Reflections of an Asylum Seeker Turned Graduate

By Benicya, Guest Contributor

Reflections of an Asylum Seeker Turned Graduate

Benicya (L) celebrates with family and friends after graduating on June 26, 2018.

Benicya, a 20-year-old asylum seeker originally from the Central African Republic, arrived in the United States with her mother and siblings in 2016. Though her education was interrupted several times as she sought safety, Benicya received her diploma from the Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School on Tuesday, June 26. Below, read as she describes her journey in her own words.

I was in fourth grade and the others in ninth grades due to the movement that my family and I were making from country to country. At the time I realized that I was behind, so I pushed myself with the advice of my family that calmed me down to take a new step. I was conscious of my future. In seeing my friends going forward in their study, it pushed me to ask myself some questions. How will I be myself in the society in the future?

When I started the Turkish school in my country I was doing my best there. I was at the second place behind a Russian girl, Alexandra, who was at the first place. We became best friends. We always worked together, and did everything together. She was stronger in social studies than me, I was stronger in science and math. We were always working together. I knew her strategy in working with her, she was pushing me hard. When the war showed itself, she left the country to Russia and I to Burkina Faso. There, they put me back again at my level. I was so discouraged that all my friends with who we started together, and I still stayed in high school. However, people convinced me that in Burkina Faso training or education in school was one the best training in Africa.

When my family and I arrived in the U.S at 2016, a few days later, we found school for my brothers and sister, but mine was kind of impossible because of my age and my English as a second language. I just said in my prayer may God help me to find a school that I can pursue my studies in high school and then go to college like my friend Alexandra. I felt so unlucky to always return to this for my studies. Some ladies who were working in IRC found MCNDHS for me.

I was so thankful to God who opened the door of heaven that I finally got in a school.

Unfortunately, the same thing happened again. When my Mom and I came to talk with my advisor, Mrs. Zabarina, she told us that because of the English and the American system I will retake the classes because here it is different. This is so I can learn the basics things then go to college. My reaction to that was terrible. I decided to go back to my country to go to college there.

When Mom and I left the school for the train to go back home, I cried all the way up in the train, with my head bowing down on my backpack, resting on my legs. Many droplets of tears were coming, I could not believe that. I was asking myself the same questions: why am I always going forward and backward. In some points I would like to quit school. For me, I was supposed to move as Alexandra. I said that my life had no sense. My Mom was the one who convinced me and calm me down. She said that between my friends in Africa, no one ever put his or her foot in the U.S. and that I was the one. This is kind of a blessing.

Many people tried to come in this country, even rich people, but they did not have this opportunity. She underlined that was God’s will. And everything that happened to our lives has one purpose, but who knows.

Later when I started the school in summer, I was among the best of the class. In my English class I was always doing my work well. I was working so hard as I never did. Fortunately, I found some friends who were already in college and came to restart with me. I noticed that I was not alone. Instead of taking myself badly and stressing myself, I might focus on the present and learn from the past. To succeed we have to be humble enough to be inferior, and take things sportively.

My little brother told me one day that I always worked hard at school in Africa and here, but my way was not easy. Effectively, he was right. A person told me that my education here in this country is one of the best things I will have if one day I’ll go back in Africa or anywhere. I have the opportunity to be here to study. All of those things I took into consideration. No matter what I have been through, success is for those who stay persistent.

As you can see, I learned a lot from the challenges that happened to me. The moment that I was waiting for a while. I’m so thankful to this lesson and to those who supported me. I’m so happy to be graduated this June 26th. This moment that I was waiting for a while is coming soon. I’m so excited about it. Once I start college, I’ll give the best that I can.  

In every person’s life there will be a turning point. Sometimes we did not want to be disappointed in some situations, but fate did otherwise. Every circumstance in life that we are going through presents itself for a very precise purpose that we do not expect but it happens suddenly; so we must face it and feel worthy and without regrets.  

To learn more about refugees and the communities that welcome them, follow HIAS on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Search HIAS