My life has always been a rollercoaster of challenges and hardship, but the unusual obstacles I faced have made me a stronger and more resourceful person. When I was growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya, life was rarely beautiful or full of smiles. Every single day, I woke up without a pantry full of food–in fact, not having any food was my usual routine. On days when my parents made too little money from their jobs as maids, I would have to rely on myself to get food that day. I would walk to the local restaurants and start begging for food. I met some kind-hearted chefs and customers who would give me food, but other days I would spend the night starving and holding onto hope for the next day. That was the real key to surviving my childhood: persistence and hope. School was too expensive for my family, so I sent most of my days walking around my neighborhood with my friends. Since I missed this opportunity in my younger years, I now know that I must push myself to work hard for my education, especially since I have received a much better chance to achieve my educational goals.
When I was about ten years old, my family was given the opportunity to have a new life by moving to the United States. After immigrating here, I thought my life was going to be like a dream come true. I felt that the misery I faced in the refugee camp had been lifted away from me and I would never have to suffer again. That was not the case. My high school years should have been some of the best years of life in the United States. While the move may have lifted the burden of poverty, I found a new one in my classmates. I would go to school every day with people who mocked me because I was Muslim and spoke with an accent. Their favorite insults included “terrorist” and “African warrior,” and these were often followed by a command to go back to my country. Even though this became an eight-hour-a-day onslaught, I knew that I had to keep going to school and focusing on my education. I learned to ignore students who would try to engage in physical fights; I wanted to make my parents proud and become the first person to go to school and graduate in my family.
After graduating high school, I began attending college because I wanted to pursue a career in civil engineering. While attending college, I still worked about eight hours a day on the side to help my father raise a family of eleven people. Attending college also allowed me to be a role model for my nine younger siblings. I knew that they needed someone to look up to and could be proud to follow in their footsteps. Of course, being both a full-time employee and student made my first year and half of college incredibly challenging. As much as I tried to focus on doing well, my grades began to slip. Then, during spring break in 2017, my mother and I went to my home country Somalia to go visit family members. While I was there, I noticed that the civil war there had destroyed so much: houses, hospitals, and other buildings had been demolished by bombs. The sight of my home country so ruined filled my heart with sorrow. Since my visit to Somalia, I have a specific goal to work for: the rebuilding efforts that are sorely needed there. I re-dedicated myself to doing the best I can in school, and I have improved my grades in school. That visit showed me that becoming a civil engineer would mean that I must help my country and its people flourish.
I want to obtain my civil engineering degree from UW for several reasons. While UW’s location will allow me to continue supporting my family, I am especially excited to attend one of the greatest colleges in Washington. The civil engineering program at the school fits well with my style of learning because it gives me the opportunity to do hands-on projects. UW provides projects that would give me experience in the types of jobs I am interested in. I am also looking forward to the opportunity to work with people in groups. Research projects such as the “accelerated bridge construction” that students have completed have caught my attention and made me eager to apply to UW.
My experiences have helped me persevere throughout my life, and all the ups and downs that have come with it have shaped me into the person I am today. Spending my childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp and dealing with bullies throughout my high school years has made me a strong person and inspires me to become a better person every day. Achieving my long-held dream of becoming a civil engineer will allow me to rebuild so much: my own life, my home country, and–most importantly–the lives of the people who live there.