I came to pursue my own happiness and to elevate my education.: Becoming Minnesotan

Male silhouette.
  • Name - Mohamed Jama
  • Age at interview - 27
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 06.21.2004
  • Village, Somalia.  Photo courtesy Abdisalam Adam.

    Education, Language, Somali

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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

    During the worst years of the civil war in Somalia, almost all public elementary and high schools were shut down or destroyed. As families increasingly fled to safety in other parts eastern Africa, they would send their children to schools in other places if they could afford it.

    Somali is the official language of Somalia but other languages are also spoken.It is common for Somalis to speak Arabic, as it is the language of Islam. Swahili is sometimes spoken along the coast, since it is the official language of Kenya and Tanzania, two trading partners along the Indian Ocean, and many refugees in Kenya learn Swahili. Italian was commonly spoken in Somalia in the early part of the 20th century because Somalia was colonized by Italy.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Mohamed Jama 1
    1:3 Minutes | 1Mb


    Narrator: Mohamed M. Jama (MJ)

    Interviewers: Bibi Abdalla (BA) and Andy Wilhide (AW)

    BA:  Where were you born?

    MJ:  I was born in a place called Nairobi, but I grew up in Somalia.

    AW:  Where is it? Where were you born?

    MJ:  Nairobi city in Kenya but I grew up in Somalia.

    AW:  Where in Somalia did you grow up?

    MJ:  [sounds like Hommer-way], Mogadishu, in the city.

    BA:  Which one do you speak? Do you speak more Swahili or more Somali?

    MJ:  I have different mother tongues. Can I say bilingual or multilingual?

    BA:  Yes.

    MJ:  Yeah, multilingual.

    BA:  Why did you came to United States?

    MJ:  That’s interesting. Everybody that comes to this great land comes for different reasons. For me, I came to pursue my own happiness and to elevate my education, for higher education. That was the two main factors that I chose to be here, or my mother chose for me be here.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adjective: Having the ability to speak two languages.


    Verb:  To raise (something) to a higher position; to lift.  (elevates, elevating, elevated)


    Noun:  Things that contribute to a result.


    Adjective:  The ability to speak more than two languages.


    Verb:  To aim for or go after; to particpate in.  (pursues, pursuing, pursued)


    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: 548