Bruin Voices #9 – Kamal Bewar

By | November 9, 2019

>>Hello. My name
is Kamal Bewar. I work here at the Salt
Lake Community College as a financial aid advisor. Today’s topic is going
to be understanding and supporting unique struggle of the immigrant
students at SLCC. So, the first topic is —
I want to let you know, immigrants versus refugees along
with the international students. They’re two different things. A lot of misconception is around
here and I see that pretty much, you know, throughout
the college. International students
are totally different than when it comes to
immigrants and refugees. Immigrants and refugees are
a part of the community. Basically, they’re
part of this community and they intend to stay here. But international
students are not. International students
are visiting and they have only
one purpose here — to finish their degree
and move on and go back to their own countries
in most cases. So, the challenges community
college faces economically. That’s number one I
want to talk about. Academic guidance is
critical when it comes to immigrants and refugees. The reason is these
immigrants and refugees, they come from different
backgrounds and they have experience
different higher educational system. So for instance, where
I’m coming from, Iraq, our educational system
is totally different. The reason is because
education, it’s a right, but it’s a privilege
at the same time. Therefore, if you do not have
a good grade, the top tier of the education, for instance,
medical or engineering, it will not be part
of your destiny if you don’t have a good grades. So that’s number one. When students coming to
United States and coming to our college, it’s critical to
tell them how we can guide them, how we can support them in the
way to process and in the way to pursue their educational
goal. Throughout my educational
pursuance [phonetic], I seen so many different
challenges faced by my friends, colleagues and other immigrants. However, that’s why
it’s critical to as an adviser whether
you are an academic advisor, to guide them to
the right direction. So give them a choice. Most of the time, they don’t
have a choice where to pursue for educational goal, so —
And the other thing I see most of the time when we talk
about financial aid awareness. Financial aid awareness,
it’s really critical. You might know or might not
know educational system in most of the Middle Eastern
countries are free. You don’t pay for education. Education is provided by the
government in most cases, and again, it’s a right. However, it’s a privilege and
you have to have good grades in order to aim for
top tiers again. So, when we have students coming
as a refugee or immigrant. We asking them to apply for
financial aid for instance. This is something new —
this is something new we have to must [phonetic] and
we have to understand. This is something — It’s
cumbersome and challenging. When I have students coming
to me, they said, “What I need to do in order to get a
financial aid support?” Well, that’s why it’s critical
when it comes to FAFSA, when it comes to all the
requirements by the government. When we want a tax return, we want so many different
paperwork, and that’s something we have to
remind them even though when — where you come from,
it’s the education and higher
education/postsecondary education was provided freely
and you didn’t have to go through that, but
here it’s different. So I think the other thing
is I want to mention — One of the students came to me
probably about six months ago. He came to me, he said,
“About two months ago, I applied for financial
aid, FAFSA through CCS.” CCS is Catholic Community
Services. And he said, “I registered. When I registered and they
told me, you’re good to go, everything is paid for.” So when I look at the screen,
I had so many questions. Okay, so tell me how could you
support that type of student if you don’t have a
financial aid background? So that’s why it’s
critical to tell them. I told him, “Here’s
what needs to be done. There are tons of other
paperwork needs to be done in order to get you
financial aid.” So that’s number one. It’s critical to them what we
need to do and what we have to do and what the
student has to do in the process of financial aid. The other thing is I want to
talk about most importantly — it’s cultural awareness. A lot of people thinks Middle
Easterners are homogenous. But Middle Easterners are — It’s a very, very different
background culturally and religious-wise as well. We have Christians. We have Muslims. We have Yazidis. We have Jews. We have Armenians. We have so many different type of religions exist
in the Middle East. And we have a — as far as the
nationality goes, we have — The majority are Arabs. We have Persians. We have Kurds. We have Turks. We have different
type of nationalities. And when you interact with
the students, it’s critical to understand how we can
interact with that population. One day, I had — I had
a family coming to me and helping them
with financial aid. Father was coming with
two daughters and his son. Throughout the whole process,
it probably took me two months to fulfill the whole
requirement for that family. The whole time — the
whole time, I was trying to help these — his siblings
and his daughters and his son. But he was reemphasizing
on he was in charge. But I pointing out one thing — pointing out one thing as
a — His name was Assam. Assam, we need to let your
daughter or your son be in charge of his own
destiny, and let them to deal with that kind of
paperwork or do this, choose their own
educational goal. So, I mean, this is something
— It’s not unusual you will see when you interact with that
particular group of population. So — And the other thing
is when it comes to women, and most of the time, we see
if a woman wearing Hijab — if a woman wearing a Hijab it’s
critical to understand you have to be very careful
how to interact with that family
or with that woman. Personally, I would
never shake the hands of that woman unless she
extends her hands, shakes — shaking her hand and welcome it. So that’s one thing. And going back to that family,
this too, especially her two — his two daughters, they were —
Throughout the whole process, I was trying to make
them involved in the process and talk to me. And that was interrupting
and I was going back and forth, back and forth. So this is critical
when we interact with that particular group and know your approximity
[phonetic], you know, you’re sensitive
about that culture. And the other thing is I have
seen people mentioning while all the Middle Easterners are
Muslims — stereotype, right? And we see that a lot. We see that a lot. Of course, most of
the time, when I talk and I introduce myself,
oh, you are Muslim and you’re from Middle East. Well, yes. Oh, you’re an Arab. No, I’m not. And I — I don’t know if
anybody seen Mazobrani [Assumed Spelling]. He has a very funny video
when it comes to that, how we can stereotypely
[phonetic] talk about that Middle East culture
as a one homogenous culture. We miss — we don’t
understand how vast that culture is in
the Middle East. Even religion when it comes to
Islam, we have Shia and Sunni. We don’t understand that. And there is a little
bit difference, but at the same time, when
you interact with a person from Iran, it’s different
a person from Iraq. When you’re interacting with
a person from Saudi Arabia, it’s different than a
person from Afghanistan. So we can generalize that kind
of interaction with our people. So I want to tell you
students when facing challenges in our college: Number one,
I don’t know if you’re aware of Acculturation Theory. Acculturation Theory,
it’s a process. And most of these groups — let’s say these groups
is whether it’s a refugee or immigrant, they go
through that process. They’re still — they’re
still trying to adapt to the new environment. They’re still trying
to go to through that process whether it be
they’re worth and varies talking about assimilation/integration or marginalization
or separation. So these four process are
critical when we see students. Students are facing
one of this process. It doesn’t matter. Integration is a great process,
but not all students will face and carry that theory
to be successful in our college or universities. The reason is you — you
like to become bicultural — be multicultural competence in your surrounding,
in your environment. But when you choose
assimilation, you want to dive in. So students will carry
different process. But for some will choose
marginalization or separation. These two can be
difficult for students. The reason is not because
voluntarily they choose these two theories or process, because
they’ve been marginalized by the mainstream in our
college or universities. They don’t see any hope to get
help throughout the process. I will tell you, many occasions, throughout my educational
persona, I face that. But I chose to be persistent. I chose to pursue my dreams
and nothing could stop me. But do you see that — that
persistence in every student? It’s impossible. As a result, I seen so many
friends, Middle East friends. Some of them could not make it
because there was no support, no good guidance — good
guidance whether it’s academic, whether it’s financial, whether
it’s — it’s social support. So it’s — it’s — it’s
a duty of each of us at Salt Lake Community
College to support students to pursue their educational
goal, whether it’s in the process of trying
to integrate that person into the mainstream of the
society, at the same time, prevent or keep their
own cultural and language rights
at the same time. Because assimilation,
you want to assimilate. But most of the people
will choose integration. Integration, you’re
keeping your own culture, but at the same time, you
want to be a valuable — a valuable individual
in the society, and be a productive
individual in the process. As we know, education is
the most valuable process and most valuable element in
order for us to achieve our — you know, societal goals,
whether it’s economic, whether it’s societal, whether
it’s a position, whatever it is. But if we want to be vital, we
must — we must have education. So — And I think the immigrants
and refugees, what they face, they need each of us support
— each of us how to — I think the best thing to do
is to listen — to listen. Because most of refugees
and immigrants, they’ve been through a process,
whether it’s a persecution, whether it’s a displacement,
whether it’s been abuse by the government, their origin. So they have that
fear in the process. No matter how hard
you try, but you have to make sure that’s not
the same process here as what you saw before. So, I think — It’s Salt
Lake Community College. The other thing I see a lot
of students facing is besides that cultural difficulty and
challenges, language barrier. Language barrier is
another thing we have seen students facing. If we don’t support them,
they will be intimidated and they will abandon
their educational dreams. I can give you ten of the examples I have
seen throughout my — the last 26 years in the United
States, especially in Utah. People didn’t have
— Whether I — I — I think sometimes what I
see as a public institution, when we have trained individual
and compassion person to support that type of — We
talking about immigrants and refugees, but anybody. To show your compassion, to show
your support to that individual, it’s — Trust me, it’s critical. As Gandhi says, “When
you help one person, you’re helping the whole world.” I think when you have
fulfilled one person’s dream — one person’s dream, you change
the whole life of the family, not that individual by himself. So to me, language is another — You cannot separate
it from the culture because if you learn
the language, you have to learn
the culture as well. As Chomsky says, “These are — cannot be separated,
inseparable.” So these two things, we
have how to be competent, culturally and linguistically. It’s critical to have students. Because I seen students
fearing to write one sentence. They studied in courts
[phonetic], they studied in Arabic. They studied in Farsi. They studied so many
different languages. When they integrate into
this new society in English, it’s an — it’s another
difficulty and another challenges
they’re facing. So without further do, I think if you have any questions,
please feel free. [ Applause ] [ Music ]

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