where, 10 years later, she’s graduated from Syracuse University and runs a thriving interpretation business to help the city’s immigrant population learn to communicate in English.
“I did not thought in a million years that I was ever going to speak a language other than Somali,” Abdulkadir said.
Syracuse and its suburbs house a growing refugee population. Nearly 10,000 refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia settled in Onondaga County between 2007 and 2017, according to Syracuse.com.
Abdulkadir and her family are Somali refugees, but she has never been to Somalia. She was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and lived there until she moved to Syracuse as a 15-year-old.