I came with a student visa in 1991.: Becoming Minnesotan

Abdisalam Adam, displaying Somali objects and books, 2004.
  • Name - Abdisalam Adam
  • Age at interview - 38
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 06.24.2004
  • Boys at Somali Independence Day, Minneapolis, June 27, 2004.

    Education, Somali, Travel to U.S.

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    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    Push & Pull Factors: Why did this person come to the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    When civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991, many Somalis fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries to escape the fighting. Somalis began arriving in Minnesota in the fall of 1991, and continued to arrive in large numbers over the next ten years. Today there are an estimated 40,000 Somalis living in Minnesota, the largest Somali population of any state in the U.S. During the worst years of the war, almost all elementary and high schools were shut down or destroyed. As families increasingly fled to safety in other parts of eastern Africa, they would send their children to schools elsewhere if they could afford it.

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Abdisalam Adam 3
    2:2 Minutes | 1.96Mb


    Narrator: Abidsalam Adam (AA)

    Interviewer: Sumaya Yusuf (SY)

    SY:  When did you leave Somalia and why?

    AA:  I left Somalia quite young, at about the age of eight, in 1974. The reason was to go to school. So I left Somalia at that time, and I went to Nigeria to go to school. I started elementary school there. I went to middle school and high school in Nigeria.

    SY:  Where in Nigeria?

    AA:  It's a town called Ibadan, and it's in the western part of Nigeria.

    SY:  When and why did you come to the U.S., and, eventually, to Minnesota?

    AA:  Yes, I came to the U.S. in 1991. After finishing high school in Nigeria, then I went to Saudi Arabia. I started learning Arabic. I went to a two-year Arabic language school, and then to college. So I majored in English as a second language. After graduation, I taught English for one year. Then I applied for a master’s degree in the United States, so I came with a student visa in 1991. Of course, the main reason was for education, to get a degree in education.

    SY:  Where in the U.S. did you first land?

    AA:  I started at Washington, D.C., Virginia area. I lived there for four years. At that time, I was working as a translator/writer. Then I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and I worked for a magazine as the managing editor. Then when the Somali refugees started coming to Minnesota, I felt a need that my services and experience would be needed more in Minnesota. I moved to this state in 1996.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  1. Participation in events, leading to knowledge, opinons, or skills.  2. The knowledge thus gathered.


    Noun:  A person forced to leave his or her own country and seek refuge in a foreign country out of fear of persecution or violence or because of poverty or natural disaster.


    Noun:  One who changes written text from one language to another.


    Noun:  A permit to enter and leave a country, normally issued by the authorities of the country to be visited.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 519