They hold a special place in my heart. They were my first friend, my translator and language teacher, my much-needed doorkeepers into the culture. They helped me find food, find a bathroom, or find the bus. They put up with my incessant and uninformed questions and celebrated my small steps towards greater self-sufficiency. Without my host cousin, Joanna, my colleague, Andreea, and my assistant, Rena, Costa Rica, Romania, and Taiwan would have remained foreign to this foreigner and the road to finding a new home would have been ever so much longer, bumpier, and lonelier.
What do you think is important to know when resettling to a new country?
When refugees are resettled to Sioux Falls through Lutheran Social Services Refugee and Immigration Center, they go through a thirty-six hour community orientation and pre-employment training. Orientation classes occur over a two-week period and Refugee and Immigration staff, translators, and relevant community partners welcome and educate refugee arrivals to life in their new home.
Class topics include issues surrounding time, such as office hours and regular business hours, punctuality, and making and keeping appointments. Communication topics like using a phone and the mail system and how to change your address are discussed. Refugees receive vital information about transportation and housing. Staff share about health, hygiene, and health insurance. Immigration attorneys discuss immigration and identification issues. Sioux Falls police discuss family safety and laws in the United States. Refugees learn about U.S. banks and paying bills and driver safety and licensing procedures for the United States. The American school system is explained along with information for how refugees can attain a GED and pursue higher education in the U.S. Pre-employment topics include information about the U.S. workforce and the steps towards gaining and keeping employment such as filling out applications, writing a resume, and successfully passing an interview.
Along with providing vital and timely information about life in the United States, the orientation classes also provide the necessary and safe space for recent arrivals to share their experiences and feelings as they go through cultural adjustment and the exciting and at times painful stages of culture shock. Many Refugee and Immigration staff stand as encouragers and examples of successful cultural adaptation and resettlement for newly arrived refugees.
I can remember the first time I bought a peach in the market all by myself and the time I made a successful bank transaction in a second-language, keeping my written translation in my pocket. I can remember so many ways in which the foreign gradually became familiar and I, as an outsider, eventually found my place in my city and around the dinner table. I could not have done it alone.