Beginning College Two Years After Arriving in the United States

By Barbara Burfeind, LSSNCA Volunteer

Muhammad Abrahimi and I first met through Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) Mentorship Program in October 2020. He was applying to George Mason University and asked for a letter of recommendation. Since then, there have been many mentoring phone calls where we learn from and share with each other.

Abrahimi’s family of seven came to the U.S. in November 2019. He is attending George Mason University this fall 2021 semester.


1. How do you feel about being one of the Bold Journey Scholarship (a scholarship provided each year to inspiring youth and refugee candidates through LSSNCA) recipients?  

“I’m happy, it’s going to help with tuition for this semester and next. Studying in the U.S. is expensive, so it’s hard to afford going to school here,” said Abrahimi. He knows many others are unable to afford school and he’s looking forward to continuing his education.

Abrahimi said his parents have always been there to help him and give him advice. He added that he is the first child in his family to attend a four-year college.

“This is one of their dreams, to have one of their kids attend college here in the U.S.,” said Abrahimi.  He also has a brother and sister attending NVCC, along with a sister in high school. He said he knew he wanted to go into the medical field and he chose GMU because he had heard that medical schools prefer degrees from a four-year university.

He credits his family always sharing with and helping each other, from using computers, to fixing a window, buying a car, or just comparing ideas. He said he has learned so much since he arrived in the U.S. He is learning about cooking, music – playing the guitar, and so much more. He said the mentorship program and LSSNCA have provided great opportunities that helped him and his family. GMU will be one more learning experience for him.

2. What do you think about starting your first year at GMU?

He said he is both excited and nervous. Abrahimi said he hasn’t taken college classes before and this is his first time in this type of an academic environment. He was able to choose his classes for this semester, whereas in Afghanistan, the students are required to take specific subjects.  He sees this as a great opportunity.

3. What is your major?  

He will major in Neuroscience, with a minor in Pre-med, taking 15 credits that include Sociology, Intro to George Mason, Psychology, General Chemistry with a lab, and Statistics.

4. What has been your biggest challenge?

“I am faced with new challenges every day.  But the biggest have been the slang language people use.  And finding out information on how to apply for college. I didn’t know who to contact,” he said. “But I figured it out through YouTube and Google.” He applied one day before the deadline.

Another challenge, he said, is that there is less time here in the U.S. Sometimes he juggled his own tasks with helping his parents with appointments, driving lessons, or showing them how to use their phones and computer.

He found it hard to manage his time and do so many things in one day. He noted he is trying to do better before he starts college. He was glad he already knew how to drive, so that was one thing he didn’t have to worry about.

5. What have been the keys to your success so far? 

“I like to accept more challenges in my life. I don’t stop working,” Abrahimi said. “I keep working until I receive what I want. Also, I drive the process. I enjoy the process as well as having a goal.”

6. What are you looking forward to in the future?

Abrahimi said he looks forward to being busier than he is now. He likes that his future is clear, that the next four years he will be at George Mason, and in his junior year he will take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) to be eligible to attend medical school. Once he finishes at George Mason, he wants to become a doctor.

“I want to help more people,” Abrahimi said. “The most important thing for people is their health.  You help them to stay alive, this is the best way to help another person. With more knowledge about the human body, they can recover and get back to being healthy.”

He said he also wants to be more curious. In his job at Amazon (where he works until starting at GMU), he worked to learn and do the best he could. He noted the job also helped him earn money to buy a car.

7. What part has education played in your life so far?

Abrahimi said he believes our brain gets stronger by learning and education has a good impact on others. Abrahimi helped teach English to other school-age children when he lived in Afghanistan. He said that was his strength. Learning English was important, Abrahimi said, because without it, he would not be going to GMU. He added that the more you know, the more you can share and enjoy life.

“I’m always grateful, he said, “but I still don’t have enough knowledge, so it’s good I’ll be going to school.”

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