Audio Recording of Interview
Yusuf describes his experience fleeing from Somalia to Ethiopia due to civil war and resettling to the US after spending a year in Uganda. In this interview, he addresses challenges associated with his family’s migration like learning new languages and adjusting to new cultures and highlights the ever-changing role of religion in his life, growing up Muslim but living with a Christian wife.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Yusuf Mohamed
Location: virtual // Aurora, CO (narrator) and Castle Pines, CO (interviewer)
Summary: Yusuf describes his experience fleeing from Somalia to Ethiopia due to civil war and resettling to the US after spending a year in Uganda. In this interview, he addresses challenges associated with his family’s migration like learning new languages and adjusting to new cultures and highlights the ever-changing role of religion in his life, growing up Muslim but living with a Christian wife.
Topics: Childhood, Cultural adjustment, Discrimination, Hardship, Immigration process, Language, Parenthood, Post-war/conflic journey, Religious practice
Section 1: (00:01:49)
Childhood - Yusuf was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, the country’s capital. He lived there with his mother, father, and younger brother until age six. One of his few early-childhood memories that sticks out is enjoying gelato at the beach.
Section 2: (00:11:58)
Post-war journey - Around 1993, Yusuf and his family moved from Somalia to Ethiopia due to dire circumstances brought on by a civil war. The move required adjusting to a new culture, language, and overall life. Yusuf’s family eventually left Ethiopia for Uganda where they lived for nearly a year. Then, in April of 1998, Yusuf moved to the US.
Cultural adjustment (00:04:34; 00:08:18) - When Yusuf moved to Ethiopia, he had to adjust to eating different foods, and his family’s lower social status in a new country. However, Somali representation in Ethiopia generated somewhat of a sense of community. On the contrary, Yusuf and his family remained more isolated in Uganda. When he moved to the US, Yusuf’s expectations for American culture and social norms weren’t exactly met. The excitement surrounding American football and basketball were new to him.
Language (00:05:40; 00:11:58) - Yusuf identified the different languages as the greatest contrast between Somalia and Ethiopia. He grew up speaking Somali as his first language while learning English and Arabic, but Amharic was the primary language in Ethiopia. Yusuf and his family members received Amharic tutoring from a neighbor’s son. He explains how he spoke three languages and was a strong Amharic speaker while living in Ethiopia. Yusuf didn’t end up learning Swahili in Uganda due to the relatively brief duration of his family’s stay.
Immigration process (00:09:04) - Yusuf’s mother applied to immigrate to Colorado through a distant Uncle who served as a US tie. After the application was submitted, the process - requiring interviews, bloodwork, and paperwork - took about 18 months.
Future (00:10:29) - Yusuf experienced anxiety about coming to the US and was afraid of another life adjustment.
Section 3: (00:18:26)
Religious practice (00:15:11) - Yusuf explains how he grew up Muslim, so his family emphasized praying, learning the Quran and its teachings, and learning about the morals and the history around the religion. As he got older, Yusuf was expected to fast in addition to attending a Muslim school, believing in a higher power, and praying regularly. Yusuf would pray to God for guidance and feels that the principles of his faith positively impacted his personal development.
Revival of faith (00:16:42) - The anxiety Yusuf experienced about his impending move to the United States inspired him to become more devout and lean on God more for guidance at age 10. Yusuf remained dedicated to his practice once he arrived in the US to cope with the loneliness, praying during class at times. Eventually, his religious practice became less frequent.
Section 4: (00:23:15)
Cultural adjustment - Yusuf’s transition to living in Colorado and a new set of American norms was difficult, but the tight Somali community that he and his family were initially very involved in provided a strong support system.
Language (20:51) - Not understanding the English language and popular lingo in middle and high school presented a significant barrier that was overcome as Yusuf’s English language comprehension improved.
Community (23:15) - There is a tight-knit Somali community in Colorado that Yusuf’s mother is highly involved in that provides support for fellow Somali refugees by helping with house set-up and cultural adjustment upon arrival. While Yusuf is still happy to help, he is less involved in the Somali community in Colorado now than he was as a child.
Section 5: (00:27:01)
Family - Yusuf is close to his immediate family which includes his wife, son, brother, mother, and cousins. Yusuf’s wife is Christian; whereas, he is Muslim, and the value he places on faith (not necessarily a particular religion) impacts how he is raising his child. To Yusuf, home is a comfortable space with loved ones whom he loves and is loved back by.
Faith, Parenthood (00:25:27) - Yusuf discusses how his religion acts as his moral compass, and he wants his son to have the freedom to establish his own connection with a higher power.
Section 6: (00:29:32)
Identity, Discrimination- Yusuf used to feel comfortable opening up about being from Somalia and coming over as a refugee, but about five years ago, he became less comfortable doing so. He recounts recently being asked where he was from by a neighbor’s boyfriend and replying that he grew up in Colorado. From Yusuf’s perspective, explaining his background is a risk often not worth taking.
Section 7: (00:31:15)
Employment, Daily Life - Yusuf now works from 9 to 5 as a Financial Advisor. Outside of work, he spends time with his son, taking to the park and playing with him inside and outside.
Pandemic - During the pandemic, his son has been home with him twice a week.
Section 8: (00:47:02)
Hardship (00:33:09) - One of Yusuf’s memories that stands out is a deep feeling of despair and hopelessness when he was forced to leave Somalia for Ethiopia at age six. He describes feeling as if death was at his door, a terrible feeling that continues to motivate him to this day. His family members were struggling to cope with difficult emotions as well, so Yusuf describes how people tend to suffer in silence.
Childhood (00:43:22) - Having to go to school in an unfamiliar language with some difficult, rude children and without sufficient support from teachers was a challenge for young Yusuf. Yusuf also recalls struggling to get hired for summer jobs and wearing cool clothes in effort to make friends in high school.
Parenthood (00:44:52)- Yusuf plans to share about 90% of his life story with his son because the remaining 10% may be a bit too dark to share.
Revival of faith (0:47:02) - At the end of the interview, Yusuf mentions his faith journey again. He emphasizes how the cruelty of man and a desire to fit in contributed to him becoming less devout, but he wants to strengthen his connection with God again.