It wasn’t until he moved to London that Dualeh learned trees could lose their leaves. In his native Somalia, it’s always summer and children are rowdy and free to run around the fields.
In London, Dualeh was to be well behaved and adhere to a curfew, keeping him inside the small home he shared with his aunt and cousins more often than he would’ve liked.
Given he could barely speak English upon arrival, attending a local school proved to be a major challenge. Without enough vocabulary to express himself, Dualeh struggled with most classes and wasn’t able to ask for help from his teachers.
“But math? That was another story. Math was easy in comparison to what we used to do in Somalia. Even when you are little, the math you are taught is very advanced. For us, algebra is nothing. I would finish the practice super quickly and would have to wait for the rest of the class to be done. Then, people would ask me how I had done the equations, but I didn’t know how to explain. I’d tell them, ‘Give me your pen, and I’ll show you how to do it,’” said Dualeh.
In due time, Dualeh made his way to college and became interested in IT. Despite his fascination for technology, his life plan remained unaltered: to graduate from college as quickly as possible and land a job in retail. And that might’ve been the story if it wasn’t for one of his teachers, Ebow, who made him question his decisions.
Ebow recognized Dualeh’s potential and encouraged him to apply to 10 universities around the United Kingdom. With Ebow’s recommendation letter, Dualeh decided to give it a shot.
“I had never thought of myself attending university or anything of the sort, but we did it. I applied, and eight out of the ten universities said yes. I hadn’t even finished college. Here, in the UK, you usually need to have finished your A-levels. I couldn’t believe it. Not even my English was good enough yet,” Dualeh shared.
To this day, Ebow and Dualeh are best friends. They’ll meet up to have dinner once in a while and keep in touch by phone. For Dualeh, Ebow has been the most influential person in his life, and the same goes for many other students. Ebow had a habit of opening up his classroom after school so students could use the space to study and ask him questions. During his college years, Dualeh saw thousands of students come into his sessions, even some who were already in university and needed help with projects and dissertations.
Although Dualeh was excited to pursue a degree in IT, university wasn’t a walk in the park.
“I nearly dropped out within the first seven months because the classes were so tough. But I started staying at the library day and night, and when the tests came, I was first in my class,” remembers Dualeh.
Now, Dualeh works at Ria UK’s IT department and is married with two kids. Every couple of years, he’ll visit Somalia to see his parents, yet he can’t help but feel his children need to spend more time in their motherland.
“In my country, you don’t feel alone because everybody is like family. The children are playing outside, and if anything happens, anyone can come up to you and tell you to behave, even if you aren’t related. That’s how our community is. Everybody’s looking after you,” he shared.