Audio Recording of Interview
Hawa, who moved from Kenya to the United States in 2004, discusses her struggles over assimilation and identity in American high school and with her family’s traditional ideas regarding gender roles. Hawa dreams of becoming a dentist, and says her faith and connection to her Kenyan community have informed how she makes choices in college and in American life.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Hawa Juma
Summary: Hawa, who moved from Kenya to the United States in 2004, discusses her struggles over assimilation and identity in American high school and with her family’s traditional ideas regarding gender roles. Hawa dreams of becoming a dentist, and says her faith and connection to her Kenyan community have informed how she makes choices in college and in American life.
Topics: Identity, Cultural Adjustment, Gender, Education, Generational Differences, Career, Family, Community
Section One (0:00-10:04)
Identity/Cultural Adjustment - Upon coming from Kenya to the US in 2004, Hawa enrolled in school, where she took off the hijab and wore clothes like her classmates to fit in. More people who looked like her began to arrive when she started middle school, so she decided to wear the hijab and her ethnic clothing again.
Gender - Hawa says that her culture is strict when it comes to women, and there are double standards. Women are discouraged from leaving home and their education is stressed more than that of men. The community vocalizes their opinion on women more as well.
Education - Hawa wanted to go to a college away from home but it upset her mother so she decided to enroll in a nearby community college. However, the dental hygiene program was not available at the community college, so she told her mother that she would leave whether or not her mother allowed it. There were no such restrictions imposed on her brother.
Generational Differences - She says that her leaving home for college opened doors for her female relatives, by making their parents more open to them leaving.
Section Two (10:04-24:30)
Education - Hawa felt more pressure to do well in school so as not to make her parents regret allowing her to leave home.
Generational Differences - Hawa believes part of what her parents feared in allowing her to leave home is that without supervision, she would change and lose her culture, that she would party, drink, and dress immodestly, which a Muslim girl is expected not to do.
Religion - For every decision she made at college, Hawa asked herself what her religion says about it, and she feels that that held her together.
Culture - Hawa likes how family-oriented and community-oriented her people are.
Education - Hawa wants to study dental hygiene because there is not much knowledge of it back in Kenya. She was not accepted into the dental hygiene program but has started taking dental assisting courses.
Career - Her sister’s doctor has helped her get a job as a dental assistant. Watching residents there inspires her. She wants to open up a clinic in Kenya.
Family - It was especially hard for Hawa to leave behind her aunt. Many of her relatives are in Tanzania and it is difficult to talk due to the time difference, but many of her cousins have also come to the US with their families. She hopes that her grandfather can soon join them and that his transition is smooth.
Community - The Somali Bantu community in Utica has different events including World Refugee day, fundraisers, and coming together at the mosque to cook and enjoy one another’s company.
Immigration Process - Hawa wants people to know that refugees have skills to offer and customs to share with their new country.