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A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

Keiser University December 2012


Tara Ross 2012



JACKIE BOOTH, Ph.D., Faculty Mentor and Chair DEBORAH GILBERT, Ed.D., Committee Member BRIAN KEINTZ, Ph.D., Committee Member


_____________________________ Sue Adragna, Ph.D. Program Chair _____________________________ Sara Malmstrom Ph.D. Dean of the Graduate School

Abstract A global refugee crisis necessitates an understanding of policymaking governing the resettlement of refugees in the United States. Resettling more refugees than all other countries combined, the United States emphasizes rapid employment over post-secondary education for adult resettled refugees in order to compel their self-sufficiency. However, self-sufficiency does not fully address the manifold aspects that account for a refugees adaptation and adjustment to living in the United States. The resources that they need to become self-sufficient, such as post-secondary education, are difficult to obtain due to immediate employment needs, language barriers, transportation needs, lack of childcare, or lack of social and cultural capital. Using the lens of acculturation theory, this phenomenological study explored the value and influence of post-secondary education in the lives of seven first generation adult refugees living in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. In-depth, semi-structured, one-on-one interviews with resettled refugee participants were conducted to explore the educational experiences of resettled refugees and participant attitudes and beliefs about the importance of education in their process of acculturation. Implications for resettlement and educational policy are discussed.

Dedication This research study is dedicated to my family for their love that sustained me, and to the participants in my study, whose courage and resiliency inspired me.


Acknowledgments To my family, who supported me throughout this process, thank you so much. To my husband, Stan, who was my sounding board, my confidante, and my lifeline to normalcy during this very hectic time, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I could not have done it without you. To my boys, Gerad and Caleb, thank you for your love and your patience, and for making me laugh when I needed it most. I love you all. To my family and friends, thank you for believing in me. To Dr. Jackie Booth, who reminded me that it was good to have passion for what I wanted to write about, who encouraged me to make the connections I needed to make, and for giving the best feedback a doctoral student could ever hope for (both positive and negative), you were wonderful. Thanks for sharing your dissertation topic of informal lessons, as it became a theme in my study. Thanks for also reminding me to stay focused. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming To Dr. Deborah Gilbert and Dr. Brian Keintz, thank you for agreeing to serve on my committee. You both brought diverse backgrounds, research skills, and perspective to my study that made it something better than I could have hoped. Forever when I create a table or chart I will think of you, Dr. Keintz. Can you make it into a chart? or, How about an advanced organizer? were common refrains that I will remember. To Janet Blair, thank you for introducing me to the Tampa Bay Task Force, allowing me to interview you for my research, and for providing me with much advice, guidance, and needed connections in the refugee resettlement community. Textbooks for graduate students conducting research always warn about the gatekeepers who control access to potential participants. You were so generous, and please know that my study would not have gone very far without you. To Dr. Jody Lynn McBrien, thank you for being such a strong source of support as I worked on my dissertation. I cannot believe that after researching the topic of refugee resettlement around the world, after interviewing experts in Australia, Canada, the UK, and various places in the United States, you and I happen to live in the same town. What serendipity. I am so blessed. To Niki Kelly, thank you for your brilliance. I am in awe of what you know, the experiences you have shared, the connections you have provided, and the insight that you have. Thank you for agreeing to review some of my work, for reminding me that the data may not always confirm what I want it to, and for helping me to bracket my own biases. To the Tampa Bay Area Refugee Task Force, thank you for letting me share your meetings, and learn more about what you do. I especially appreciate those who reviewed my findings, offered advice, or helped me connect with participants. I am very grateful. iv

To Barbara Zeus, who I have referenced throughout this dissertation, thank you for your research on higher education and refugees. Thank you for posting your masters thesis on the internet so that one day in 2010 I would come across it, read it, and let it plant the seed for my dissertation. I would spend the next two years cultivating that seed. Im glad we got to meet in 2010 and discuss research ideas further. Although I shifted to and fro on the actual participants and location, I think that my study complements yours well by focusing on the importance of higher education for resettled refugees. To Dr. Sue Adragna and Dr. Sara Malmstrom, whose leadership of the PhD program at Keiser Universitys graduate school ensured an extremely organized, thorough, and robust Educational Leadership degree, thank you for your dedication to my scholarly pursuit. Dr. Adragna, your class in Policy and Politics not only aided my APA technique, but helped me adapt my political interests into the field of educational policy. I did not know that was possible. Thank you for showing me that it was. To Dr. Larry Pace, who taught the two classes I was afraid of (Quantitative Methods), thank you for initially guiding me on this research study. Although I did a qualitative study, it was because of your recommendation that I realized that I needed to give refugees a voice. Thank you to the Keiser family for your vision in education, for your support of faculty furthering their education, and to Dr. Keiser, specifically, for your willingness to let me interview you for one of my classes. Thank you to Mr. Peter Crocitto for tutoring me on school budgets, and providing support. Thank you to Dr. Michele Morgan for always encouraging me in my career at Keiser, and offering insight and guidance on the doctoral process. Thank you to Sherry Olsen for supporting my endeavor. Finally, a big thank you to the participants in my study: You were completely generous with your time, and open in sharing your stories. Your lives are inspiring, and your determination serves as examples to all of us. I only hope that my study does your stories justice.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments List of Tables CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem Background of the Study Statement of the Problem Purpose of the Study Rationale Research Question Significance of the Study Definition of Terms Limitations Theoretical Framework Organization of the Remainder of the Study CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW A Primer on Refugee Resettlement The Resettlement Process Resettling in the United States Power Theories and Authority Figures The State of Refugee Research Acculturation Theory vi iv xiii 1 1 4 5 6 7 11 11 12 14 15 17 19 19 20 21 23 25 25

An Overview A Contextual Understanding Cultural Identity and Self Reflection Themes and Terms in Acculturation Theory Defining the Modern Meaning of Acculturation Arguing Against Integration Arguing for Integration Barriers to Acculturation Acculturation Goals Education as a Means of Acculturation Social Capital Cultural Capital Educational Challenges and Barriers A Loss of Esteem Access to Resources Balancing School and Family Needed Policy Changes Identified in the Literature Conclusion CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY Research Design Participant Group Setting vii

26 27 29 31 33 36 38 40 43 44 46 47 48 54 55 56 57 59 61 62 64 66

Interview Structure Data Collection Data Analysis Reliability and Validity Ethical Considerations and Institutional Review Board Requirements Going Beyond Do No Harm Informed Consent An invitation to participate Benefits Risks Rights Confidentiality of records Dissemination Contact Conclusion CHAPTER 4. RESULTS Introducing the Participants Reliability and Validity Organization of Chapter 4 Background Experiences Educational Experiences in Home Country Interruptions in Education Prior to Migration viii

68 71 72 73 75 77 78 78 78 78 79 79 79 79 79 81 81 85 85 86 86 92

Trauma Family separation Physical and emotional abuse Overcoming trauma Acculturation Educational Goals Upon Resettlement Feelings of normalcy Education provides a sense of belonging Education provides a valuable credential for employment Barriers Language Cost and time Transcripts Inaccurate information You create your own barriers Social Capital The importance of English classes Forgoing student life experiences Creating support networks Cultural Capital Informal lessons learned Academic skills ix

96 97 99 100 100 102 102 104 108 111 112 113 114 116 116 117 117 119 120 121 122 122

Communication Learning the rules of the game Diversity New Identity Empowerment Blended identity Participating and Giving Back Policy Cultural Orientation Education Disconnect Educational policy Recertification Social connections Fairness inherent in the policy Conclusion CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS Summary (Discussion of Findings) Significance of the Work Analysis A non-linear process Acculturation theory Self-identity x

123 124 128 130 131 131 134 136 137 138 140 141 143 144 145 146 146 149 150 152 153 154

Resiliency Trauma Social and cultural capital The Multiplier Effect Building Personal Capacity Taking the Long View A Rapid Self-Sufficiency Versus Lasting Self-Sufficiency Rapid self-sufficiency Lasting self-sufficiency Empowerment Conclusions Acculturation Theory Personal Identity Development Sense of Belonging Social Capital and the Multiplier Effect Taking the Long View Policy Implications for Practice Prioritizing Education for a Lasting Sufficiency Awareness in Higher Education Creating Social Connections Evaluating Credentials xi

155 157 158 159 160 162 164 165 166 167 169 169 170 170 171 172 172 173 173 174 175 175

Bridge Programs and the Affordable Care Act Recommendations for Research English Language Training Research A Need for Numbers Psychological Research Refugee Voice and Policy Suggestions REFERENCES APPENDIX. INTERVIEW GUIDE

176 177 177 177 178 178 180 189


List of Tables Table 1. Research Design ................................................................................................. 63 Table 2. Population of Hillsborough County, 2010 .......................................................... 66 Table 3. Population of Pinellas County, 2010. ................................................................. 67 Table 4. Refugee Resettlement in Florida, 20072011..................................................... 68 Table 5. Question Themes and Literature Support ........................................................... 69 Table 6. Research Participant Demographic Data ............................................................ 83


CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem Worldwide, 10.5 million people have fled their homes due to political strife, economic trouble, ethnic persecution, and natural disasters. These refugees often spend decades living in a transient status with little protection, access to health care or education, or economic opportunity (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], 2010a). Refugees spend an average of 17 years in a transitory existence, often idling away their lives in autocratic, if not dangerous, settings in refugee camps or migrating from one locale to another. Access to education is either available, but not accredited and extremely limited (typically focused on primary education), or is not provided at all (Zeus, 2011). Such limitations exist due to concerns by host nations that providing postsecondary education in the camp setting is providing better education for the refugee population than for the local population. Post-secondary education also creates the unpalatable situation that the brightest and most skilled refugees then depart the camps for resettlement in developed countries, leaving the camps devoid of their talent (Banki & Lang, 2007; Zeus, 2011). Host nations and donors of relief organizations such as the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) or the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) are also concerned that such post-secondary opportunities would encourage educational migration to the camps (Sommers, 2002). Post-secondary schools in the camps become magnets for those seeking education that is not only better than that in their home countries, but is often better than that which exists in the host country where the camps exist (Sommers, 2002; B. Zeus, personal communication, June 1

2, 2010). The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is concerned post-secondary education would discourage refugees returning to their home countries in favor of resettlement in a developed country. Funding secondary or post-secondary education to refugees who would eventually resettle in other countries is viewed as the least preferable option justifying non-provision of post-secondary education in favor of encouraging refugees to pursue education upon resettlement (UNHCR, 2007, p. 3). In an educational context, this is a problem on several fronts. First, educational programs in refugee camps provide an important function to children and adults in regards to protecting themselves from those in authority or those who might take advantage of them. Second, educational programs create knowledgeable and capable refugees who could aid their home country if they chose to repatriate (Sinclair, 2002). Third, language training, skills development, and pre-departure cultural orientations help refugees navigate their resettlement experience, making them more likely to be autonomous in their new countries (Nadeau, 2008; Sinclair, 2002). Education becomes immediately important when they apply for entry to the United States, as evidence of a plan for employment is required (Office of Refugee Resettlement [ORR], 2010). In 2010, approximately 73,000 involuntary refugees arrived in the United States for resettlement (US Department of State, 2010). Fleeing war, political persecution, and natural disasters, refugees enter a culture in which they do not share the language, the customs, or the required credentials for the jobs they seek. The immediate goal of US policy is to work with refugees to help them become self-sufficient rapidly. Prior to approval for resettlement in the United States, refugees must submit an employability plan outlining what type of employment they will seek and how they plan to become self2

sufficient (ORR, 2010). However, with only temporary public benefits and without language skills, employment skills, college degrees, or the ability to transfer prior educational certifications to their country of resettlement, refugees will encounter immediate barriers to employment (Schiller, Boggis, Messenger, & Douglas, 2009; Zeus, 2011). Participation in the post-secondary educational system of the country of resettlement provides one mechanism for refugees to acculturate to their new country as well as provide training for meaningful employment (Ager & Strang, 2004). However, accessing education in order to improve needed language or employment skills is hindered by policies in the United States that prioritize employment over education, by the expense of post-secondary education, and by practical barriers (Dawood, 2011; Georgetown University, 2009). Informing policy makers of the value of post-secondary opportunities for resettled refugees needs to come from data that highlights the refugee voices themselves. As a vulnerable population, refugees have minimal opportunities to share their experiences in order to enlighten those who hold political power (McPherson, 2010). Existing policy in the United States allows for extremely limited public assistance, and requires refugees to take the first job they are offered (Schiller et al., 2009). Refugees with medical licenses from their home countries or those who worked as teachers or doctors may end up working in low-end jobs with little relation to their skills or with little possibility for advancement. Without time to attend school to get a degree or to recertify existing licenses, refugees can languish in minimum wage jobs that keep them at a subsistence level of income with meager opportunities to learn the culture or customs, and to enjoy 3

the full benefits of living in the United States (Dawood, 2011; Mamgain & Collins, 2003; Stevenson & Willott, 2008). The importance of a study that gives voice to resettled refugees about their postsecondary educational experiences comes from the lack of research on the topic. Because of the development by the United Nations (UN) of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2001, the focus of educational donor funding in global development has been on the attainment of universal primary education for all children by 2015 (UN, n.d.; Zeus, 2011). Educational research in global development has followed this trend, leaving a gap in research with regard to the importance of higher education for vulnerable populations living in developing countries, or for those persons who are displaced (Zeus, 2011). Existing refugee resettlement policy derives its legal foundation from the Refugee Act of 1980, providing entrance into the United States those refugees who cannot return home (US Department of State, 2001). The policy is implemented through anti-poverty programs in the United States, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid, and through service providers that seek to help refugees gain rapid selfsufficiency. In practice, however, policies shift as global crises change, exacerbating the need for relevant research demonstrating the benefits to self-sufficiency of refugees when they have access to post-secondary education (Dawood, 2011; Georgetown University, 2009). Background of the Study In the aftermath of World War II, as European refugees fled genocide and war, the newly formed United Nations (UN) created a refugee office to deal with the crisis. Governed by a limited mandate, the UN refugee office helped refugees affected by the 4

violence on the European continent to repatriate to their home countries, integrate in the local communities where they fled, or resettle into a new country, such as the United States, Canada, or countries in South America (UNHCR, 2011). As the Cold War and decolonization of the developing world replaced World War II as the leading causes of involuntary migration, a 3-year mandate for the newly formed UN refugee agencythe UNHCRgrew into a permanent mandate to protect refugees who involuntarily fled their home countries. With the end of the Cold War in the 1990s; the ethnic warfare in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur; and the global war on terror in the first decade of the new century; the refugee crisis continued to grow (UNHCR, 2005). The UNHCR has identified three durable solutions for the protracted refugee crisis, which include voluntary return to the refugees home country, integration into the local community to which the refugee fled, and permanent resettlement to one of approximately 30 countries in the world that UNCHR identifies as resettlement countries (UNHCR, 2012b). Of these countries, which include the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and countries from Europe and Latin America, the United States resettles more than twice the number of refugees as all other countries combined (Singer & Wilson, 2006; UNHCR, 2012a). Statement of the Problem The body of research on international and national policies governing refugee resettlement indicates that barriers to acculturation exist for newcomers (Dawood, 2011; Farrell, Barden & Mueller, 2008; Georgetown University, 2009; Koehler, 2009; Schiller et al., 2009; Shakya et al., 2010; Stevenson & Willot, 2007; Valenta & Bunar, 2010). Education at all levelsprimary, secondary, and post-secondaryis one marker of 5

societal integration for resettled refugees (Ager & Strang, 2004). Education is important to acculturation because it provides the means by which students can learn the language of their new country, and develop an ongoing understanding of the customs and culture. It aids the process of a refugee building intra-ethnic (within an ethnic community) and inter-ethnic (between ethnic communities) alliances; and in acquiring the skills, licenses, and degrees needed for meaningful employment (Ager & Strang, 2004; Buckland, 2006; Harris & Marlowe, 2011; Koehler, 2009). Yet, barriers to education exist due to policies that prioritize rapid self-sufficiency over acculturation. In addition, meaningful data on the influence of post-secondary education in a refugees ease of acculturation is lacking and thus does not inform policy makers of the purpose and value to such experiences (Dawood, 2011; Georgetown University, 2009). Finally, a systemic flaw exists in the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which requires self-sufficiency at the same time it is admitting the worlds most vulnerable refugees who can have significant personal issues or disabilities resulting from their migration experience (Georgetown University, 2009). Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to examine post-secondary educational experiences of first-generation refugees who have resettled in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and how these experiences influenced their acculturation process. Important to this study was the focus on acculturation theory, which is the process by which a person changes because of experiences in a new society, and how the society changes to accommodate the new resident. The constructs of integration and identity, and the influence of education on the acculturation process, were operationalized through a qualitative method of one-on-one 6

interviews to provide the thick, rich description from which themes could be defined (Merriam, 2009). Informing policy makers of the impact of education in refugee acculturation and its influence on long-term self-sufficiency was an ancillary goal of this study. Rationale In 1991, I began a graduate program at Ohio University, studying International Affairs with a focus on Latin American politics. I had the fortune of studying under the pre-eminent author and researcher in the field of Central American politics, Dr. Thomas Walker, and was in a program with students from throughout Latin America, China, and Japan as well as students who were returned Peace Corps volunteers. Such a diverse experience provided the fertile ground upon which I became interested in studying vulnerable populations in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua of the 1970s and 1980s. I studied and wrote about those indigenous populations and the urban poor, whose families contained many desaparecidos (the disappeared)those individuals who suffered a kind of political persecution by paramilitary organizations used to silence opposition. United States policy in the region in the mid- to late-20th century involved covert operations and military aid to train and fund such paramilitary groups in order to secure US economic interests (Ross, 1997). It was my academic training that led to several visits to Nicaragua in the 1990s to talk with former political leaders, former rebels, and US expatriates who had relocated there as a form of political witness. I now teach political science and explore with my students the purpose of US domestic and foreign policy. I remain interested in examining how the United States had to deal with the arrival of political refugees from Central America because of violence 7

there. In addition, the start of the Iraq war in 2003 led to a refugee crisis, particularly after 2006, with the onset of sectarian violence that emerged (Georgetown University, 2009). The United States tradition since World War II as a safe haven for refugees (Singer & Wilson, 2006) meant that they would accept refugees from nations where it had also played a political and military role. By 2007, for example, the Iraqi refugee crisis had grown dramatically with the United States eventually accepting refugees late that year (Georgetown University, 2009). Between 2008 and 2011, the United States accepted 56,024 refugees from Iraq (Department of Homeland Security [DHS], 2012). The United States also accepts refugees in great numbers from Bhutan, Burma, Cuba, and Somalia and in smaller numbers from other countries throughout Asia and Africa (ORR, 2012). As a college educator, I was interested in understanding how higher education could provide a path for resettled refugees to overcome the trauma they had experienced, and help them adapt to a culture that was formed by generations of refugees and immigrants who had gone before them. Important to the resettlement process is that policy makers understand the reality of the circumstances they are governing. According to Georgetown University (2009), the federal policy that governs refugee resettlement does not provide the means for refugees to become self-sufficient when adult refugees are denied, by circumstance, the opportunity to obtain education. For example, refugees are welcome to participate in language classes, attend college, or enroll in recertification courses. However, the cost is often prohibitive to their enrollment, they must prioritize work in order to subsist, they have limited access to transportation, they have difficulty finding and paying for childcare, they lack the language skills needed, and they have 8 months assistance, at 8

which point they must be self-sufficient. Thus, a job becomes an immediate need. Such an approach emphasizes employment over education, yet sustainable employment is unlikely given the many obstacles refugees face. Refugee service providers have limited federal funding to provide employment services, and caseworkers find that they must use the funding they receive to serve more refugees than the number of refugees for whom it was intended (Georgetown University, 2009). Refugees who have just arrived to the United States receive approximately eight months of assistance, but must agree to accept any job they are offered, even if it means they must quit school. Those jobs may be temporary, require transportation to parts of town they cannot easily access, or may offer only minimum wage. According to Schiller et al. (2009), A central paradox of refugee resettlement is that refugees must accept the first job that is offered to them, but no one is obliged to provide the refugee with transportation to the place of work. Many refugees reported losing jobs or being unable to gain access to services such as ESL or medical care because of a lack of transportation. (pp. 1819) By contrast, a refugee who has the means to complete professional recertification as a doctor, for example, can do quite well economically (Dawood, 2011). However, such recertification requires language skills they may not have, and thus the problem returns to its starting point. Language training is difficult if they have no time or means to engage in it. Developing friendships and establishing support networks that offer connections within a new culture, or may be able to help with childcare, transportation, or language barriers are hard to forge if they work in low-wage jobs where their fellow 9

workers may also be refugees or immigrants that cannot speak the language or understand the culture (Georgetown University, 2009). Educational and policy leaders can be more effective if they have reliable data and use it to inform their decisions (Bagin, Gallagher, & Moore, 2007). However, there is very limited data gathered by the federal government on refugees as a particular group within higher education (National Center for Educational Statistics, [NCES], n.d.).1 The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gathers basic post-secondary educational data on a sample of resettled refugees over 5-year periods, but does not correlate it to employment or conduct qualitative studies with adult refugees to understand their educational experiences or lack of such experiences and their acculturation within society. In addition, the reports by the Department of Health and Human Services are several years old, with the 2008 report released in 2011, and no further reports issued at this time (ORR, 2011). It is to the benefit of the United States to have residents and citizens who are gainfully employed (and thus improving the tax base) and involved in their communities. Without meaningful data, policy makers may assume that placing refugees in immediate employment is the best path to creating such residents and citizens. This study may provide policy makers with the needed information regarding the impact of education in the acculturation of newcomers.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, refugees were counted as a separate category within higher education only from 1975 to 1991. See footnote on bottom of webpage at


Finally, providing refugees the opportunity to share their experiences can provide a psychological benefit, and can create empowerment (Atfield, Brahmbhatt, & OToole, 2007; Williams & Comfort, 2007). Sharing their experiences can give refugees a voice in the decisions that affect them (Atfield et al., 2007; McPherson, 2010). Popular culture may hold negative views of refugees and immigrants as groups that take advantage of public assistance and then take jobs needed by citizens. However, refugees need to share their personal experiences of bravery in fleeing disaster, their motivation to learn, their resiliency in finding work and adapting to life in the United States, and their desire to give back to the country that has now accepted them (Smyth & Kum, 2010). Research Question The central research question of this study was: How do resettled refugees in the Tampa Bay region of Florida perceive that their post-secondary education received during resettlement influenced their acculturation? Significance of the Study Research indicated that education is a means of helping refugees acculturate in their new country, providing avenues for social engagement and the development of critical skills to enhance their social and cultural capital as they seek employment (Ager & Strang, 2004; Delpit, 1988; Koehler, 2009; Matthews, 2008). However, there is a lack of research on post-secondary education as a means of acculturation for resettled refugees. In addition, Liebkind (2006) indicated that most research on migrants and acculturation focuses on how refugees retain their ethnic identity within their new society rather than on how they identify themselves within their new society. Understanding how education affects the refugees acculturative experience explains, in part, how 11

refugees identify themselves within their new society because of the education they have received. It also explains how education affects their ability to adapt within their new society. Definition of Terms AcculturationThe process by which a resettled refugee and the country of resettlement both change to accommodate the other (Berry, 2001; McPherson, 2010; Strang & Ager, 2010). The term is used interchangeably with integration in this study. AssimilationA process used, typically in the past, to form migration policy. Assimilation was the process of a refugees cultural identity being replaced as refugees were expected to conform to the new countrys culture and customs (Berry, 2001). CapacityThe ability of local governments, organizations, or schools to meet the practical needs of their constituents or clients by providing the resources for public needs or specific programs. Cultural capitalThe knowledge one has of the surrounding culture and the reciprocal skills they bring to the culture (Camblin, 2003). Durable solutionsThe UNHCR identifies three solutions for the protracted refugee crisis: (a) refugees voluntarily repatriate to their home country; (b) refugees integrate into the host society where they first fled; or (c) resettlement into a third country, such as the United States (UNHCR, 2012b.). ImmigrantA person who voluntarily crosses borders from their home country to settle in another country. Integration(a) One of three durable solutions identified by the UNHCR for refugees, integration involves the refugee obtaining permission from the host country to 12

which they fled to live their permanently and legally (UNCHR, 2012b); (b) the term used by Strang and Ager (2010) to indicate the process of acculturation. MigrantA term frequently used in the research to indicate a refugee or an immigrant, thus it could a voluntary or involuntary migrant. Research, government policies, or programs may include both populations under the term migrant. Post-secondary educationHigher education or recertification training is considered post-secondary education in this study. RefugeeA person without statehood who cannot return home because of a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion (Immigration and Nationality Act [INA], 1980, 101a, 42a). ResettlementOne of three durable solutions identified by the UNHCR for refugees, resettlement is the permanent placement of refugees in a third country, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, or European nations (UNHCR, 2012b). RepatriationOne of three durable solutions identified by the UNHCR for refugees, repatriation is the voluntary return of refugees to their home country (UNCHR, 2012b). This is not often feasible due to fear of persecution upon return. SeparationA term linked to marginalization, separation promotes the practice of keeping refugees within ethnic enclaves and estranged from the broader society (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). Social capitalThis involves the mechanisms by which refugees can engage within society and increase their ability to adapt and adjust (Strang & Ager, 2010). 13

Third countryThe home country is the considered the refugees first country, the country to which refugees flee is the second, and the country of resettlement is the third. Limitations The nature of research on refugees, who are either displaced or resettled, is that each ethnic group is different, and each refugee has had different experiences in fleeing their homes, living in refugee camps, and resettling abroad. Generalizability, even with quantitative data on refugees, is difficult given the diverse factors that policy makers and researchers must weigh in determining how to improve their plight. The country of origin, the circumstances of migration (e.g., war, natural disaster, or political persecution), the state of the national economy in a given time frame, the region of the country to which refugees are resettled, and the various needs of the vulnerable population being resettled all weigh on issues of generalizability in refugee studies. Transferability mitigates such limitations because it entails the ability of the research findings to apply in a different setting (Merriam, 2009). Understanding acculturation requires applying the context of the country to which the refugees have moved. Thus, it is important to note that the study describes US policy in order to highlight the environment and laws in which a resettled refugee operates. Analysis of the interviews yielded common themes that were compared to existing research discussed in the literature review to enhance internal validity, thus allowing consumers of the data to determine what information is of value to them. Additional limitations include the potential for researcher bias, which may occur in a subjective study. Merriam (2009) concluded that qualitative researchers should approach bias by identifying it in their work and monitor the potential for bias in their 14

data collection. In phenomenological methods, the researcher brackets prior beliefs about the phenomenon that is studied so that consciousness of participant reflections is not affected (Merriam, 2009). Theoretical Framework Acculturation theory provides the framework to undergird the study on postsecondary education for resettled refugees. Acculturation theory helps researchers explore how immigrants or refugees to a new society adapt (Berry, 2001). However, acculturation theory does not encompass the process as one that only the newcomer feels; rather, the acculturation process is a two-way street, where the society and the newcomer are both affected and changed by the other. The adaptive process varies by person and by locale; refugees arriving to a country with many social supports will have a different experience from the refugee arriving to an area with many other newcomers, as will the refugee who has arrived to the area where the community may be less welcoming (Nadeau, 2008; Schiller et al., 2009, Valenta & Bunar, 2010). Central to the discussion of acculturation is to understand the meaning that theorists, aid workers, researchers, and refugees apply when using it. Past policies that sought to exclude refugees from becoming equal members of society used terms that implied inequality and oppression (McPherson, 2010). Thus, acculturation is a term with politically charged meaning. Berry (2001) created the structure for understanding various approaches used in acculturation, including assimilation, separation (or multiculturalism), marginalization, and integration. Assimilation involved policies in resettlement countries that stipulated refugees remove their self-identity and become more like the majority culture, through the educational messages they received about appropriate behavior, 15

dress, religious practice, and so forth (Koehler, 2009; McPherson, 2010). They should want to remove vestiges of their ethnic practices and work to be like members of the local society. Separation and marginalization both promote the practice of keeping refugees within ethnic enclaves and thus not really part of the broader society (Berry, 2001). Integration, however, provides a path that refugees can use to bridge the gap between their native culture and the one that has adopted them. The newcomer retains their ethnic identity while incorporating new practices and habits, and society works to adapt their practices into its own (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). Related to Berrys (2001) model for understanding acculturation theory is Ager and Strangs (2004) seminal work on integration. Writing for the UK Home Office, which oversees immigration policy in Great Britain, Ager and Strang (2004) identified the markers that indicate the refugee is progressing in their integration in society, including housing, language development, education, employment, and the building of intra-ethnic social bonds and inter-ethnic social bridges. McPherson (2010) criticized the model for relying too heavily on what the refugee must do; as if they are a problem that needs to be solved. McPherson (2010) promoted the idea that societal policy that helps refugees identify their goals thus empowers them to identify their worth to society. In a follow-up to their earlier research, Strang and Ager (2010) confirmed their report of 2004 and discussed the importance of integration as a two-way process, where both society and the newcomer changeempowering the newcomer and diversifying societyultimately helping both. Acculturation theory frames the current study on post-secondary education for resettled refugees. It provides a means of examining educationone of Ager and 16

Strangs (2004) indicators of integrationin light of a refugees ability to adapt to society, and to understand how governmental policies do or do not reflect the need to change to be adaptive to individual refugee needs. Significant differences in the acculturation process exist, depending on context and ethnic background. In addition, a research finding from Hartog and Zorlu (2009) demonstrated that refugees who have less education upon arrival to their new country may have greater success in employment than those who arrive having superior education and training. Reasons for this may include a willingness of less-educated refugees to start with lower level classes and work their way through a training program, compared to those who were well educated in their prior countries and have to accept the lack of a professional career and status. Those seeking recertification also have to learn a high level of academic English specific to their field and can spend years in retraining, which has the potential to leave well-educated refugees feeling angry or frustrated (N. Kelly, personal communication, May 10, 2012). Organization of the Remainder of the Study Chapter 1 provided an overview of the international refugee crisis and of the nature of refugee resettlement in the United States. Also presented was the rationale for the study, which included my personal interest in the topic of vulnerable populations, US policy governing refugee resettlement, and how post-secondary education influences acculturation. This chapter included an explanation of how this research may serve as one study that could inform educational and government leaders in their decision-making regarding refugee education. Finally, this chapter provided the purpose of the study, the research question, and a summary of acculturation theory, which undergirds the study.


Chapter 2 is the literature review, which contains an explanation of the history and current understanding of acculturation, and provides details on refugee resettlement policy and the process of resettlement. Also included is prior research to explain the role of educational participation in helping refugees acclimate to their new culture as well as a discussion of refugees barriers to education. Chapter 3 serves to explain the methodology of the study, and the justification for using a qualitative design. How participants were recruited as well as the ethical procedures used when conducting research among refugees are topics of discussion. The process of using one-on-one interviews and how they were coded is provided. Chapter 4 is the presentation of the data that was collected in the present qualitative study. Chapter 4 includes discussion of the coded themes, reiterates the research question, and underscores the validity of the results. Chapter 5 is the review of the findings and the conclusions made based on the research question presented in chapter 1. This chapter provides analysis of the data, comparison and contrast of the prior research with the findings of this study in order to triangulate the data, and synthesis of the findings within the context of acculturation theory. Implications for policymakers and educational leaders are included, with suggestions for how to carry out needed changes. Chapter 5 also provides a rationale for future research that could be conducted to fill gaps in the existing body of knowledge.


CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW A Primer on Refugee Resettlement In the aftermath of World War II, the United Nations (UN) established the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to define the rights of all persons, especially those in vulnerable communities. Article 26 of the Declaration underscored the universal right to education, in particular primary education. Post-secondary educational rights were limited to what was feasible for nations to supply and only for those students who would qualify (United Nations, 1948). Also because of the horrors of World War II and the refugee crisis in Europe, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) created the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees to focus on the duty of member nations to the UN to provide educational rights to refugees. Article 22 of the Convention stated, Accord to refugees the same treatment as is accorded to nationals with respect to elementary education . . . [with] treatment as favourable as possible . . . with respect to education other than elementary education and . . . as regards access to studies, the recognition of foreign school certificates, diplomas and degrees, the remission of fees and charges and the award of scholarships. (UNHCR, 2010b, p. 24) In 1989, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) developed the Convention on the Rights of the Child to clarify further the rights and protections afforded to children, including educational access (UNICEF, n.d.). In 1990, the United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reinforced the rights to


education for everyone with the Education for All program in 1990, established to promote the primary educational goals of member states (UNESCO/UNICEF, 2007). In 1998, post-secondary education as a right was expressed in the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century (UNESCO, 1998). The declaration highlighted the importance of post-secondary education particularly for marginalized persons, including those with learning disabilities, those under occupation, and indigenous groups. The Resettlement Process Since the signing of the Refugee Convention in 1951, the refugee crisis, which the Allies anticipated would be a short-term problem following the ending of World War II, has instead become a protracted crisis. The Cold War proxy battles fought globally; the ethnic wars following decolonization in the developing world; the genocides that occurred in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur; sectarian and political oppression that occurred in Iraq during the recent war; and the current global war on terror created millions of people who are persecuted, displaced internally, and are refugees (UNHCR, 2005). The UNHCR has identified three durable solutions for refugees, which include voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, integration into the local community to which the refugee fled, and resettlement in a third country (UNHCR, 2010a). Refugees are at tremendous risk if they repatriate to their home country, where they face death or torture. In most instances, the countries to which they flee are not anxious to establish long-term refugee camps or integrate thousands of people into their local economies and cultures. However, the result is that refugees are often left languishing in camps for years or even


decades, dependent upon an often-hostile host nation, inconsistent donor support, and a lack of educational resources to prepare them to help themselves (Zeus, 2011). Strong emotions accompany people who must flee their homeland (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). Fear at the ongoing violence, trauma over those they have lost, the disbelief that they may have to leave all that they have known, and the uncertainty in what is to come surrounds their existence prior to their forced migration, which typically occurs because of ethnic violence, war, or natural disaster. There is a feeling of lossa loss of country, of family, and of identity. From the ashes of disaster or persecution, the refugees escape all that they have known and frequently arrive in another destitute situation: that of the refugee camp (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). If repatriation or integration into the local country is not an option, refugees will aspire to resettlement in Western countries. Approximately 1% of the worlds refugees resettle each year because the former two options are not viable (UNHCR, 2012c). Refugees who do resettle typically have expectations for personal and societal freedom upon resettlement, believing they will have a better life abroad (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). Resettling in the United States The United States, Australia, and Canada were the three top countries for refugee resettlement as of 2008 (McBrien, 2011). According to the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA, 1980), a refugee is someone who cannot return to his or her home country owing to a persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion (101a, 42a). In 2011, the UNHCR identified 92,000 refugees worldwide for resettlement (UNHCR, 2012a). The United States agrees to resettle the most vulnerable 21

of refugees each year, dispersing them throughout the country. In fiscal year 2010, the United States resettled 73,311 refugees, with Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Cuba, and Somalia the top five countries from which they were leaving (US Department of State, 2010). Federal policy allows for the resettlement of a limited number of persons who cannot repatriate to their home countries for fear of political persecution or due to instability from natural disasters (US Department of State, n.d.). Approval to resettle in the United States is conditional upon refugees submitting an employability plan outlining the employment they will seek and their plans for self-sufficiency (ORR, 2010). However, the lack of language skills, employment skills, or transferable prior educational credentials means that refugees will encounter immediate roadblocks to employment (Zeus, 2011). Upon arrival, refugees will experience emotions ranging from hope for a positive future to culture shock. They have witnessed violence, experienced the separation from or death of family members; moved among relatives homes; and lived in refugee camps with no material possessions, in crowded and unsanitary conditions, for extended periods. Resettled refugees often experience psychological trauma such as posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression (Geltman et al., 2005). Refugees are surprised and distressed by their change in status, as they are now living in very different circumstances, dependent upon assistance from others, and lack a sense of belonging (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). Adaptation to a Western culture requires education in the language and culture of the new country, as well as an ability to find employment and attend to basic needs (Evans & Murray, 2009). However, refugees resettle with little education that prepares them for the acculturation process (Power et al., 22

2010). Their displacement experiences emphasize the importance of literacy and postsecondary education in helping them develop personal agency: learning to explore their options, accessing the necessary resources for survival, and advocating for themselves. Because English is not readily available to learn while in a transient status or in refugee camps due to concerns by international donors and host countries about educational migration, refugees must create the opportunity to learn it upon resettlement. Ultimately, education helps to create this locus of control, lessening the refugees dependence on authority (Shadduck-Hernandez, 2006; Zeus, 2011). Power Theories and Authority Figures Power theories help to explain part of the resettled refugee acclimation problem. The French-Raven theory of social power examines the power, authority, and influence of authority figures over followers (Jex, 2002). Authority figures have legal authority within an organization or community, coercive authority requiring adherence to rules, reward authority that gains followers with promises of rewards, charismatic authority that persuades followers or expert authority that uses a command of the facts and details (Jex, 2002). Refugees arriving to a developed country, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, may have a myriad of social and cultural fears, including fears related to those in authority (Wren, 2007). Many have existed within a protracted refugee situation in a camp setting for decades, with the average stay lasting 17 years (Zeus, 2011). Refugees have had limited access to education of dubious quality, and have little preparation prior to their resettlement (Zeus, 2011). Prior to migration or while in camps, refugees have often had difficult relationships with people in authority. They may blindly accept


decisions upon resettlement that affect their education and other aspects of their acclimation, without understanding the full consequences (Werker, 2007). Upon arrival to the United States, a refugee is confronted by immigration officials, caseworkers from social agencies, educational officials who will oversee their childrens education, medical officials giving them immunizations, government workers getting them established with benefits, and in some cases, law enforcement. Experiences with these power leaders overwhelm newly arrived refugees and collide with their English language deficiencies at a vulnerable moment in their lives. These authority figures exercise the legal, coercive, reward, charismatic, and expert power mentioned in the French-Raven social theory (Jex, 2002). Within this miasma of power leaders is the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement located in each state, charged with providing resources that guide refugees through the culture shock, the initial stages of the resettlement process, and their trajectory to a sustainable life in the United States (ORR, n.d.). There also exist religious, non-profit, and government agencies that collaborate, strategically plan, and advocate for refugees in their community. Refugee service providers are contracted by the O to greet refugees upon arrival, help them move into their accommodations, obtain their first months assistance, and aid in getting them registered for federal and state benefits. Refugee service providers in the Tampa Bay region of Florida include agencies such as Catholic Charities, Coptic Orthodox Charities, Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, and Lutheran Services. Faith-based groups, in particular, have been on the front lines of refugee resettlement since the Second World War, advocating for advances


in policy and providing additional mechanisms of support (Eby, Iverson, Smyers, & Kekic, 2011). The State of Refugee Research The federal government collects very limited disaggregated educational data on refugees (NCES, 2009). There is a dearth of research on higher education aspirations, attainment, and experiences of refugee students in the United States. There is a need to explore the pre- and post-migration experiences of refugees in order to understand the educational barriers and gaps as well as to understand the role that education plays in the acculturation process of refugees (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009; Harris & Marlowe, 2011; Shakya et al., 2010; Zeus, 2011). Strang and Ager (2010) confirmed McPherson (2010) in calling for research that explores integration from refugee perspectives, allowing them to discuss their experiences. As Strang and Ager wrote, Even more fundamentally, we would assert that in researching a social process it is essential to seek to understand that process from the perspectives of the key actors (p. 601). The current study includes discussion of the higher education experiences of adult refugees who arrived in the United States at the age of 15 or older. Through the lens of acculturation theory, this study served to explore how education affects integration and what barriers or challenges exist for refugees aspiring to attain post-secondary education. Acculturation Theory Integration to a new country has various meanings and it is important that the country accepting resettled refugees clearly define what the term means. How a government defines integration will affect the social, political, and cultural framework in 25

which it is adopted as well as how politicians create policy to reflect the framework. Western governments typically perceive a refugee as integrated when he or she has employment, housing, education, social bonds, and community involvement (Ager & Strang, 2004; Koehler, 2009). The US government uses the term self-sufficiency to describe the preferred status of resettled refugees, with self-sufficiency primarily meaning employment (US Department of State, n.d.). However, acculturation is more than employment or self-sufficiency, involving manifold factors that relate to resettled refugees feelings of self-worth and value to their new society. An Overview Acculturation theory encompasses the exploration of the process by which a newcomer within a culture adjusts to his or her environment. The theory is used to identify the elements that aid newcomers in increasing their understanding of social and cultural norms (Koehler, 2009). Acculturation theory provides a look at social and cultural adaptationthose behaviors that refugees as newcomers engage in to adapt and engage within society. Proponents of the theory seek to identify how refugees gain knowledge of social cues and cultural norms so that they can access the rights to citizenship to which they aspire. Acculturation theory proposes that when an individual arrives to live in a new country, there is an exchange of ideas, values, cultural identities, and perspectives (Hickey, 2007). Acculturation involves a two-way relationship, with the merging of traditions and practices within society when groups have prolonged exposure to one another (Atfield et al., 2007; Morris, Popper, Rodwell, Brodine, & Bower, 2009; Smyth & Kum, 2010).


Researchers explore acculturation theory in the search to understand the integrative processes of newcomers to a society. A vulnerable population arriving within a dominant culture that is significantly different does present additional power relationships that must be considered (McPherson, 2010). Factors that are believed to influence acculturation for groups include personal identity, socio-economic status, premigration education and the ability to access education upon arrival, work experiences, professional backgrounds, literacy skills, and personal losses (Hickey, 2007; Hartog & Zorlu, 2009; Morris et al., 2009; Sam & Berry, 2006). A Contextual Understanding Acculturation is contextual and relies upon the community in which refugees live (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009; Mamgain & Collins, 2003; Smyth & Kum, 2010). The refugee works through the process of integration, but this is dependent upon the hospitality they receive from the host community. For example, refugees resettled in the United Kingdom may have greater difficulty integrating into a new society based on assimilationist policies that exclude them from having the opportunity to contribute to decision making in policies affecting their future (Threadgold & Court, 2005). Ethnic minority refugees (those who are Black or Asian) may live parallel lives from other UK residents in which they exist separately in education, worship, and social engagement (Home Office, 2004). The receiving country may hold expectations that the ethnic minority communities in their society take responsibility for integrating newcomers, and fail to prepare police, teachers, government officials, or the local media to interact positively with them (Home Office, 2004; Threadgold & Court, 2005). In other contexts, communities that have had preparation for the arrival of refugees and understand the 27

tragedies from which they have come may feel a sense of mutual responsibility to work with refugees who want to engage in society (Schiller et al., 2009). Acculturation requires the renewal of ones identity in a new environment (McPherson, 2010). The refugee needs to have a strong sense of personal agency to seek the services they require to recreate their life in a new country, and become a selfsufficient, contributing member of society. Acculturation is different for each individual. Refugees often experience competing desires to adapt to their new country, yet retain their cultural identity. Some refugees even feel a sense of responsibility to present their country of origin as one that has good qualities (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). Refugees bring contributions to their communities, including a hardworking labor source that attracts greater industries to their towns. They contribute to the tax base through employment and consumption, and they provide a vibrant cultural background that stresses a positive valuation of work, family, kindness and reciprocity (Schiller et al., 2009, p. 43). They create diversity through interesting traditions and foods, and they are role models of courage in the face of tremendous despair. Further, as they become part of the community, they seek greater participation and assume leadership roles within it (Schiller et al., 2009). In the United States, refugees use a mixture of federal and state support, including resettlement cash assistance through the ORR, in addition to Social Security and Medicaid (Georgetown University, 2009). However, many refugees never hear about additional support programs available. Schiller et al. (2009) discovered that 76.3% of the refugees in their study had never heard about training or educational programs in which they could participate, and 93.4% had not heard about opportunities for employment 28

rehabilitation. Greater communication between policymakers, government agencies, refugee service providers, and the refugees themselves could enhance their chances to participate in education. Cultural Identity and Self Reflection Refugees often exist between two realities: that of their new country with its new opportunities and barriers, and that of their homeland, which they had to flee, but where they feel they belong and where family members remain (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). In order to survive and navigate their way through the labyrinth of resettlement requirements, they must develop strategies to access health, education, and employment while figuring out how to overcome the language barrier. Oftentimes, the strategies are ad hoc, involving the reliance on neighbors for help in transportation or in childcare, networking within language classes to learn about job openings, or having the luck to work for employers that provide tuition reimbursement. They struggle with the tension of who they are and where they belong within this new community (Berry, 2001; Nadeau, 2008). Refugees have been victims of suffering in their homeland and thus question their place within the world and their spiritual beliefs (Marbley, 2007). These feelings are with them in their homeland, in the refugee camps, and upon resettlement (Mathews, 2008; Nadeau, 2008). Resettled refugees need to reflect on their cultural identity over time. A refugee returning to visit their country of origin can enhance this reflection. According to Djuraskovic and Arthur (2009), refugees who had resettled in third countries and were given the opportunity to return to their home in the former Yugoslavia found that they identified with their home less upon return. It facilitated their desire to work toward 29

acculturation in their new countries. The process of looking at their past prepared them for the process of moving forward. As Djuraskovic and Arthur (2009) wrote, When seen together, the desire to fit in, rebelling, a turning point, and integration seem to be necessary components for acculturation to occur. These components are not separate from one another . . . [they] allow for functional adaptation to the new life in the foreign society. (p. 27) In this process of integration, time and self-reflection provide refugees with the opportunity to recreate their cultural identities and their sense of belonging. Refugees can then merge their cultural identities. Self-reflection allows refugees to evaluate who they are within the context of their new society. They may discard elements of their identities that are no longer applicable in their new lives (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). As Marbley (2007) described, Victimized and oppressed people need a new awareness of themselves as people, in a community context, who can both individually and collectively set and achieve goals (p. 20). Resettlement trauma may be less than the trauma they experienced in fleeing the violence of their home country or the rape that was common in the refugee camps, but resettlement stress affects their daily functioning and health. They may experience detachment and marginalization in their communities or in school; they may become the victims of bullying, discrimination, or racist attacks; or they may become ill by choosing not to seek medical treatment because they cannot communicate effectively (Anstiss, Ziaian, Procter, Warland, & Baghurst, 2009; Matthews, 2008). The process of acculturation generates stress due to a lack of understanding of what services are available to them. Refugees experience increased isolation as they struggle with a new 30

language, culture, and new responsibilities (Georgetown University, 2009; Morris et al., 2009). Themes and Terms in Acculturation Theory Acculturation is not necessarily a linear process. It can involve ones self-identity within a new culture demanding change, the ties one has to their ethnic group, and then the growth one has in relation to their ethnic identity. Ethnic identity is not static; it changes over time and is based on context. In addition, society changes and adapts as refugees change and adapt (Atfield et al., 2007; Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). Integration progresses positively when minority groups are encouraged to retain their ethnic identities (Smyth & Kum, 2010). Migration is, therefore, a lifelong transformative process for both the resettled refugee and the country of resettlement. Refugees must learn the customs and language, access education and employment, take care of the family that is with them, and provide for family that remains in their home country (Hickey, 2007). The refugee resettlement process is transformative for the refugees and the nation receiving them. It provides safety and hope for the refugees while also reintroducing traumatic experiences in the form of barriers, discrimination, and the need to survive as well as reminding them of their separation from family and homeland (Georgetown University, 2009; Shakya et al., 2010). Policies governing refugee resettlement, however, are bifurcated. They are humanitarian without being just; they exist nominally without being robust in reality. The accepting nation promotes humanitarian policies in response to global occurrences (e.g., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during the first decade of the 21st century, and the 31

Haitian earthquake of 2010), while at the same time decrying a watering down of national culture with the arrival of newcomers. The receiving nation promotes societal diversity in writing, but raises concern over the potential national security threat refugees are perceived to have created. Minimal support beyond the first several months of arrival intensifies a refugees ordealthey must make decisions between affording to live or going to school to enhance their economic position and potential life-long earnings (Georgetown University, 2009; Shakya et al., 2010). Defining the terms, whether it is integration, acclimation, inclusion, or acculturation, helps to create coherent policy. As an example, Scotland created a coordinated approach called the Scottish Integration Plan (Threadgold & Court, 2005). The government highlighted the aging population, the need for more people in the workforce to support retirees, and the benefits to society of creating an inclusive and diverse population (Threadgold & Court, 2005). Changing the political discourse on immigration changed the media reporting of it, which fostered a positive climate for welcoming refugees. Scotlands refugee resettlement policy developed Key Themes that it would follow. Themes included translation services, community support, access to information and advice, housing, justice, childrens services, health care, and education. For education, the focus was on providing a national strategy (Threadgold & Court, 2005, p. 71) for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) preparation, and for creating a framework to provide support and resources for refugees to overcome language barriers. Thus, the expectation was that the country and society would need to change to accept refugees (Threadgold & Court, 2005).


Defining the Modern Meaning of Acculturation The history of migrant policy in countries of resettlement (such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia) has evolved from a policy approach that advocated assimilation, then multiculturalism, and then integration (McPherson, 2010). Berry (2001) used acculturation theory to span the theoretical frameworks that exist in migration policy. Berry identified four terms within acculturation theory. First, assimilation assumes a dominant culture in which refugees arrive and must leave their original cultural norms behind. According to Ager and Strang (2004), refugees original cultures will disappear, leaving them indistinguishable from the culture into which they have conformed. Ager and Strang further argue that assimilation was the hallmark of colonization, where developing nations became dependentboth physically and metaphoricallyon the dominant and developed country that had assumed it. In addition, research does not show evidence that assimilation of the host countrys values enhanced a refugees employment prospects (Koehler, 2009). Berrys (2001) second element of acculturation theory is separation. Similar to multiculturalism, which was used as migration policy in Western societies in the 1970s (McPherson, 2010), separation involves the arriving refugee or immigrant rejecting the culture of the new country and existing within an ethnic enclave of other non-natives that keep the home culture alive. With the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001 and in London on July 7, 2005, Western nations migration policies began to shift away from multiculturalism, viewing ethnic enclaves through a lens of terrorism and extremism (McPherson, 2010).


According to Berry (2001), the third element of acculturation is marginalization, through which refugees are isolated from their home and their identifying culture, and then have difficulty adapting to their host countrys culture. According to McPherson (2010), this isolation can result from refugees fleeing their home country and their culture because of political persecution by the government in power that views them as problematic. Tragically, they then arrive to the country of resettlement where the dominant culture may view them with suspicion, and create policies that place great value on conformity. Refugees lose their sense of self and without language abilities, lose the means by which to advocate for themselves or their goals. They are not able to engage in a community and give back to society without the ability for self-actualization (McPherson, 2010). The fourth element of acculturation is integration, a common migration policy in Western society today (Berry, 2001; McPherson, 2010). Ager and Strang (2004) supplied a helpful framework for understanding integration. Integration means that the refugee is able to preserve their home culture while at the same time adopting the culture of the country of resettlement. In more modern approaches to integration, the process is a two-way street, where both the refugee and the receiving community change because of the other. Indicators of integration begin with the foundation, which are the rights that come with citizenship in the new country. Facilitators build on top of the foundation, and these include language acquisition, development of cultural awareness, and learning about safety. Social connections are the next level of Ager and Strangs (2004) matrix, and this includes social bonds (engagement within their own ethnic enclave) and social bridges (engagement with the community). Finally, means and markers for successful 34

integration include employment, housing, education, and health. Ager and Strang noted that markers do not usually happen in any particular order, but that they are means toward successful integration in a new culture. Current public policy in Western democracies (including the United States) establishes integration as the approach toward successful migration policy. However, even with generous state assistance to aid in the building of capital, research shows that enhancing human capital in isolation from enhancing social bonds and bridges is not sufficient to reducing barriers to employment (Valenta & Bunar, 2010). It is not enough to tell refugees how to be citizens; refugees need engagement in the larger society, which is often difficult for them to achieve without societal acceptance of their participation in it. Assimilationist policies promote the majoritys culture while not recognizing the culture of the refugee (Valenta & Bunar, 2010). At the same time, such policies do not help refugees build social bonds with their own ethnic and cultural groups or social bridges to other groups in society. In addition, policies in countries of resettlement that are directed from the central government give no flexibility to local governments to engage refugees in ways that may be more beneficial within specific community contexts. Providing integration assistance, especially immediate assistance upon arrival, is crucial in the integration process but it is not enough. Facilitating language and cultural knowledge as well as providing safety and stability provide a foundation of support, but the larger society may need proactive policies that discourage discrimination and increase diversity within the workplace and within institutions of higher education (Valenta & Bunar, 2010).


Promoting integration also involves the ability to step outside of those socially bonded groups if refugees are to find long-term success in the labor market. According to Mamgain and Collins (2003), such success is dependent upon interaction and engagement with the dominant racial group in society. Interactions within socially bonded groups do help refugees initially, but ultimately can deter the development of language skills, and hinder long-term career growth. Employers who recruit refugees for low-wage jobs frequently recruit family members and friends as well, hindering the need for refugees to learn English language skills as well as decreasing their chances of moving on for better paying work later. Strang and Ager (2010) confirmed that socially bonded groups need to have the mechanisms to build bridges between themselves and other groups in society. Without bridges, the socially bonded groups do not interact and become inclusive, thus hindering integration. Arguing Against Integration McPherson (2010) argued, however, that integration is fundamentally an unjust (and often unsuccessful) approach because it does not give voice to refugees. While they are allowed to integrate to the existing norms of society, they are not given the opportunity to shape, inform, or reject (p. 558). McPherson does not argue against the need for any of the elements in Ager and Strangs (2004) matrix. Clearly, language acquisition is important. According to Kim (1979), communication helps to prevent isolation and engage refugees in interpersonal relationships. Learning about safety in a new country is critical. Housing, employment, access to health care, and education provide security and thus create opportunities (Ager & Strang, 2004).


Fundamentally, according to McPherson (2010), integration rests on the wrong premise and thus the wrong policy, which holds that refugees are no longer problematic once they have achieved these markers. However, McPherson argued that social bonds and social bridges cannot come without first allowing the refugee to create knowledge of self. Refugees in McPhersons study noted that education provided an opportunity for self-empowerment through learning about ones abilities and determining ones goals. From that knowledge of self comes the ability for newcomers to engage with others who may hold different points of view. Engagement with others brings about an open mind and allows for less defensiveness (both for refugees and those with whom they are interacting), creating greater opportunities to engage with society. Ironically, this means that the dominant discourse in refugee policy of viewing the refugee as someone who is problematic to the state and who must be taught to conform to the prevailing culture is not what ultimately creates acculturation (McPherson, 2010). Policies that positively influence integration can also be coercive. Scandinavian countries adopted integration policies for refugees in the 1990s that provided strong measures of social support to facilitate refugee acculturation in society (Valenta & Bunar, 2010). These facilitators included provisions for housing, employment assistance, language training, and introductions to Scandinavian culture. High expectations for the success of refugee integration were not met; refugees continued to have lower incomes, higher rates of homelessness, and higher drop-out rates from high school than the resident population. Norwegian policy, in particular, required attendance in its generous integration program in exchange for public assistance. However, refugees were not allowed to leave the areas where they had been resettled without risking a loss of their 37

integration assistance. The Norwegian policy of resettlement meant that refugees were typically dispersed to rural areas around the country where they knew few people and had no ethnic social bonds to create (Valenta & Bunar, 2010). In contrast to the United States and Canada, which both have proactive laws and policies that promote diverse workplaces and institutes of higher education, Scandinavian countries have been resistant to such an approach, preferring to rely on generous social benefits. Yet, the coercion used to require compliance to the area of resettlement, the type of cultural training they obtain, and the threatened loss of benefits if they choose not to participate mitigates the benefits received (Valenta & Bunar, 2010). Arguing for Integration Strang and Ager (2010) posited that refugee acknowledgement of self and identification of goals is important, but that the framework of integration persists as a necessary policy mechanism. State policy requires actions of refugees, such as language training, and yet little is required of the receiving community, such as enhancing antidiscrimination laws and rules and encouraging a welcoming environment for refugees. The differences between theory and local practice regarding refugee integration make for difficult choices for those working in refugee resettlement. Theory and practice need to meet to create approaches that are beneficial to all (Strang & Ager, 2010). For the purposes of this present study, integration and acculturation are used interchangeably to mean the process by which the resettled refugee and the host country both change to accommodate the otherthe refugee by learning of culture, customs, laws, and norms, and the host country by creating conditions in which resettlement can be supported within an environment that is welcoming and inclusive. 38

Strang and Ager (2010) discussed the bonds and bridges that are necessary for refugee integration and for providing a sense of belonging. In addition, reciprocity between social groups builds trust and facilitates transition and inclusion. Within the study of migration, integration can mean one group having to assimilate to the culture of another group to find acceptance, or it can mean one group being able to participate in the host society while still retaining their cultural identity. Debate exists around the issue of citizenship rights, access to those rights, settlement in society (in confinement, as a temporary member, or as a full member), and adjustment to the culture of both the entering group and the receiving community. There are radically different understandings of the goals, nature and meanings of integration (Strang & Ager, 2010, p. 590). Comparing integration or acculturation with assimilation is unfortunate, but unavoidable. In the United States, assimilation meant a one-sided practice of adopting the majority cultures views (Nguyen, 2006). Recent views on assimilation mean that incoming groups retain their identity, but also agree to assume civic goals promoted by society (Strang & Ager, 2010). However, society is not a static entity in which a refugee can enter. Barriers to acculturation include racial tensions, income inequality concerns, debate regarding the role of government in the lives of residents, and concern over increasing globalization (Strang & Ager, 2010). How integration is operationalized depends on the context. Depending on society, attempts to promote a dominant cultural view and disdain for diversity make integration seem more like assimilation in the sense that new comers must be like us. The immigrant is viewed as the problem and therefore, they must strive to be more like 39

the majority culture (McPherson, 2010). However, integrating becomes even more difficult within this context as newcomers feel isolated, unwanted, or criminal (if they arrive as asylum seekers and are held in detention centers while they await their judgment)(Strang & Ager, 2010). Refugees feel unwanted if society believes they are undeserving. The establishment of temporary protection status in European countries in the 1990s reinforced this view, as refugees arrived from the former Yugoslavia (Strang & Ager, 2010). Without equal rights, refugees themselves say that they do not feel like equals in their new country. Guest worker programs (such as in the United Kingdom) are accused of acting as a migrating factor encouraging movement across borders. However, Strang and Ager (2010) reported that the limited rights of guest workers and the control with which the state exercises its power over them creates a negative relationship between the government and the guest workers, evidenced by racial tensions throughout Europe. Acquiring citizenship by showing language accomplishment and cultural awareness overlooks the fact that integration is enhanced when newcomers have a sense of security in their citizenship status (Atfield et al., 2007; Strang & Ager, 2010). Barriers to Acculturation A variety of reasons exist for barriers to acculturation. The problem begins with refugee policy by countries that resettle refugees. While the generosity of countries that resettle refugees is laudable, policy once they arrive ranges from ineffective to negligent. The US government admits more refugees each year than all other resettlement countries combined (Dawood, 2011; US Department of State, 2010). The US government, through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) places the expectation upon refugees and the agencies working to resettle them in the United States that the top 40

priority should be immediate employment so that the goal of self-sufficiency is achieved quickly (US Department of State, n.d.). The PRM noted that this is an evidenced-based approach, and stated, Based on years of experience, the US refugee resettlement program has found that people learn English and begin to function comfortably much faster if they start work soon after arrival (US Department of State, n.d., para. 22). However, longitudinal studies of refugees demonstrate that refugees exhaust public assistance after 8 months; and with a lack of English skills in a poor economy with unreliable transportation, some refugees are left in homeless shelters (Georgetown University, 2009). Barriers to self-sufficiency (and thus acculturation) included lack of affordable housing, lack of English language, lack of income, isolation for women at home, insufficient assistance in learning about benefits including continuing education, and the inability to afford or understand how to get recertified (Schiller et al., 2009). Early employment policies prevent refugees from attending English language classes or taking the time to recertify their professional credentials. Furthermore, the focus on early employment prohibits many from recovering from the emotional or physical trauma they were subjected to in their home countries or in the refugee camps. The policy of rapid abandonment (Schiller et al., 2009, p. 1) leaves refugees in continued crisis and trauma, without means to support themselves, speak the language, or find transportation to get a job and become self-sufficient. Early employment policies prevent refugees from gaining additional employment skills in order to enhance their employment prospects. Public assistance is too limited to enable refugees with qualifications earned prior to migration to become recertified or attend college. Recertification for refugees who were doctors or other professionals is 41

extremely expensive and can last years (Dawood, 2011; Georgetown University, 2009). Emphasis on employment over education means that refugees will land in low-paying jobs in order to survive. Furthermore, employment can be elusive if the way forward in getting a job is reliant upon the economy and social contacts (Koehler, 2009). A survey conducted by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (2011) noted that refugees who had lived in the United States between 2 and 7 years had incomes averaging $9.90 per hour, with about 50% of households relying on food stamps, and an average household of four people. Thus, refugee resettlement policy that focuses on early employment does not meet the stated goals of helping refugees to become self-sufficient. Refugees cannot access employment if they lack English language ability, adequate transportation, or skills and recertification that improve their marketability. Aside from government policy that mandates specific actions or behaviors of refugees, there are refugee considerations as well. According to the ORR (2011), 75.4% of refugees arrived to the United States in 2003 with limited or no English language skills. Five years later, the same sample had 48.2% with limited or no English language skills. Differences in languages from the home country can also dramatically affect a refugees ability to acculturate. For example, a language that is relatively common to those living in the United States and one that uses mostly similar letters, such as Spanish, may provide refugees who speak Spanish with some common ground on which to start the process of learning English. Languages in different dialects, such as the many tribal languages of Burma, provide little common understanding and can create greater isolation for newcomers.


The reaction of the host community to the arrival of refugees in their midst can also create barriers to acculturation. The process of a homogenous group, such as Burmese refugees, entering the autocratic culture of the refugee camps, and then resettling within a different homogenous, but dominant, culture of the resettlement country can create tension and isolation (Hickey, 2007). If refugee service providers can help prepare a community for newcomers and establish mechanisms by which members of the community can learn about the culture and experiences of refugees, then opportunities exist for a beneficial, two-way, acculturation process (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009). Opportunities for language education and for social programs that provide needed aid and support to refugees as they become self-sufficient can aid acculturation efforts. However, if schools immerse students into classrooms with little language or academic support, then isolation may occur, which creates acculturation barriers. Using educational alternatives can create options for students who are refugees to discover the knowledge of self and create empowerment. Matthews (2008) advocated for a whole school approach that included alternatives such as tutors within the community, separate educational tracks within the school, and choices for language acquisition through informal means such as after school youth programs. Acculturation Goals Refugees primary aspirations for their ability to acculturate involves the functional aspects of life, such as employment and education, which necessarily means the ability to speak English and have a safe place to live. Second, refugees wish for the emotional satisfaction that integration can provide, such as having a sense of community 43

belonging. Third, they wish to attain citizenship and live within a society where they can be treated equally (Atfield et al., 2007). The first aspirationgaining education and employmentis viewed not just as a means to get ahead, but also as a means of integration into wider society. However, the third aspiration, gaining citizenship, does not mean the refugee has integrated, but that it is a necessary accomplishment in order to access the freedoms (such as equality) that allow individuals to be fully participative in society (Atfield et al., 2007). Refugees must quickly internalize and navigate through the hurdles for living in the United States, swiftly accessing the necessary health and immunization requirements, and then steering through the maze of transportation options, literacy classes, employment service help, and sustainable housing beyond the initial 8 months of support they receive from the federal government. Nadeau (2008) asserted that refugees experience trauma again upon resettlement, given the anxiety of the process. Education as a Means of Acculturation Education can provide the formal arrangements by which refugee students can learn the language, as long as they have uninterrupted access to classes. Education also provides the informal lessons that teach refugees about the power structures that exist within society, within their communities, and within their schools (Delpit, 1988). Education upon arrival can help refugees decode the hidden meanings of language within the culture as well as decipher the cultural meanings that exist within citizenship training refugees may have received in the camps (Koehler, 2009). Without education, refugees retain poor language skills, have a meager knowledge of the societal forces they must confront to get ahead, and become detached. They avoid acculturation; they avoid those 44

in authority (especially those in uniform that may remind them of abusive authorities in their home country), and as a result, miss the opportunities they may have available to them (Matthews, 2008). Upon arrival to the country of resettlement, education can provide a path to integration and a source of cultural identification and understanding (Buckland, 2006; Harris & Marlowe, 2011; Koehler, 2009). Refugees aspire to have higher education as a means of overcoming their traumatic home experiences prior to migration and their disruptions in education (Shakya et al., 2010). Refugees arrive with different needs. Indeed, integration involves a variety of factors including those which are political, economic, social, cultural, educational, legal, and psychological (Threadgold & Court, 2005). Students aspire to education as a means to help their communityboth the ethnic community in which they bonded, but also within the larger community in which they lived (Shakya et al., 2010). However, there is also an expectation of how refugees should integrate. Harris and Marlowe (2011) recounted students perceptions of how their families and communities expect them to act, to achieve in school, and sadly, how society expects them to fail. Education is a source of esteem among family members and the refugees ethnic group. It is a pathway to professional aspirations, which would mean they could provide for family members back home. Refugee students understand that education is a means of integrating into society and overcoming marginalization (Shakya et al., 2010). Language education or postsecondary education provides an opportunity for refugees to associate with people outside of their ethnic group, learn about the culture of the community and the larger 45

society in which they live, and ultimately discover opportunities for greater integration (Atfield et al., 2007). The host community needs to facilitate integration through policies that outline access to services, access to education, rights of refugees immigrant status, and the opportunities refugees have to attain citizenship (Strang & Ager, 2010). Policies that provide literacy education for refugees, awareness education for host communities to explain integration policy as well as share refugee stories, and social programs that provide income support serve to scaffold the refugees acculturation. Community services such as education, housing, health services, and employment assist in improving empowerment and self-sufficiency (Threadgold & Court, 2005). Social Capital Social capital involves the mechanisms by which refugees can engage within society and increase their acculturation (Strang & Ager, 2010). It refers to the resources available to an individual within the culture and ones ability to access them (Camblin, 2003). Bonds that exist within an ethnic group are an example of social capital. Members of ethnic groups can support newcomers of the same ethnic group by translating, helping them find housing, and providing emotional comfort. The primary bond is with family, specifically family that already resides in the new country. Bonded networks provided guidance in working through the maze of receiving benefits and accessing education (Strang & Ager, 2010). Bonded social networks are important for refugees in their ability to access education. Refugees regard classes as a means of getting out of the house and socializing within the community (Atfield et al., 2007). Education provides an opportunity for 46

refugees to associate with people outside of their ethnic group, learn about the culture of the community and the larger society in which they live, and ultimately discover opportunities for greater integration (Atfield et al., 2007). Reciprocity, trust, and social connection are created between groups where they meet in society, such as at schools, work, or in stores. Yet, if barriers exist that prevent refugees from meeting other groups in society (such as barriers to education), then this can inhibit integration (Strang & Ager, 2010). Cultural Capital Similar to social capital, cultural capital is the knowledge one has of the surrounding culture and reciprocal skills they bring to it (Camblin, 2003). Morrice (2009) discussed the value of social and cultural capital for resettled refugees in a case study of four resettled refugees who had completed a university course on learning and living in a new culture for newly arrived refugees. The course dealt with the students expectations versus reality with regard to their pre-arrival qualifications, and what the students would need to do to get a professional job. Students were also able to engage in social interaction, and had a safe place where they could share their cultural observations and new world experiences with their classmates. Students also engaged in debate with their classmates, exploring how people from different cultures view specific topics. Debating in a controlled context confirms McPhersons (2010) position that students learning a language and learning a culture need to have experiences debating those who may not share their points of view. Education also helps refugee students learn to navigate societal rules and cultural norms (Berry, 2001; Hickey, 2007; Koehler, 2009; McPherson, 2010). The lack of 47

understanding cultural cues presents barriers to education. There exist cultural layers that citizens can understand and adapt to in order to obtain capital and overcome barriers. Refugees lack those cultural cues except that they understand themselves to be of a lower status. They are also dealing with the prior trauma of their experiences. These feelings of inferiority are exacerbated when they have prior qualifications that are no longer valid in their new country (Stevenson & Willot, 2008). Educational Challenges and Barriers The top three aspirations of refugees resettling in the United States are to (a) obtain more education, (b) reunite family with them in the United States, and (c) become US citizens. These three goals align with factors previously identified as indicators of integration (Schiller et al., 2009). However, problems abound in refugees obtaining needed education, which results in lives spent in low wage jobs and slower acculturation processes. Educational challenges to resettlement begin while still in a refugees home country, where disruptions due to war or natural disaster are a common occurrence. Interruptions can have a significant effect on the educational experiences of refugees once they resettle. There exists little to no post-migration support to help refugees overcome these interruptions and re-engage in education upon arrival (Shakya et al., 2010). Once a refugee flees his/her home and arrives in a refugee camp in a host country, there is a lack of educational opportunity. During their lengthy displacement comes a great deal of idleness during which refugees ironically have the time to engage in educational pursuits and language training, but not the access (MacLaren, 2010; Zeus, 48

2011). Refugees who have the opportunity to complete secondary education, either prior to migration or in the camps, want to attend college because it provides eventual economic benefits and it postpones their entry into the labor market. Given that access to employment is often hindered by instability in the third world countries from which refugees first flee, higher education can provide an escape or a means of engaging their minds, rather than living a passive existence. Ultimately, post-secondary education provides them with the ability to plan for the future (Dryden-Petersen, 2010). Upon arrival to the United States, refugees aspire to further their education (Atfield et al., 2007; Georgetown University, 2009; Schiller et al., 2009). Refugees describe their main desire for going to the United States over other countries of resettlement was to get a college education. Refugees also describe higher education as a means of helping their countries back home turn to peace, rather than war (Schiller et al., 2009). They are discouraged, though, by the barriers to education. Cost and lack of academic English impedes their opportunities for higher education. Thus, they aspire to go to school, but they do not have the means to do so. They see their aspirations slip away, which may affect their ability, or even desire, to acculturate (Schiller et al., 2009). When refugees are limited from accessing education or other social opportunities, it hinders their financial and social capacity. Frequently, asylum seekers are in this category; they are often jailed or restricted from employment and education until their immigration status is settled. However, immigration status is often denied because they have so little social capital and cannot demonstrate their ability to be a productive member of society (Atfield et al., 2007). 49

The quality of English language classes for refugees is a problem in the United States (Georgetown University, 2009). There is a lack of educational oversight of English classes, thus quality of curriculum and instruction is inconsistent. The classes also do not take into account the varying educational backgrounds of the refugees, which means that someone who was illiterate in their own language could be in a class with someone who had a medical degree. In addition, the location of classes may prevent a student from attending due to lack of transportation. Furthermore, the lack of childcare often prevents a parent from being able to attend (Schiller et al., 2009). A relationship exists between education and integration because refugees are able to use education to expand their social networks, learn about the culture, and develop the language and professional skills to find meaningful work. However, aspirations for postsecondary education are not in line with the reality of the integration experience (Atfield et al., 2007). In the United States, refugees are required to take the first job available to them, even if they lack the language or employment skills, or the transportation to get to and from the job site (Dawood, 2011; Georgetown University, 2009). A survey of refugees who lived in the United States between 2003 and 2008 revealed that many resettled refugees arrived with prior higher education in their home countries, with 7.8% having a university degree, 1% having a medical degree, and 7.9% having completed a technical certificate (ORR, 2011). Hartog and Zorlu (2009) discovered that there was an inverse relationship between refugees levels of education in their home countries and their integration in their countries of resettlement. Refugees with higher education had less success in the labor market than refugees who did not have higher education. Explanations include the need to speak the language of the new 50

country in jobs that require higher education, whereas in low-paying jobs, that need was mitigated. A second reason is that recertification for many professions that require higher education means that the language barrier is again a problem as well as an understanding of specific terms or practices specific to the new country. A third reason is that refugees with higher education correlate positively to refugees who have been more politically engaged in their home countries and thus are the ones who have experienced more trauma and health problems, which delay their acculturation (Hartog & Zorlu, 2009). In a study completed by Schiller et al. (2009), 15% of refugees in their sample had been professionals prior to migration, yet none could transfer their professional certifications to the United States. If refugees arrive with strong English skills, it can enable them to earn high wages regardless of their educational background in their country of origin. However, even those refugees with professional degrees as doctors or engineers, but who lack English language skills, will have a hard time accessing retraining education or employment opportunities. Resettled refugees, however, have higher rates of social integration if they have an educated background. Education may enhance their wages or it may enhance their ability to be entrepreneurs and thus engage socially in the local community and economy (Mamgain & Collins, 2003). Recertification for their jobs would enable refugees with prior professional education to advance in their careers and provide them with greater means to support their families. Very often, the desire to reenter their profession is more than the wish to become self-sufficient, but also a need to give back to the country that has accepted them. Refugees may even volunteer in schools in order to be in a professional environment, gain confidence, and feel more integrated (Smyth & Kum, 2010). Often the refugees 51

expectation to recertify or re-professionalize with further education is not the reality. The process often discourages refugees. During that time, there can be a loss of skills (Smyth & Kum, 2010). Smyth and Kum (2010) argued that refugees stall in their integration into their new society when their professional capital is suppressed. Barriers to entry in the professions in which they are trained prohibit the development of professional relationships that enhance refugees integration and professional fulfillment. Obtaining recertification is difficult because refugees do not typically have the financial resources to be self-sufficient and seek recertification (Dawood, 2011; Georgetown University, 2009; Schiller et al., 2009). Refugees who do arrive with higher education diplomas or professional certifications also must develop their English skills at a much higher level than those who are engaging in vocational programs. Furthermore, the process of recertification in the United States requires an ability to navigate the system, which refugees have difficulty doing. The governments focus on early employment leaves refugees languishing in low-wage jobs, without the opportunity to develop or improve their language skills, or enroll in higher education or recertification courses. There is a feeling among Iraqi refugees, who are generally the most highly educated of refugees arriving in the country, that the United States does not realize their value. Likewise, young adults feel their potential is wasted, given the early employment policy. They want to attend college, but must seek employment (Dawood, 2011; Georgetown University, 2009). Thus, US resettlement policy promotes early employment (regardless of status, wage, or nature) over higher education or recertification in a time when all jobs are scarce. This is exacerbated by the competition that refugees have for even low-wage 52

jobsAmericans of all educational backgrounds are seeking work in a time of high unemployment. Expectations by policy makers are that education plays an important role in the acculturation of refugees (Koehler, 2009; Valenta & Bunar, 2010). However, what education is supposed to accomplish is shrouded in vague terms of teaching norms and values. Policy makers insist those values include promoting and respecting diversity, understanding the separation of church and state, and underscoring womens rights and civil rights of all races and ethnicities. Yet, the hidden messages in the educational system are paradoxical to the stated aims of education policy. Getting refugees to adapt to the culture of the host country is evident through political discourse on language mandates, by making citizenship conditional upon the passage of a test that covers national culture, and by a national culture that expects social cohesion and acceptance of values, but at the same time demands refugees be independent and self-sufficient (Kohler, 2009). For any adult student, entering higher education is difficult (Braxton, Hirschy, & McClendon, 2004; Elliott, 2002; Huntly & Donovan, 2009). Entering higher education and persisting in higher education is dependent upon multiple factors, such as qualifications, funding, capability to have academic success, and a stable home environment that fosters learning and studying (Kift & Nelson, 2005; Morrice, 2009). Within this context, a refugee students access and abilities in higher education are hindered by their lack of cultural capitalthose resources that enable them to have the social and cultural awareness to integrate into the university environment after having experienced a traumatic existence fleeing their homes, living in refugee camps, and 53

resettling in a new country (McPherson, 2010, Morrice, 2009; Stevenson & Willot, 2008). In addition, McBrien (2011) noted that prior to resettlement, refugee students and parents may have lacked formal education, they may have been alienated by their teachers or their childrens teachers, and thus have very little trust to draw on when seeking post-secondary education in their new country. Cultural awareness extends to the university experience, with refugees often discovering belatedly that they enrolled in unnecessary courses (Stevenson & Willot, 2008), held different perceptions of academic integrity and understanding of how to properly cite research materials (Harris & Marlowe, 2011), and found social connections with those outside their sphere of refugee acquaintances difficult to make (Strang & Ager, 2010). Additional barriers, such as low income, language attainment, trauma upon arrival (especially for asylum seekers), and racist treatment further harm the refugee aspiring to higher education and a better life in their new country (McBrien, 2005). A Loss of Esteem The need to excel in education is essential to the esteem building of the refugee student, who often feels a great deal of shame among their family and ethnic community for not being able to reenter their professional realm in their new country (Harris & Marlowe; 2011; Stevenson & Willot, 2008). Many refugees and asylum seekers have prior qualifications as doctors, teachers, or engineers, and yet work in menial jobs in the country of resettlement because they lack credentials that will transfer (Stevenson & Willot, 2008). Students are frustrated by the lack of recognition of the prior educational credentials or professional experience (Goodson & Phillimore, 2005; Threadgold & Court, 2005). In addition, they cannot prove the credentials they have because they have 54

often fled their homes in distressing situations, leaving behind passports, university diplomas, and professional certifications (Goodson & Phillimore, 2005; Shakya et al., 2010). Access to Resources Accessing the needed funding to remain in school proves difficult for refugee students, who must pay for tuition, books, and housing to complete their studies. Given that most refugees have accepted low-wage work not commensurate with their prior educational background and professional experiences, their incomes are meager and the funding support is inconsistent (Goodson & Phillimore, 2005; Stevenson & Willot, 2008). Many refugees are motivated to contribute to society, but must have access to educational resources to do so. For example, students expressed a concern about the strength of their English language skills, and their academic skills in general, stating that not all refugees had the same level of instruction in their home countries (Harris & Marlowe, 2011). They also want their teachers to have some understanding and empathy of their plight, and how different their background circumstances are to those students with mainstream education backgrounds (Harris & Marlowe, 2011; Onsando & Billett, 2009). Likewise, refugee students feel they are set up to fail upon enrolling in higher education, with universities thinking they had met their duty to a diverse student body by providing a short orientation at the beginning of the academic term (Harris & Marlowe, 2011). Refugee students lack the knowledge of where they could go for support or the


ability to identify the correct educational track they need to be on in order to meet their goals (Goodson & Phillimore, 2005; Shakya et al., 2010). The marginalization of refugee support and need is reflected in policy through which governments such as Canada and the United States group refugees in with immigrants in their educational data (NCES, 2009), thus not taking into account their very different circumstances (i.e., lack of choice in where they live, their language abilities, and their circumstances prior to arrival). Thus, refugees remain isolated and unseen, despite evidence that their experiences pre- and post-migration will influence their long-term ability to integrate and succeed in society (Shakya et al., 2012). Balancing School and Family Beyond the esteem of succeeding educationally and the path that schooling can take them to professionally, refugees also may be responsible for financially supporting family members in their home countries (Harris & Marlowe, 2011). Educational providers also note that the majority of refugees are without income or have very low income, and thus consistent enrollment in higher education is deterred by the stresses of needing employment, child care, and proper attention to their own health care; learning is affected by poor health and stress (Evans & Murray, 2009; Goodson & Phillimore, 2005). Resettled refugees who are secondary students or college students often find the balancing of school life with home life to be difficult. They aspire to attain a higher education degree to prove their worth to their family members and to provide for them financially (Harris & Marlowe, 2011; Shakya et al., 2010). Frequently, their parents have little education and poor health, resulting in greater family responsibilities and less time for educational pursuits for the refugee student. Refugee youth and young adults often 56

become translators and caretakers within their family and ethnic group. They also have to work in order to support their families as their parents often experience tremendous difficulty accessing the labor market (Shakya et al., 2010). They have many demands of their time as soon as they leave school and arrive at home; making it hard to access a computer, find time to study, or make their own plans (Harris & Marlowe, 2011). Thus, pressing needs to support their families transcend the students educational and career aspirations, increasing the chasm between goals and what they can realistically accomplish. This increases their desire for education, while at the same time they see it slipping away (Shakya et al., 2010). Needed Policy Changes Identified in the Literature Legal rights for resettled refugees are important, but not enough. Refugees need access to retraining, certification, higher education, cultural knowledge, and help in making social connections. The receiving population itself must also adapt. This must happen at the local level, rather than at just a policy level (Strang & Ager, 2010). As evidenced by their motivation to flee their country and work to improve their lives, refugees are motivated to learn. Post-secondary education for refugees creates a skilled and motivated workforce, and enhances a refugees integration into society by improving his or her long-term earnings potential. However, recognition of education received in the camps or prior to migration is a significant issue that refugee policy has yet to address effectively (Buckland, 2006). In addition, increased access to postsecondary education in both the transitional experience of the camps and the resettled experience in their new country would enable refugees to have greater opportunities to improve their cultural and social capital, thereby improving their integration into society. 57

Tax credits for employers in the resettled country who provided tuition reimbursement would enable more refugees to become qualified to work in higher-paying jobs (Schiller, 2009). There is a need for greater coordination for refugee service providers who can help beyond the initial arrival. Refugees need mentoring services that can guide them through the process of higher education admission. Continued multicultural training for refugee service staff and volunteers is important, especially as it pertains to reaching out to refugees who feel isolated within their new communities. Reliable funding for refugees to attend college is significant. Access to language classes is critical as a gateway to entering higher education (Goodson & Phillimore, 2005). Education providers note that they needed greater understanding in how to access refugee populations for enrollment in their institutions (Goodson & Phillimore, 2005). Training for institutional staff is important, both for cultural understanding as well as for learning about eligibility rights (Goodson & Phillimore, 2005). Training for school employees and community organization members on the rights that refugees have to enroll in and attend post-secondary education is important in ensuring that refugees received the correct guidance (Evans & Murray, 2009). Resettlement policy needs to incorporate mechanisms to facilitate easier access to educational services. Greater number of support services and personnel dedicated to helping the refugee access health care, employment, and education can help refugees gain the resources they need to integrate into society. Work shadowing so refugees do not lose their skills is one mechanism that can help while they work through the recertification process (Smyth & Kum, 2010). Tuition assistance by employers also 58

facilitates refugee access to post-secondary education (Schiller et al., 2009). Provisions for childcare help refugee students who are also responsible for caring for younger siblings or their own children (Evans & Murray, 2009). Refugee secondary and post-secondary students often lack reliable information on their benefits and rights. Barriers to higher education included English language proficiency and lack of accurate information, funding, and childcare (Atfield et al., 2007; Goodson & Phillimore, 2005). Informational barriers include frustration over the lack of recognition of prior education and the rights that refugees have to attend school in the United States. Furthermore, the refugees do not have access to their credentials, as they were lost or left behind during migration. Refugee students learn not to depend on the guidance that they receive from high school counselors about college and placement in the educational system. They rely more firmly on advice from informal networks such as new friends and older siblings. Refugee students are thus demonstrating resilience and tactical strategizing, while at the same time they feel burdened by the lack of formal resources and support networks (Shakya et al., 2010). Conclusion The literature review indicates a need for refugee perspective in developing educational policy priorities that coincide with employment policy priorities for resettled refugees. Education is a primary aspiration of refugees and strongly correlates to their sense of belonging (Atfield et al., 2009). Education is considered both an indicator of integration and a means of attaining it. Greater access to educational resources begets the greater ability of refugees to access social networks and integrate within society (Strang & Ager, 2010). Understanding the experiences of refugees in post-secondary education 59

can help inform policy makers of the necessity of such educational programs that will create valued, productive, and revenue-enhancing members of society. Policies that emphasize early employment over higher education or recertification doom refugees to lives spent in low-wage jobs or worse, where they cannot sustain their livelihood and become isolated from society. Such policies should be reexamined if the goal is indeed acculturation.


CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY The review of the literature revealed a lack of refugee perspective in the development of educational and employment policy surrounding refugee resettlement in the United States. Giving voice to refugees provides a mechanism for them to share their experiences to inform policymakers and educational administrators of the need for greater understanding of their process of acculturation. Strang and Ager (2010) and McPherson (2010) asserted that refugee perspectives needed to be included in the making of policy in order to provide outcomes that benefit both the refugee and society. Recording the refugee perspective, making meaning of their stories, and empowering their definitions of acculturation helps researchers construct themes that can be applied in policy contexts. Jex (2002) discussed the power relationships that exist between leader and follower, highlighting the manifold types of authority that leaders have. Understanding power relationships within the refugee context helps to guide effective research and potential policy recommendations. The refugee populations voice is often heard only by those resettlement agencies that work directly with them. Therefore, constructing frameworks of their experiences using refugees as the center of the research study, where they share their understanding and meaning of resettlement permits the voices of vulnerable populations to exist in the literature and potentially be of use to those power brokers that govern their lives. Making meaning of how post-secondary educational experiences influence the acculturation of resettled refugees necessitates a phenomenological methodology that explores those experiences and records refugee voices. This chapter includes a discussion of the research methodology used in the 61

current study, and a description of how ethics and empowerment integrate with the research design. Research Design The study encompassed a qualitative phenomenological design with a participantcentered approach in which participants were empowered to describe the meaning that they attach to their post-secondary educational experiences in the United States, and how those experiences influenced their acculturation. Phenomenology permits researchers to explore lived experiences of participants, and how living through those experiences transforms the consciousness of the person (Merriam, 2009). I am particularly interested in how phenomenology seeks to find an essence of a shared experiencethose experiences where the core meaning is revealed. In this case, the purpose is to study the phenomenon of post-secondary educational experiences of resettled refugees and uncover the essence of those experiences (Merriam, 2009) (see Table 1). A participant-centered approach was chosen for this study because the literature revealed a need for refugee perspective and the context their stories provide in shaping and informing public policy (McPherson, 2010; Rodgers, 2004). Therefore, the goal of this study was to provide participants an opportunity to provide their definitions of acculturation, and to share how their educational experiences influenced their adaptation to life in the United States.


Table 1 Research Design

Method Qualitative design Participant centered In-depth, phenomenological, semistructured interviews Selection of Participant Group Setting Description Two, one-on-one interviews used. Meaning makings of post-secondary educational experiences. Participants defined acculturation, and shared educational experiences.

Seven adult participants who were first generation resettled refugees found using a purposive sampling strategy. Interviews conducted in the Tampa Bay area Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Interviews conducted approximately one week apart using openended questions to explore phenomenon under study. The interview guide allowed for a free-flowing conversation that yielded valuable information about the influence of post-secondary education on acculturation. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed word-for-word. Transcriptions coded based on repetitive themes that emerged. Initial themes addressed in second interview. Reliability enhanced using member checks and an audit trail. Validity enhanced through an initial pilot test, the triangulation of the two-interview series, and the coordination with Task Force members to review findings. Research bias controlled through check of interview questions by members of Task Force immersed in refugee resettlement issues. The study sought to minimize risk and maximize benefits, as highlighted in the informed consent procedure. Dissertation provided to communities of interest: policymakers, educational leaders, researchers, members of the Tampa Bay Task Force, and the participants themselves.

Interview Structure

Interview Guide

Data Collection Data Analysis

Reliability and Validity

Ethical considerations

Dissemination of report

In-depth, phenomenological, semi-structured interviews were used to reveal perspectives held by participants about their educational experiences, allowing them to 63

assign meaning to these experiences, and explain how these experiences influenced their resettlement. This process contributes to the thick, rich description that is the hallmark of a qualitative study. A qualitative approach was chosen to provide the context for the refugee data that policymakers hold, in order to provide insight of the varied realities of resettled refugees lives into the dominant discourses that currently govern refugee policy (Guilfoyle, 2009). A qualitative methodology can work well within the policy development cycle, allowing researchers to provide contextual data that encourages a review of prior policies, a review of intended and unintended consequences of existing policies, and an analysis of existing policies that can be carried over into new policies (Rist, 1994). Participant Group Rodgers (2004) indicated that researchers who use a participant-centered qualitative approach with a small number of refugee participants can avoid presumptions too often present in quantitative designs, such as which selected areas of their lives deserve to be assessed and measured. The current researcher intended the participantcentered approach of this study to uncover the importance of their educational experiences, but allowed them to provide the meaning of the power relationships and barriers present, and the impact of retaining or letting go of former self-identities. Participants in this study are first-generation, adult resettled refugees, who were no younger than 15 years of age when they arrived in the United States. Using refugees who arrived as teens or older helps to control for the acculturation experience as one that was influenced less from the primary or secondary education experience.


Purposive sampling is a typical strategy for obtaining participants in a qualitative study using in-depth interviews (Seidman, 2006). Purposive sampling enables the researcher to create a group of participants with direct knowledge of the experience being studied. In the current study, participants with both higher education and recertification experiences shared their stories. Refugee resettlement service providers (those organizations that contract with the government to resettle refugees in the United States) who are members of the Tampa Bay Refugee Area Refugee Task Force provided information on the study to their refugee clients, who then had the opportunity to contact me for participation in the study if they were interested. There are two areas of post-secondary education I was interested in analyzing: higher education and retraining/additional training. I had four participants from the higher education sector, and three participants from the retraining/additional training sector in order to allow for potential themes to emerge within and between the different educational sectors. A pilot study included two additional participants. Allowing for attrition, the final group size was seven participants (not including the two pilot study participants) who completed the full process of two in-depth interviews. Snowballing techniques, in which one of the studys participants advised me of other potential participants, was used to augment the group size as well as search on the internet for resettled refugees in the Tampa Bay area that yielded an additional participant who met the study parameters. The backgrounds of the participants included three from the former Yugoslavia, three from Cuba, and one from Iraq. This group provided substantial data on refugee perceptions of their educational experiences as they relate to acculturation, as well as comparative data on those with varying post-secondary educational experiences. 65

As Seidman (2006) reported, The method of in-depth, phenomenological interviewing applied to a sample of participants who all experience similar structural and social conditions gives enormous power to the stories of a relatively few participants (p. 55). Setting Interviews were conducted in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, both large urban areas that collectively create the Tampa Bay area of Florida. Both counties have diverse populations, as indicated in Tables 2 and 3. Table 2 Population of Hillsborough County, 2010 Population by Ethnicity Total Population Percentage of total population 71.2% 16.6% 3.4% 0.3%

White 879,137 African American 205,073 Asian 42,076 American Indian and Alaska 4,779 Native Native Hawaiian and Pacific 925 0.07% Islander Other 61,554 5.0% Identified by two or more 38,682 3.1% Total 1,232,226 99.27% Note: The information in Tables 2 and 3 is summarized from the US Census Report, 2010.


Table 3 Population of Pinellas County, 2010 Population by Ethnicity White African American Asian American Indian and Alaska Native Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Other Identified by two or more Total Total Population 752,892 94,745 27,148 2,892 810 18,039 20,016 913,650 Percentage of total population 82.4% 10.3% 2.9% 0.3% 0.08% 1.9% 2.1% 99.98%

Florida resettles the largest refugee population in the nation (approximately 43% of total population), with over 137,000 refugees, asylees, and victims of human trafficking settled in the state from 2007 to 2011 (see Table 3). Asylees consist of those persons who fear persecution from their home governments and seek asylum in the United States. They do not have legal resident status until granted by asylum officers or immigration judges in the United States (Florida Department of Children & Families, n.d.). Most refugees in Florida are from Cuba and Haiti, including those who are advanced parolees from Cuba granted advanced permission to enter the United States (Florida Department of Children & Families, n.d.). However, there are 97 countries represented within the refugee population (US Department of State, 2012) (see Table 4).


Table 4 Refugee Resettlement in Florida, 20072011 Year Cuban and Asylees Victims of Total Haitian Human Refugees Trafficking 3,243 23,775 1,859 0 28,877 2007 4,242 20,362 2,111 40 26,755 2008 5,392 20,176 2,038 13 27,619 2009 4,813 21,046 1,331 20 27,210 2010 3,353 22,512 1,329 10 27,204 2011 21,043 107,871 8,668 83 137,665 Total Note: The information in Table 4 is summarized from the Florida Department of Children and Families (n.d.) Hillsborough and Pinellas counties both have higher education institutes, language learning centers, religious organizations, and social service organizations. The primary service providers for refugee resettlement in the area include Catholic Charities, Coptic Orthodox Charities, Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, and Lutheran Services. Interview Structure Two, one-on-one interviews conducted approximately one week apart encompassed a phenomenological, semi-structured design using open-ended questions (Seidman, 2006). The interviews were used to address the research question, which was, How do resettled refugees in the United States perceive that their post-secondary education received during resettlement influenced their acculturation? The questions were formed out of a qualitative research approach recommended by Merriam (2009), who discussed the open-ended interview structure. The open-ended strategy makes use of an interview guide that includes specific questions, followed up by probing questions that can be used during an interview that explore the phenomenon more intently, and 68 Refugees

includes general areas or topics that the researcher wants to cover, but does not yet have enough information from the interviews to create specific questions. Merriam (2009) recommended that researchers start with some general descriptive questions that are neutral and help to provide a foundation for the rest of the questions. Beyond the foundational questions, an interview guide was used (see Appendix) that addresses topics revealed in the literature. Table 5 shows a list of the question themes and their source of support in the literature reviewed. Table 5 Question Themes and Literature Support Question themes for interviews Self-actualization and identity within a dominant culture Power relationships in the camps, upon arrival, or relating to barriers to education Education during displacement and premigration The meaning of acculturation revealed by participants, and indicators of acculturation Aspirations and goals Recertification and re-credentialing Cultural values, informal lessons, and mixed messages in society and education The role of education in the broader society as well as the refugees role within their community Literature source supporting questions Marbley (2007) and McPherson (2010). Dawood (2011), Georgetown University (2009), and Jex (2002) Nadeau (2008) and Zeus (2011). Ager and Strang (2004), Atfield, Brahmbhatt, and OToole (2007 McPherson (2010) and Strang and Ager (2010). Dawood (2011) and Georgetown University (2009) Koehler (2009) McPherson (2010)


Through the course of the interviews, participants were asked to describe their refugee experiences, reflect on their post-secondary educational attainment in the United States, and discuss how that aided in their adaptation and adjustment during resettlement. Each interview was approximately 90 minutes in length. No interpreter or translation was needed as all participants spoke English. The use of two interviews as opposed to the standard three suggested by Seidman (2006) was felt to be sufficient by select members of the Tampa Bay Area Refugee Task Force. Resettled refugees have limited capacity to change work or school schedules to engage in lengthy research interviews. In addition, I sought to limit stress of participants in recounting negative pre- or postmigration experiences. Seidman (2006) recommended interviews that begin with uncovering a life history and moving into contemporary experiences, followed by reflection on the meaning of those experiences. The first interview addressed their migration story, beginning with their lives in their home country, the rise of civil and political unrest, their decision to leave their country, their period of transience prior to migration, and in one case, the participants arrival to a refugee camp, and generally what life was like there. Participants were asked to talk about their arrival in the United States and their enrollment in post-secondary education. Questions of aspirations, expectations, and achievements in education were coordinated with questions addressing their experiences, the changes they saw in themselves as a result of education, the power structures that existed, and the barriers they confronted. Discussions of social bridges and social bonds sought to underscore the role that education played in providing informal educational experiences. 70

The second interview allowed participants to confirm the findings and the themes uncovered from the first interview. The second interview provided the opportunity for greater elaboration of specific topics discussed in the first interview. Specifically, I was interested in asking participants about their own self-identity and self-awareness as they progressed through post-secondary education, as the literature revealed that ones selfidentity in relation to that of their new culture can affect acculturation (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009; McPherson, 2010). Participants had the opportunity to describe the meaning they attached to their educational experiences, specifically as these experiences pertained to their ease of acculturation into their new country. Further, participants were asked to consider what could be done from an educational or policy perspective that would aid future refugees in similar situations. Empowering participants by giving them voice to share and interpret their experiences and recognize their resilience and agency (Mackenzie, McDowell, & Pittaway, 2007, p. 300) was an important aspect of what I tried to achieve. Data Collection Interviews were audio recorded and I transcribed them promptly after completion. As interviews occurred and were transcribed, analysis of that data was ongoing in generating ideas for follow up questions, points of clarification, and identifying early emergent themes (Drisko, 1997). For example, emergent themes regarding conflicts between going to college and having to work guided me in creating questions that asked for clarity on those conflicts, the emotions involved, and strategies used to overcome those conflicts. At the second interview, I followed up on topics that emerged in the first


interview, and confirmed themes from the first interview with each participant (Seidman, 2006). Data Analysis Analyzing the data involved a specific approach in phenomenological research as advocated by Merriam (2009). The first step was to familiarize myself with the research data, which was done as I transcribed the interviews and reviewed the transcripts. I then reviewed each line of the transcript, leaving notes, thoughts, and ideas for further questions in the margins. I extracted words, phrases, or statements based on repetition, or the way in which they were said. Units were formed based on common meanings and differences in meanings of the extracted words and phrases. I clustered units into broader themes based on patterns observed in the data. The broader themes and subthemes spanned all of the interviews in order to demonstrate internal validity of the data. Using these themes helped me to create the thick, rich description of refugee experiences. Through this thick, rich description, the framework of the phenomena was created. Through this process, I sought to discover the essence of the phenomena. Each unit of data was tagged with the participants name and date of interview. I maintained a list of codes that I generated and then identified the category in which each code belongs. Categories were conceptually congruent so that they are at the same level of description (Merriam, 2009). As I proceeded to the second interview, I introduced the initial themes to see if participants responded to them or confirmed that these themes were present. In this instance, analysis became deductive, rather than just inductive (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007; Merriam, 2009). 72

I used NVivo 10, a computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS), to code, categorize, make notations, and retrieve data efficiently (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007). This software provides Microsoft interface guidelines for the user to code and retrieve data, use visualizations for data, import from word processing and audio/visual files, export to various formats, and obtain coding statistics. Interviews were transcribed with single-space type used for each persons comments and a double space between each person (Seidman, 2006). The transcripts were uploaded to NVivo to begin the coding process. I have stored original transcripts and audio recordings in a locked filing cabinet in my office. As themes were revealed, I conducted member checks with participants to ensure accuracy of the information that I collected. I provided participants with copies of transcripts and reviewed major themes I discovered both as the interviews progressed and via email. I asked specific members of the Tampa Bay Task Force to check the themes I identified in my data analysis of the one-on-one interviews to confirm the accuracy of my findings. As they were directly familiar with refugee policy and a variety of refugee experiences, their input was valuable in providing greater validity to the results of the study. Their feedback on the themes uncovered helped to triangulate the findings of the data with the existing literature on the subject. I also asked a researcher experienced in qualitative refugee research to code one of the transcribed interviews to verify that my methods of coding achieved similar results. Reliability and Validity One role of the researcher is to design a study that demonstrates reliability and validity. Doing so ultimately allows the studys findings to have greater potential use to 73

other researchers, educators, and policy makers. In this study, I provided a reliable and valid thick, rich description (the interview transcripts, the coded themes, the analysis, and relevant field notes) that may facilitate the consumers application of the study to other contexts (Seidman, 2006). Researchers can aid in transferability by offering suggestions for how the research findings can apply in various settings (Drisko, 1997). The research consumer can then assess findings to determine transferability in other contexts. A study on refugee research may have applicability in certain regions of the world and not others, for example. Sam, Vedder, Liebkind, Neto, and Virta (2008) noted that Western Europe receives more forced migration immigrants whose educational experiences, once resettled, are quite different from those who resettle in other developed nations. This study by Sam et al. highlights why it is important that I not overstate the transferability of the findings from one refugee context to another. For reliability, I used member checks to address any questions that might have arisen in transcribing the interviews as well as to confirm if my analyses and conclusions based on participant comments were correct. I used an audit trail to enhance the reliability of the data collected. This included a log of how I collected the data, experiences in collecting the data, obstacles and opportunities that I encountered, ideas that emerged during the process, and the method I used in coding the data (Merriam, 2009). The study addressed validity through triangulation within the context of the two interview series (Merriam, 2009). The research purpose is to use a participant-centered approach to have them make meaning of their post-secondary educational experiences. 74

Checking for similarity of themes among the interviews in this study and comparing them to existing research enhanced the ability of the data to represent with reliability that the experiences revealed are indicative of the post-secondary educational experiences of refugees residing in the Tampa Bay area. In addition, select members of the Tampa Bay Task Force checked the themes I identified in the data analysis of the one-on-one interviews. As they are directly familiar with refugee policy and a variety of refugee experiences, their input was valuable in providing greater validity to the results of the study. Their feedback on the themes uncovered helped triangulate the findings of the data with the existing literature on the subject. Finally, a pilot test with two participants was used first to determine the validity of the questions asked. Ethical Considerations and Institutional Review Board Requirements Researching vulnerable populations requires considerable sensitivity to ensure participants of their rights and protection. The nature of the study as discussed in the proposal for this study was presented to Keiser Universitys Institutional Review Board to ensure an ethical research study. As Seidman (2006) identified, the role of the researcher in a qualitative study includes assessing his/her skills, interests, and biases prior to beginning the research. The researcher then decides on a topic by assessing the how, who, and what of a particular topic that he/she is interested in studying and why it is important to the body of knowledge that it be addressed. The researcher must then create a valid and reliable study with potential for transferability. In the data-gathering portion of the study, the role of the researcher should ideally be minimized in order to maximize the voice of the participants. 75

While I may have had some effect on the data generated from participants in the phenomenological interviews, the participants were the ones to provide the data based on open-ended questions. Thus, my role was to adapt the research process to glean further information from the participants or to clarify meaning. Further, I had a significant role in analyzing the results (Seidman, 2006). Merriam (2009) noted that researchers use epoche in phenomenological studies to bracket their experiences and views of the phenomenon being studied. This allows the researcher to suspend judgment and bracket their prejudices or assumptions to analyze the phenomenon revealed to them. I used this approach in asking questions and analyzing data. Two members of the Tampa Bay Task Force checked my interview questions to ensure that they were reliable, valid, and avoided bias. When researchers position themselves in crisis-affected settings, they become part of the refugee experience. While the setting for this study is not in a crisis-affected setting, similar concerns applied. Participants are likely to have experienced trauma, the stress of resettlement, and concern for loved ones in their home countries. They have experienced a lack of personal agency during pre- and post-migration, and despondency settles in when one lives with idleness (such as during displacement) and little hope. Therefore, the informed consent procedure should make clear to participants their rights to stop at any time as well as their rights not to participate or not to answer a particular question. Mackenzie et al. (2007) explained that the process should be beneficial for the refugee, in that, the research relationship (p. 301) should enhance the sovereignty of the participant, and uphold their value as individuals and members of their group.


Going Beyond Do No Harm Mackenzie et al. (2007) further implored researchers not only to avoid harming vulnerable populations who participate in research, but also to allow their findings to improve public policy that affects refugees. The benefits of such research could ideally build capacity for marginalized communities either in refugee camps or in their small communities of resettlement. Capacity building refers to enhancing a group or organizations capability to engage in education, economic development, communication, and the utilization of social benefits to which they are entitled. Through the dissemination of this study, I seek to inform communities of interest and policy makers in international organizations of the value refugees assign to education upon resettlement. Further, the value they will bring to their new community may motivate politicians to design policy that does not limit the abilities of resettled refugees. My objective was to develop a research relationship of mutual trust and respect. I was aware of the responsibility I had to the participants in this study. They have provided valuable data. I provided them the opportunity to check the transcripts and the themes I developed for accuracy, and determine if there were parts with which they were significantly opposed to having included in the analysis. Participants provided correction both in the second interview and in follow-up emails. Mackenzie et al. (2007) noted that refugees often feel left out of the research process after they have provided their time and shared their experiences. I have recorded their member checks in the transcripts and in email communications, and I also provided participants with a final copy of the study.


Informed Consent Ethical considerations for research in vulnerable communities include developing an informed consent process that protects such persons. This study took place among autonomous individuals, rather than refugee camp residents or participants who represent a particular school or organization in the United States. The three participants who were refugee service providers participated in the study as resettled refugees who had experienced migration, and had ideas for how to aid the process in the future. In addition, this research study did not involve medical or psychological research, nor did it involve minors. As part of the IRB review process, specific informationrecommended by Seidman (2006)was included in informed consent. An invitation to participate. The invitation to participate highlighted the nature of the research, who was invited to participate, how long the study would last, and the organization sponsoring the research. Benefits. The benefits to this community as represented by participants included the opportunity to contribute data-driven research to the international discussion on policies that govern refugees. Further, refugees may benefit from the opportunity to give voice to their experiences. Finally, the findings of the study may help in building the capacity of the community through eventual policy improvements that enhance their access to education and other social services. Risks. The risks to this community as represented by participants included experiencing stress while recounting migration experiences. Participants were informed that they only had to relate these experiences as they felt comfortable, and the purpose of the migration story was to provide context to their resettlement experiences. 78

Rights. Participants were informed of their rights to not participate, or to leave the research study at any time. Participants were informed that their participation in the study would not affect their receipt of benefits, their employment, or their residency. Participants were informed of the efforts to mitigate any risks. Confidentiality of records. Participants were informed of their anonymity in the study. They were allowed to choose an alternate name, they were allowed to view the transcript of their interviews as well as the final report. Dissemination. Participants were informed that the study will be published (as a dissertation) and submitted for possible publication to academic journals. Participants were given a copy of the final study. Contact. Participants were given telephone and email contact information for myself, and for Dr. Gerry Bedore, who leads Keiser Universitys Institutional Review Board. Conclusion This chapter included a discussion of the methodology of the study, indicating that a phenomenological, qualitative study with one-on-one interviews was the method employed. A qualitative design permits the voices of a marginalized population to describe the meaning and value they ascribe to their educational experiences and the influence it has had on their acculturation process. Qualitative design aids in exploring the policy process as it affects a particular population, and provides a mechanism for researchers to create frameworks within which policy implications, both intended and unintended, can be explored. Finally, an ethical process governed the research study,


reinforced by IRB approval as well as guidance from persons who work directly with the refugee population.


CHAPTER 4. RESULTS The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the phenomenon of acculturation by exploring the meaning that higher education experiences in the United States held for resettled refugees living in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, and how those experiences influenced their acculturation process. The body of literature on acculturation for resettled refugees indicates that barriers exist in this process (Dawood, 2011; Farrell et al., 2008; Georgetown University, 2009; Koehler, 2009; Schiller et al., 2009; Shakya et al., 2010; Stevenson & Willot, 2007; Valenta & Bunar, 2010). Education is one marker of integration because it develops language skills, cultural understanding, social connections, and credentials for future employment (Ager & Strang, 2004; Buckland, 2006; Harris & Marlowe, 2011; Koehler, 2009). However, US policy prioritizes rapid self-sufficiency, which often pushes refugees into low-wage jobs with little opportunity for educational engagement, thus hindering their acculturative process. A purpose of the study is to inform policy makers of the value that participants found in pursuing higher education, and the influence it had on their language skills, their employment opportunities, and their development of societal connections and understanding. Introducing the Participants Persons fleeing persecution, war, or natural disasters experience the most primal motivations and emotions of humanity: survival, family togetherness, and identity. Refugees arriving in a new country create stories that reflect courage, motivation, and resiliency. Alejandro, from Cuba, was a trained artist and educator, who arrived in the United States in 2004. Boro, from Bosnia, was a young university student in Sarajevo 81

who fled civil war in the former Yugoslavia with his parents in 1997. Brena, also from Bosnia, fled her hometown of Mostar in 1996 after barely surviving a mortar attack and a leg amputation. Cira, from Cuba, fled the Castro regime with her family in 1967. Luay, from Iraq, survived three attempts on his life while a university student in Baghdad during the Iraq war. He fled to Jordan, and then to the United States in 2009. Mirella, from Cuba, was a trained and experienced family physician in Cuba, who left with her family in 2008 to provide care for her sick daughter. Sonja, from Bosnia, lived in a refugee camp in Serbia during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia and waited to hear news of her father, still trapped in Sarajevo. Her family arrived in the United States in 2002. The participants in this study were the success stories; they pursued higher education in the United States while working, and often in spite of the trauma they had been through previously. Each had a strong motivation to get a degree or qualification that would help them grow as individuals and gain better jobs. Resiliency of character figured significantly in the participants stories. While their personalities varied, each exhibited strength of character that enabled them to get through tremendous hardships and would eventually provide the needed ability, self-awareness, and goal setting skills to start over in the United States. All names were changed to ensure confidentiality (see Table 6 for more demographic information).


Table 6 Research Participant Demographic Data

PostSecondary schooling in United States other than language classes

Name and gender

Country of birth

Student or professional prior to migration?

Migration experience Direct Resettlement to US

Year of arrival in United States

Current educational and employment status Graduated; Working in social services Currently in masters program; Working in social services Graduated; Working in Business

Alejandro (male)




Graduate (Masters)

Boro (male)

Former Yugoslavia (Bosnia)

College Student

Displacement in Serbia with relatives Medical evacuation by third party to US hospital in Germany Direct Resettlement to US


Undergraduate then Graduate (Masters)

Brena (female)

Former Yugoslavia (Bosnia)

High School Student



Cira (female)


High School Student



Graduated; Working in social services Currently in masters program; Working in social services Graduated from practical nursing program; Looking for nursing job Graduated; Working in higher education

Luay (male)



Displacement in Jordan with relatives


Graduate (Masters)

Mirella (female)



Direct Resettlement to US


Retraining (Medical)

Sonja (female)

Former Yugoslavia (Bosnia)

College Student

Displacement in Serbia with relatives then refugee camp




Each participant was interested in sharing his or her story, believing that the study held importance in the larger picture of understanding the acculturation process, and in providing insight for US policymakers and the refugee resettlement agencies about resettlement priorities. Consistent with the recommendations from McPherson (2010) and Strang and Ager (2010), providing a mechanism for resettled refugees to share their stories and make policy recommendations was a goal of the interviews. The data collection of the study produced 14 one-on-one interviews among seven participants, three of whom were men, and four of whom were women. Interviews were held at a time and place of the participants convenience, either in a local coffee shop, their homes, or their offices. All interviews were recorded using a digital audio recorder, and transcribed word for word.2 The interviews were then coded using the NVivo 10 CAQDAS software. All participants were adults over 18; all were at least 16 years of age upon arrival in the United States, with the earliest arrival date of 1967 and the most recent arrival date of 2009. Three of the participants were refugees from the former Yugoslavia, three were refugees from Cuba, and one was a refugee from Iraq. All participants engaged in post-secondary education in the United States, either as undergraduate students or as students who already had college degrees and were seeking additional credentials. All participants experienced the acculturation process described by Strang and Ager (2010), and identity development as described by McPherson (2010).

The excerpts included in chapters 4 and 5 do not contain the standard [ sic] notation when there is an error in the participants speech or grammar. The transcription is meant to be an authentic representation of their words, and language patterns may not be perfect due to their English language development. I felt that using the [sic] notation could be distracting and possibly insulting.


Reliability and Validity As mentioned in Chapter 3, members of the Tampa Bay Task Force reviewed the interview questions to ensure the appropriateness of the wording and content. The interviews were coded as I completed them, and member checks were conducted in the second interview regarding the first, and via email regarding the second. A member of the Task Force, who is also an experienced university researcher in refugee studies, coded one of the interviews so that I could compare my codes and themes with hers to ensure that the findings were similar. Finally, five members of the Task Force reviewed my findings to ensure that my findings were consistent with what they see in their professional experiences. Each of these steps confirmed that the questions used, the codes developed, and the findings uncovered were consistent with what those who work with refugees see. Organization of Chapter 4 A thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews produced 113 themes with three central categories: (a) background experiences, (b) the acculturation process from the viewpoint of participants post-secondary educational experiences, and (c) policy perspectives. These three categories provide the three main sections of chapter 4 that follow. The study revealed themes related to the process of acculturation, the understanding of self-identity, and the importance of post-secondary education in providing social and cultural capital. The individual stories of the participants, specifically when highlighting their desire for a sense of belonging coupled with their educational achievements, best reflects the education and acculturation themes of the 85

study. The purpose in using a phenomenological qualitative approach was not to generalize to a larger population, but to understand the essence of the phenomena experienced by the participants. Background Experiences Background experiences were discussed in the interviews as a means of providing context for the participants understanding of self, their educational experiences prior to migration, their displacement upon leaving home as well as understanding their resettlement experiences. Who the participants were in their home countries and the lives they had there intimately affected their sense of self, their migration experiences, and their acculturation experiences in the United States. Sharing of their pre-migration educational experiences allowed participants to draw conclusions between education at home and in the United States, and how those experiences influenced their education here. Their migration stories provided a lens into viewing their feelings about leaving home, starting over, learning new customs, confronting barriers upon resettlement, and working to achieve their educational goals in the United States. The migration stories also shed light onto the subject of continued trauma. As noted by Nadeau (2008), experiences of trauma pre-migration affect refugees upon resettlement, especially as they navigate through difficult experiences with attaining self-sufficiency here. Educational Experiences in Home Country The three participants from the former YugoslaviaBoro, Brena, and Sonjaall expressed their contentment in childhood and in growing up in Bosnia. Each experienced a robust elementary and secondary program, with skilled and competent teachers. Boro and Sonja both attended their first year of college in the former Yugoslavia. Both 86

remarked about the competitive academic nature of their programs, the rigorous curriculum in their respective majors, and the professional quality of their professors. The three participants from CubaAlejandro, Cira, and Mirellaeach identified the challenging nature of their elementary and secondary programs, although resources such as textbooks and educational supplies were scarce. Alejandro and Mirella both migrated from Cuba within the last decade and described a higher education system that was comparable to higher education in first world countries, with exchange students attending their medical schools; and universities of education, medicine, sports, and technology in each of the 14 provinces. Alejandro credited the Cuban educational system with providing a strong foundation upon which he would have an easier adjustment process when he migrated to the United States: In each province they created that [the university system]. Not all that was made in Cuba was wrong. In that part, in education, it is not a secret; it is one of the major achievements in the Cuban revolutioneducation and health care. . . . It was very beneficial for me to have that educational background. It made it easier to you know, find my way, and my goal to acculturation process in the United States.

Mirella commented on the Cuban system of education as the best part of her life: Yes! I think Cuban people have a good experience when theyre in school, secondary school, college, or university school. We enjoy studying. We enjoy studyingthats the best. When you asking Cuban people, Which one was your best time in your life? Always they say, High School. My university 87

school. Because we enjoy it. Even when you have a very hard teacher, doesnt care, doesnt matteryou go through. We enjoybest part of our lives.

Mirella also commented on the medical program, which involved nine years of education: We have to prevent the people from getting sick. In this kind of program, you have to go three years. So that makes it nine for basic medical degree. After that you have to go work as a family doctor and then, um, if you want to continue your education you begin to study specializing in different areas . . . The minimal you will go to is nine years of education. Yes, its hard because at this point you are ready, you have your family, you have everything . . . thats hard.

Cira recalled her experiences of attending elementary and secondary schools in Cuba, noting that the schools were challenging, but came with a heavy dose of propaganda once the Castro regime was in power. Feelings of impending change flavored her secondary schooling as well, knowing that her family was likely to leave for the United States: It was just that I was frustrated. I knew my life was going to change, and I was just expecting it. It was like when I was walking home I was afraid to turn and look at my house because I knew the day we had the news to leave the house was going to be packed.


Cira also noted the intense hostility from her high schools principal once he found out she was leaving for the United States, and the effect it had on her initial acclimation to the United States: The principal put me in a little office and told me, because I never told anybody that I was going to come here until that time that I actually was going to go. And he really, really said a lot of bad things about this country, and he said, When you go to school theyre going to rape you, and do this, and theyre going to have knives, and kill you. So, guess what? I didnt say anything to anybody, but I kind of believed it. So when I came here I didnt want to go to school during the day. I was very afraid to go to school. The three participants from BosniaBoro, Brena, and Sonjaall described a challenging and competitive educational system in the former Yugoslavia. Each described programs that helped them in their adjustment to the educational system in the United States, as they found their home countrys programs to be difficult in comparison to US schools. As Boro noted: Its hard [schooling in Sarajevo]. Was junk when I came here, when I go to the college. The whole college experience heremy high school was five times harder than college in the United States. Because in the 3rd gradethe 3rd grade of elementary school, you start to learn a foreign language. Like math I did in my high school is like high, high level in college here. . . . General education is easy here. You have knowledge from your primary education to secondary here, thats


kind of you have foundation to understand everything. Only language is the barrier when you come here.

Brena described the role of the family in pushing their children to do well in school, the countrys social structure that supported education, and how the educational challenges she had in Bosnia helped her adaptation here: Thats how my family was [about education]. Our entire country is like that. I think most Europe is. So, not only was I responsible to my parents when they say, How was your school?; but I was responsible to my aunts and my uncles and my cousins, and they said, What do you mean you got a D in school? Did you know your uncle was best mathematician?. . . When you reach 19 and you start youre kind of grasping the world, and Im at this dinner party [in the United States] with so and so, and I get to know this. You start pulling information, you start appreciating it. And then lastly, and but not least, and is probably the most crucial is the actual system of the education there thats set up to allow you to execute what you want to execute. Its really a good support system that was set for children, not to mention our libraries, etc.

Sonja described how her education in Sarajevo and later, in the town where the refugee camp was in Serbia, became the means by which she tried to overcome feelings of lost control by compensating with strong educational results: When I was in Sarajevo my motivation was that I didnt want, uh, to end up like my brother. I didnt want my education to be everybodys problems. . . . Then I started high school there [in Serbia]. I started having fun. I started being happy. 90

Even though we lost everything [due to the war], we were completely brokeI had no money to buy clothesyou know when youre a teenager these things are important. But children who lived there [in the refugee camp in Serbia]this town was very poor. What little industry they had was destroyed by the warthere was no economy, so the other children didnt have money either, so I felt like we were all equal. There was no difference . . . So, when I was in high school I started going to science fairs and competitions. The government of Serbia gave me scholarship . . . I was so proud so now finally I had my money and I could help my mom.

Luay, the participant who had resettled in the United States in 2009 after leaving Jordan (where he fled to from Iraq in 2006), described a competitive higher education experience in Baghdad, accented by attending the University of Baghdad in 2000, and then again from 20032006, during the Iraq war. I entered the University of Baghdad in biology program and for one year, and after that I decided to leave [Iraq]I couldnt handle it anymore. The reason was . . . [university officials] choose people in the year 2000 . . . to see if you have the point of view or the political view of my fellows in my class. So they asked me . . . what do you think? Of like the party. And I didntI didnt want to be participating with them, I dont want to have a problem, so I was like not giving them all the information that I have, just to protect myself and my fellow students.


After a period of time spent living with his father in Jordan, and attending a private university there, Luay decided to return to Baghdad for its university system, despite the ongoing war: Yeah, I like had a lot of things happen, almost got killed three times. . . . The first one was the second year of the education when I went back has like explosion in underneath the bridge and I went over the bridge. . . . Second time, the third year, when I was entering my university in my college, an explosion in the door at the door, and I just passed the door, and thank God I was behind the building. The third time, a bullet hit the wall where I was standing. . . .

When I graduated 2006 from Baghdad University, uh, in my neighborhood we had a lot of friends and neighbors that were protecting us, because were living in a Shiite neighborhood, not Shiite, but almost Shiite, and we are of background Sunni. . . .Like neighbors, they were Shia, but they were helping us, protecting us, and the last month finally they tell us, We cannot protect you anymore, you have to leave. And we went to our aunts and relatives houses for days but I had my final [exam] . . . And I left Baghdad June 23, 2006, and I finished my final exam it was June 22nd.

Interruptions in Education Prior to Migration The interruption of education was also a consistent theme among the participants. Shakya et al. (2010) noted that such interruptions can have an effect on refugees when they immigrate, and not only do they have to learn the language and customs, but they also need to make up for lost educational learning and experiences. As Luay mentioned, 92

interruptions included temporary ones, in which leaving and coming back was an option. For others, interruptions often meant resuming education in a country they escaped to or not resuming it until they arrived in the United States. Pre-migration education provides an important resettlement function, though, as noted by Nadeau (2008) and Sinclair (2002). Schooling prior to migration develops language skills, and provides a foundation of knowledge and capability that helps the refugee have greater personal agency upon arrival. For the participants from Bosnia, while school was hard, and a break from school was fun, the loss of school ultimately meant a loss of normalcy. As Sonja described, So, um, then the war started. And everything that had been important before stopped being important suddenly because . . . different kind of things matter in life when theres danger around you. . . . The war started happening slowly in February [of 1992]there were tensionswe stopped going to school in beginning of March because there were shootings around the city and uh, um, the city was um, blocked like you couldnt really drive ever ywhere. They figured it was dangerous for us to go to school. . . . Now my parents were suddenly glued to televisionto see because there were like political rallies and they want to see whats happening, no one pays attention to us. So we [she and her friends] were happyit was springtimebeautiful weather . . . . We didnt have school so we didnt have responsibilities, no homework, and we had absolute and total freedom. We roamed around. The first time I felt like, Oh this is not a game was, um, this one time a bunch of us, we were like a little gang, riding bikes and


just riding around the neighborhood, and we heard sniper fire. Somebody was shooting. And I wasnt sure if they were shooting at us, but that was scary.

Brena continued further by explaining the feeling of losing school and then missing the normalcy that a safe place and friends provided: [Our family] had just come back from Adriatic Sea [to Mostar, in Bosnia], from our vacation. We still had a couple weeks to kinda get settled at home before school started. I was actually at my cousins house . . .and we were just kind of hanging out, listening to music, parents were in living room doing something and all of a sudden you hear this explosion. And you kindawe all went out to the window and looked out. You could see the city skyline, and when you looked out you could see the smoke coming out of one area. . . . Our media immediately changed from being just this news to being propaganda, which was weird. You started to hear things that I know now are lies, but they were placed purposively to brainwash the people and start the conflict. Um, as that started, the school, there was an announcement made in the city that the school system was gonna hold off until they see what was going on. Which was strange . . . I was at that time 13 or 14, Im 14 years old. Were not going to school. God bless. Im good with that. Theyre postponing another two weeks. I mean, how exciting is that? . . . And then two weeks later they postponed it again, except this time instead of postponing it for two weeks they postpone it for like a month and a half. So then, they postpone it for 3 months. Then, slowly the bombing starts. You hear a


bomb here, you hear a bomb there, you hear, oh, this person died, that person died. And then it goes from there to like a full-blown war in like a few months.

Maybe at that point after the school had now been postponed for now the third timeand I remember thinking thisnow you see some of our neighbors out of the buildingtheyve taken everythingincluding the spigots out of the sink, everythingnothingbareand theyre just gone. . . . And that was really strange, and I remember thinking, Well, theyre never going to go back to school. Youre a kid! Thats what you think. Your biggest issue is the school. Thats your biggest issue is that you have to go to school. If you dont go to school, youre frickin free. You wanna play outside. There are no rules. When that started happening that started to be strange. And then, all of a sudden the shooting got more and more, and then we got into the full blown war, and then these started settling in my mind I started thinking, This is why we dont have school. . . . It was this thing you hated. But, school equals normalcy. It went from being something that you hated to something that you desired because it meant a normal life . . . you had a safe place that you can go to.

Boro had to flee Sarajevo after one year of college due to the outbreak of war in 1992. He noted the gaps in his education: I finished the first year at the university and then war broke out, so I end up to be a refugee in Serbia. And for four years I was unable to pursue an education because the political situation and the war in the region. So, I immigrated to the United States in 97. 95

Leaving Cuba in 1967 while still in high school meant Cira left friends, but also changed her mind on her ideas for a profession. As she described, There was a hospital, actually, it was a clinic just for deliveries just for maternity, it was two blocks from the house, and Maria [a school friend] and I used to go there to the lobby to study because there was AC there! And everybody knew us; it was a huge place. And it was so cold, so when we wanted to study we went there. So we got to see a little bit of back and forth, and I guess that really caught my interest that I wanted to be a doctor, that I wanted to deliver babies. And I dont know if it was the proximity to the clinic that got me to like it, but it was all in Cuba. And I remember when I got here, my life changedcompletelymy way of thought, everything. I had other priorities. It was while I was in Cuba that I wanted to be a doctor.

Trauma While the topic of trauma was apparent in several experiences, it was only tangentially related to participants higher education experiences in the United States. However, because resettlement trauma is a consistent theme in literature (Anstiss et al., 2009; Matthews, 2008; Nadeau, 2008), and in the stories told by participants in this study, it is important to mention the experiences participants shared with regard to trauma before and after their migration. First, understanding the nature of vulnerability of the refugee population helps to make meaning of their feelings upon arrival, the challenges of the barriers they confronted, and the determination they may have in their educational goals. Second, when policy is discussed later in this chapter and then in chapter 5 with 96

regard to recommendations, it will be important to have the knowledge of participants experiences of trauma to draw from in providing context for understanding the purpose and need for higher education upon arrival. Family separation. Family separation was a consistent theme throughout the interviews. Most of the participants had experienced it to some degree, ranging from traveling ahead of their family and establishing their lives here, to fleeing their country and leaving a parent behind who was tortured during war. Brena was medically evacuated out of Mostar due to the trauma she received when mortar fire exploded where she and a group of friends was standing. All of her friends were killed, and she ultimately had to have her leg amputated in the clinic her father had created for the war wounded in their home basement. She recalled the limited time she had to say goodbye to her family when a British civilian, Sally Becker, came to Mostar offering to evacuate a few of the wounded children from Bosnia. Brenas father was injured by a bomb while helping another person. Thus, he could not leave when she was rescued. As she described, And its reallyits like a rule 101 in war, in warif you hearif the personno matter how bad the persons injured if theres somebody thats injured because a bomb exploded or they got shot, you dont go help them. . . . Either they push a button and send another one, or a sniper is there. . . . But, my dad is a nurse because he loves being a nurse. . . . So he just broke the rule and went up to help somebody and a bomb exploded. He was now in that basement where I was before.


You were just placed there in the hallway [where the injured arrive]. . . . And so, my dad was now in that hallway, and um, so actually when I was leaving, my mom had come so we could have a family meeting and theyd carry me over to his bed so we can talk about whether or not I could go because I had really only 20 minutes to decide if I would go or not. And, I knew I had to go, because by that point infection was raging and they had to cut my leg off without anesthesia. It was really justthe infection, the bone infection was really the worst. And, Mostar is like Phoenix in the summer, and this was, I got injured in July and the temperature is like 110. In the basement. So if you can just imagine. With no electricity. The amount of people in the basement with the heat thats generated, let alone sick and injured. You know, for weeks, just reeking of bloodthe whole things just crazy. So, I knew I had to go. I really didnt want to go. My dad said, You goyou gotta go. And I said I know I gotta go. Thats not my problem. My problem is when Im gonna come back. Am I gonna come back? Cause that was my biggest issue. I dont give a shit that Im alive somewhere in Australia, or America, cause I didnt know who this lady [Sally Becker] was. I didnt know where I was going, how long I was gonna be gone, whats gonna happen to me. Nothing! I could have been shot. I mean why not? I didnt even care even if everything worked out ok. I didnt want to live without my family. I really, reallywho am I if Im not part of them? [emphasis added]


Physical and emotional abuse. Two participants also experienced abuse from family members they lived with upon arrival in the United States. Living with relatives is a common occurrence for newly arrived refugees who have limited funds and cultural awareness to live on their own immediately. Mirella described the abuse from her husbands aunt and family while her family shared a house with them: It was very awful. I got disease from that house because the stressful in the last two months was awful. . . .When we came to here, this lady was, oh my gosh, the worst person in the world. My daughter was traumatized also with her child. She had three child at that. They hurt my daughter all the time. My daughter is smart person. Its not because its my daughter. . . . We have the right in that house to only have one meal a day. We lost a lot of weight in that time. . . . I got immune depressant during that time. We almost go two months, until one day, one of her daughters hit my daughter, and it was very awful. I think she used all her strong force to hit my daughter, just because my daughter wanted to use a coloring book. Thats bad. It was my worst experience during my immigration time.

Brena discussed the aunt that fled Bosnia with her during her medical evacuation, who became emotionally abusive while living with Brena in their apartment in Cumberland, Maryland: Its been two years and shes been taking two years worth of those [SSI] checks. And Im saying she probably had $30,000 to $40,000 in her pocket. . . . And thats why she didnt want me to go to college, because if I went to school the money stops. And thats when I when she told me I couldnt go to college, I 99

had to stayand there were other things. She fought for my parents not to come [to the United States].

Overcoming trauma. Trauma can exist from the stress during pre-migration and migration experiences, to not understanding the culture upon arrival, to not knowing what services are available, and to experiencing isolation in a new country (Georgetown University, 2009; Morris et al., 2009). Nadeaus (2008) explanation that trauma exists after migration was consistent with Sonjas description of feeling like trauma was still a part of her life: In many ways, actually, coming to United States was more traumatic for me than the entire war. Because this um, when, all the things that are happening in the war are not happening only to me. They are happening to all other kids, my friends, everybody I knew. But suddenly Im here and I dont know anybody whos going through things Im going through because Im surrounded by Americans who dont really know um, you knowwho were born into this culture, who dont have to learn how to do certain things. Sowe joke all the time, I feel likepeople ask you whats your most traumatic experience this is it for me. Im still recovering from it.

Acculturation Acculturation is described as a process that is a two-way street, with the newcomer learning the culture and adapting, and the new country creating space within society for them (Strang & Ager, 2010). The participants confirmed that acculturation is a two-way street, with a blending of their prior lives with their current one. They 100

believed that the diversity that exists within the United States and the opportunities available to newcomers was evidence of this adaption that exists among society in accepting refugees. The participants in this study focused heavily on what McPherson (2010) called the renewal of self, which centers on the refugee creating identity in the new place and developing empowerment. As newcomers engage in society, they can recreate their identities to blend their past lives and cultures with their new lives and surroundings. As Djuraskovic and Arthur (2009) noted, in this process they may let go of parts of their identity that no longer apply to implement new characteristics. From there, McPherson contended that newcomers can create social bridges and bonds, explore the diversity within the culture, and develop greater tolerance and acceptance of the societys norms, which ultimately helps them to engage in society. Resettled refugees can have a difficult time moving beyond social bonds within their own ethnic group to social bridges among other ethnic groups (Georgetown University, 2009). However, McPherson (2010) noted that refugees need to start with their own identity in creating a new one. The topic of identity was discussed throughout the interviews, but the idea of creating a new identity by starting with what the participant came from is effectively elucidated by Cira: The first year was very hard when I came here [New Jersey]hard, hard, hard. I didnt want to go anywhere. But, I just started meeting friends, going out, just started changing in less than a year. But I was bitter. I was bitter for a good 6 months . . . I was missing my friends, my family, I was writing letters all the time, and I was just waiting for the letters to arrive and it would take months for one 101

letter to arrive. I didnt want to go to school, I was afraid to go school, and then until they got me that job, my dad was talking to a friend after work and telling him about me not wanting to go anywhere, and then he got me that job at the jewelry store. And thank God for that. . . . I started going out more, and I started meeting people and interacting. Because everybody at the jewelry store was Spanish. I had to start there. The only way to move to get adapted was to use my own culture and do that. [emphasis added]

Educational Goals Upon Resettlement Consistent with Schiller et al. (2009), who described the top aspiration of resettled refugees as obtaining more education upon resettlement, the participants in this study identified education as a primary motivation when they arrived in the United States. Their reasons included feeling that education would create a sense of normalcy, would help them to feel a part of this country, would provide them with a valuable credential so they could get a job, and would help them to achieve personal goals of self-actualization. While the resettlement experiences of the participants varied due to family dynamics, educational background, language skills, and personal issues, each one of them noted that a top goal was continuing with their education. Feelings of normalcy. Mirella, who had been a doctor in Cuba, described the feeling she had as a student in a practical nursing program, when she once again got to work in a hospital: The other reason I took my LPN classes, I feel when I was in my first time at hospital, at [the] Hospital, I feel like in Cuba. Oh, I feel great! Its a feeling I 102

cant describe. I remember when I was in school, I remember when I was a doctorthats great, when you are in your environment. Thats great, you feel as a person again. Brenas medical trauma continued in the United States, but she craved normalcy in her teenage life. She recounted her desire to continue school: I was 16 [upon arrival in the United States]. Um, all I really wanted to do was go to school. Because there were two things that meant normal life to me and meant everything was at peace and was okay. One was school; it means kids are going to school, it means parents are doing somethingwhatever the hell theyre doing theyre doing itbut whatever theyre doing its not affecting kids and everybodys in school. And number two, was the airplanes that fly by that are actualnot bombing airplanes but the actual, um, commercial airlines, passengerwhich they leave those white tracks. Couldnt see them anywhere [in Mostar]. Those two thingsthats all I kind of wanted to see and have happen cause it meant everything was okay.

She arrived to the United States after three months of surgeries in the US military hospital in Germany, and remembers what she asked for first: When I actually I got to Cumberland, Maryland hospital they asked me what I wanted to do, and I was like, Just take me to the high school. Just take me to school. And at this point you have to understand, all Im seeing is adults: doctors, medical, physical therapists. Nobody my age. So, I was like, give me somebody thats under 18, in a high school setting, in a school setting, because I 103

needed to have that. Any kind of school setting. I needed to have that . . . it was just really great to go and visit the school and go to the gym. Just like see kids. That whole school smell Backpacks and books.

Education provides a sense of belonging. One consistent theme among the participants was the belief that education would help them create a sense of belonging in the United States. Shakya et al. (2010) mentioned the importance of education in helping newcomers create that sense of belonging. Sonja, who had been a published writer when she lived in Belgrade and was a literature student at the university there, explained her realization of needing to figure out how she was going to make education possible, despite the barriers: Then there is this moment when I thought, okay Im not going to be able to go to college here. There is dignity in that, too. Ill read books and be like low paid factory worker who reads Hegel and loves obscure things, and art, and again I met a lot of people thereI was amazed the stuff they knew and things theyd been through. But, I also started to feel that in order to feel like I belonged in this country I had to go through the education system. I have to learn it . . . So, it felt like I needed to do this. I needed to have this acknowledgement like I belonged more. [emphasis added]

Yet, there was also a real sense of lost time: that the educational interruptions, the need for Sonja to take care of her parents in the United States, and her need to have work meant that perhaps she could not catch up.


There were students who did dual enrollment, so by the time they graduated from high school, they already had half of their bachelors degree and so I was going to school with 18-year-olds, and I thought I am almost 30, and Im not successful enough. Im not where my. . . . I fell off of a train that is my generation and Im left behind. [emphasis added] Uh, so that puts pressure on you because at the same time, time goes on and you very often feel that youre not moving fast enough and that time is going to . . . in life, in general, you always want to accomplish as much as possible.

For Boro, starting college again in the United States was initially daunting, but ultimately provided a feeling of accomplishment in a new country while using a new language. So when I finish my ESOL classes . . . I took Comp 1. It was like hard for me so I take Comp 1 with American students. In ESOL, it was all foreigners and it was big step for me when I finished that to take Comp 1 with Americans. And Ethics. My first semester I took Comp 1 and Ethics. Just to see what it looked like. And I was, you know, it was good for me because all these kids from high school didnt know much better than me. After ESOL and everything, and I took Comp 1 with them, I was like on top of the class. So, it gave me a boost it boost my morale. And I got a B in ethics, which was interesting.

Boro also reflected on the necessity for education for resettled refugees in providing that sense of belonging:


Just give them [resettled refugees in the United States] one year in school and classes for one year, pay rent, just make them feel comfortable in this society. To have sense of belonging. Thats very important. To have sense of belonging here. And to get that belonging to succeed and to move on. If you dont feel that you belong here, if you feel that youre just ignored, you dont speak English, its just hard. Because I have a sense of belonging here.

Alejandro described his experience shifting from his teaching profession in Cuba to his construction work in the United States, and how his prior education helped him to adjust to that circumstance. This is my time, this is adjustment time. Thats why I saidwhen you are educated you understand your moment. You retrain where you go. Its easier. I assumed that process with dignity. I was a teacher now working construction. It doesnt make me sad because I was working an honest and decent job. And getting my pay for what I did. And giving my family something. So I was happy. What made me happy was that I knew that situation was temporary.

Ultimately, Alejandro moved to Tampa with his family for the goal of settling down and going for his masters degree in education, in part because that knowledge would help him feel a greater belonging and understanding of living in the United States. You are living here and still thinking in the past, and still thinking you dont belong here, you are not here. You are in the middle of nowhere and you dont go forward! And you have to belong to the place first. You have to feel itthat you belong to this place. This is your land. This is your people now. You have to 106

learn. You want to learn . . . So in that process, I got to the conclusion it was good for that growth, professional growth; I had to complete my master. I have to go for a master degree.

Cira recalled overcoming discrimination and feeling stronger about her own identity in the United States in part through her education. She described one instance in a class at the local community college where she was giving one of her first presentations, and she was discussing life in Cuba. She remembered feeling ostracized for sharing her experience. And Im telling my class [my story], and theyre laughing. Theyre laughing at me or at the presentation. There was one young guy, and he stood up in class, and he said, I dont believe a word youre saying. Theres no way a society would, um, take such a, such a conditions, such a system. And I said, Well, I know how you feel. And I can understand its very hard to comprehend the system unless you live in it. But all I can say is that this is the truth. And this is a part of my life. And I can tell you a lot more stories. And I remember back then I was not able to communicate this in the way that I am communicating this now. I mean, I tried to be always aware of the grammarI know my grammar back then is not what it is today. I was good with the verbs, but I was learning. But I wasnt intimidated at all. I was there for a reason. I was learning.

Luay described his understanding of the process of belonging, and the role that education plays into that through a conversation with his cousin who had recently arrived from Iraq: 107

That is what happened with my cousin, I will tell them, Give me one year when you will get your green card, and tell me at this point, will you go [back to Iraq] or not. And after one year, after he saw his kids speaking English and they have friends and they have been resettled and he started school as a associate degree, after one year, and he get his green card . . . he told me, Maybe after I complete my associate degree I will visit. I tell him, When you complete your associate degree, you will tell me I will wait a couple of months to stay. After he was like a couple of months later we were talking and I tell him, Now what you decide? You are in school and learning, and you are speaking English, and you are doing good at your work, what do youwhats your plan? Whats your goal? He told me, To get my citizen. So, he changed because he started to feel safe. And for me, also.

Education provides a valuable credential for employment. The participants also noted the importance of education upon resettlement in getting a job. While the policy is that limited benefits are supplied for several months upon arrival, the person arriving here as a refugee has a very short window of time to gain employment before their benefits expire. Thus, college may be sacrificed for work, but ultimately it will provide learning experiences, certifications, and degrees that help a resettled refugee find a meaningful career in the United States. Boro spoke of his focus on getting his degree: I just wanted to get my degree; I didnt care about making friends . . . Be efficient. No, I just went there to get my degreeit was my focus. So I can get better job.


I dont want to stay low down. I want to make something of my life. So it was the only thing I that I was going for.

Alejandro also described how important education is to getting ahead and in the process of acculturation: If you wanna seriously go ahead and further career, you need to complete a degree wherever you go. If you go to Japan, you need to study to get into the culture, and this is part of the acculturation process. If you go to a place that you are and its a kind of a connection between the past, present and the future. To bring the best you can from your past and you mix it, you try to use, where possible in your present, in order to build a better future. But in that process you change. Luay, who had completed his bachelors degree in Iraq, noted that it was the desire to continuously improve and get a better job in the United States that drove him to enrolling in his masters program in informational technology: One of the things that pushed me also to go to university [was] so I can get another job in a position where Im self-sufficient. Yes, Im self-sufficient right now, but I will search for more. And I think this, this is right for anyone to search for the best for themselves.

He also explained the advice he shares with his clients who are refugees, on the benefits of gaining an education through a step-by-step process:


This is will help you get a job. Anything, like if I say, Go to ESOL classes, learn English, and after you learn English, go to get your CNA, and after you get your CNA and evaluate your high school, you will go to, uh, to, to the associate degree, all the people will say, What will I do with an associate degree? Because almost all people think about money, and the most thing that people go back to school if they complete high school, is to get more money. So how I will get them money if I have a high school diploma? If I get the high school diploma, maybe I will work the minimum wage. But if I get associate degree, I will get more money.

Alejandro confirmed the step-by-step approach when he talked about the advice he gives to refugees about education: You see how I was increasing little by little, getting closer to my goals. But always growing, keep moving forward. That I said to my people here. Keep moving forward. Never stop growing. Never stop getting more preparation. Getting more to offer, because knowledge taking you to a good place at the end.

Mirella explained how she thought of the step-by-step process as one that would lead the newcomer to a greater place in 5 years, but that it takes planning and cooperation within the family: When we come to this country, everybody has to work to earn some money. Nobody thinking they have to learn. . . . Believe me, if I know each person [I tell them]: Go ahead and go slowly, go step-by-step. Go to school in the morning, and go part time in the night. If everybody in the family does it in this way and 110

puts in their money they can get any problem solved. After 5 year, you be very great. In 5 year, you cant throw away this very great opportunity you have in your life. You can become a technician and receive very good pay salary. It would be great. Most of the people [dont] understand this.

Sonja expressed the value of the degree as a sense of worth in society and in the career world: So I felt like I need to give this a chance, and I need to start going to school because this is a way this is a way this society says, Oh, you made it. When you meet somebody who has PhD or any kind of degree, thats a formal acknowledgment, that somebody says oh this is a diplomawe think that you are a working member of society.

Barriers The review of the literature in chapter 2 highlighted barriers that refugees confront in during their resettlement in the United States. Barriers exist in learning the language, enrolling in education, building social connections in society, getting a meaningful job, confronting racism and discrimination, and overcoming trauma. Further, resettlement policies that prioritize early employment over education create stress for refugees because they limit opportunities for creating social bonds and bridges, and prevent refugees the opportunity to gain educational credentials that will provide greater stability and meaning in their lives (Dawood, 2011; Schiller et al., 2009; Strang & Ager, 2010). The participants in this study focused on barriers to obtaining education. Given that they overcame those barriers, it is instructive to learn from their experiences. 111

Language. The participants consistently mentioned that learning the English language was the most important skill that refugees needed in order to pursue higher education, and ultimately integrate into society. Each of them had varying levels of skill when they arrived in the United States; all speak it comfortably now. Yet, they see their parents or their friends who have not had the time or the resources to get English language education and it has hurt them. Sonja commented, I just feel like people very often, specifically with my parents, when they first got here, they both started going to school to learn English and they learned some basic things but because they didnt speak English their only option was to get really low-paid jobs. Factory work and stuff like that. Now they work for like $9/hour. When they started they worked for $7. . . . So they started working all the time and going to school, but whenever their employer would offer overtime, because they were short on income, they would take it. So they very soon started skipping classes because they had to stay at work all the time, to make the check bigger so they could pay the bills. So it becomes this vicious circle. You never you stagnate, you never improve yourself.

Mirella wanted to be a doctor in the United States, but realized that the level of English needed to work in that field would be difficult to achieve, given her limited financial resources, the time required to learn academic English that would be good enough for medical school, and her family commitments. She completed an LPN program instead, which came with its own English language challenges:


The first time when I took the first LPN classes, I worked very hard because I understood 60% of what they talked about in front of me. So, first, I have to study in my house almost 10 hours, sometimes I dont feel my bottom. Oh my gosh! It was crazy now the first time. Even though when I got all my tests, I got all A. All of them. A, A, A, A. I have my eye; I can read. I can understand everything. My problem is when I pronounce some words or since Iif you dont use this language everyday with another person in front of you, you cant practice. There is my problem.

Luay described the challenges of improving his academic English when starting graduate school: The difference when you are reading word from a book as academic level will be really different from reading it in newspapers. . . . So when I was reading, it was really hard, its not youre building from English one by oneIm taking English immediately as a masters level, but this year, in English, your first year in education in this country, masters level, in English. And you studied all your life reading in Arabic.

Cost and time. While refugees have legal status in the United States and are eligible for federal financial aid, the practicalities of their lives can make attending college cost-prohibitive. Attending school required financial commitments and complex scheduling choices for the participants. Most of the participants attended school while working full time, requiring intricate schedules to balance their work and school demands along with their family responsibilities. Several delayed their college educations in order 113

to work to sustain themselves. Several worked more than one job to be able to go to school. Most of the participants were able to combine grants, scholarships, and loans to achieve their educational goals. Boro described his creative scheduling in order to work: I worked in the mall, in the store, as support person. And I worked full time for 7 years. And I always had Tuesdays and Thursdays off so I work every weekend for 7 years, and every Tuesday and Thursday I took the most classes on my off days. Like Monday, I worked second shift so I could take morning classes during the week. Thats how I scheduled the 6 years of my life to work full time and to go to school full time.

Transcripts. In war, refugees fleeing their country rarely have the opportunity to locate official college transcripts from their universities and transport them to their country of resettlement. Zeus (2011) noted that this becomes a barrier when refugees seek to gain acceptance of their professional status. Living in refugee camps or living abroad, they have no way of returning home without extreme sacrifices to their personal safety in order to obtain passports, diplomas, or transcripts. Boro experienced frustration when dealing with the registrars office at his university that had demanded that he produce a transcript from the university in Sarajevo, even though he was not seeking to transfer any credits: One time I tried to register for my classes for the semester and they put a hold on it. So I go to the registration department, and I met so many mediocres: people who got the job and have no idea what they are doing. You have hold because you told that you attend University of Sarajevo and you dont have any


transcriptions. I say, I dont need it because I didnt transfer any classes, Im just starting from scratch. No, you have to give it to us. I said, I cant, I dont have it. No, you have to give it to us. And thats it. So I said, My University burned during the war. Oh, well, what are you going to do now? I said, Nothing, take off my hold, because you dont need my transcriptions because I didnt transfer anything. And I had to go to the head of the department and just talk to them.

Luay explained the process he had to go through to get his transcripts from the University of Baghdad, given that it was unsafe for him to go there and pick them up: After two years I was trying2006 and 2007 until 2008I was trying to call people that I know, call my teachers, because the rules in University of Baghdad to get your transcripts [is to go there] personally. And I cannot go back. And uh, I write, uh, like authorization to my friend with my ID, my college ID, and a copy of my passport, and just say that I live in Jordan. I am in Jordan. And I give him the authorization and kind of notarize it by a friend he can access through the embassy. And it didnt work, and at this point one of my brothers, he decided to go to Baghdad to get his transcripts and mine. So he went, and they knew him because they know him by person, and they know the teachers. They saw him; they give him my transcripts. He bring it with him and he came back, uh, I had it translated in Arabic and English through notarized and everything and originals. I had all my transcripts ready and I was putting in my mind that one day I will . . .


have them evaluated and I will work with my papers through the court or something like that.

Inaccurate information. Refugees often lack reliable information about what rights they have, and where they can access benefits (Atfield et al., 2007; Goodson & Phillimore, 2005). Participants in this study noted that they received inaccurate information about their educational options. Beginning with Boros story about the transcripts, the participants explained an overall lack of familiarity among professors and administrators regarding refugees and their educational rights. Participants often relied on informal connections among classmates, which were not always accurate, either. As Sonja noted, Then I got really depressed because then I was just going to work and I felt like Im stuck here in this life that I didnt actively choose, so I started asking around. How can I start any kind of school? So now this guy from Bosnia told me, Oh you cannot go to college here, because they dont recognize your high school diploma, so you have to have your high school diploma to do something about that. And plus, you cant go to college in Florida until youve been living here a year. He was talking about out-of-state tuition, which is not even true. But that made me depressed even more . . . . And I had no wayI had internetbut I had no wayI didnt know how to look for information. I didnt know who to ask.

You create your own barriers. Sometimes, people create their own barriers in their minds, according to Luay:


I know I want to go back to school, but the barrier . . . was in my mind. Not now because I need to make money, I need to be self-sufficient for myself, I need to do for myself so I can do whatever I like. I cannot dream now I want my PhD and I do not have anything that I can survive the next month. . . . I told you, people put their own barriers, okay? Just like, I cannot do it! and they cannot cross it because this is the barrier that they built for theirself.

Social Capital According to Strang and Ager (2010), social capital is the means that allows newcomers to a society to engage with others, and improve their integration. The influence of education on the acculturation of the participants in the study was strong, with a variety of experiences that guided them in understanding their self-identity, and in gaining social and cultural capital. The ability of resettled refugees to access resources that enabled them to create social bonds not just among fellow refugees, but also among other ethnic groups is a measure of social capital (Camblin, 2003). Education provided the participants in this study with the opportunity to make social bonds within society that extended beyond their own group. They also created bonded networks (Strang & Ager, 2010) that enabled them to help other refugees upon arrival. The importance of English classes. Several participants discussed the importance of their English language classes in providing them initial contact with other immigrants and refugees. Boro discussed making social connections in his ESOL classes at the local state college. He also described finding it difficult to connect with students in his regular college classes because their experiences were so different from his: 117

When I took ESOL classes, I was with all these people from Russia, China, you know, Japan, South America, and after classes we would hang out together, go to the beach, or you know have coffee together. But when I start taking classes with general population, you know, everybody going their way, nobody stays, hang out together, they just mind their business. They just run with the flow . . . I had to work . . . When I went to [the local university], some kids, students from the school formed study groups, and they invited me. Lets go to the library. And I had to say No way, I have to drive 45 minutes back to St. Pete, and tomorrow morning I have to work. Its easy for you; youre just in a dorm. Its nothing. I have to go 8 hours next day, I have to do my homework, and I have to have life. So I did not have time for the study groups. And I prefer to study by myself.

Sonja noted the nurturing personality of the ESOL teachers that she had, and how they helped her navigate her way through her first classes at the state college: The teachers who taught ESOL classes were more, um, sensitive to that acculturation issue. They assumed that a lot of us went through a lot before we were there. So they were more, they were very friendly. All the ESOL teachers . . . were very maternal, you know, they were all very protective of their students . . . if you showed interest they really worked with you closely. . . . In one of the classes we actually learned very practical skills, and [the class] teaches how to fill out applications, how to do certain things. So you were learning how to live in America in English, even if you knew how to work here you would know how to ask for things in English. So that was very helpful. Very practical class. 118

Forgoing student life experiences. Most of the participants were not traditional college students who enrolled in higher education when they were young, lived on campus, and focused on school. Most participants had to forego the traditional college student life experience in lieu of working and taking care of family members. As Sonja noted, When I start taking . . . regular classes, the kids there all knew each other from high school, there were already groups formed. By that time, I was working one full time job, I had interpreting on the side, and I had a full time relationship. So I didnt really socialize as much, but thats not because I was not included necessarily, more because I chose to. . . .There were moments I did feel excluded, but I wasnt excluded by the students. I felt excluded by the system. I had to work. My parents just got here, and my parents were in real low paying jobs. They couldnt pay for my school, and a lot of kids had their parents paying for the school. So I was excluded I had to be at work after class.

Alejandro described his accelerated graduate program that enabled him to work full time while also raising a family, yet meant missing the chance to be a traditional student with the social connections that brings: It was accelerated. It was very intense. . . .You were allowed to take two subjects per term. I did it once and I . . . never did it twice, because it is hard. I mean, with responsibility in your home and a full time job; that is really hard to do it. So I just did it once, and then I completed one, each subject one term. Almost two years took me to complete the program from 2010 . . . Thats my experience.


I dont know what its like being a kid in the regular program in the college in the United States. Like every day, going every day.

Creating support networks. Education also provided participants with the opportunity to create support networks. Luay described connecting with classmates in school to study and work on projects: You do your assignment or you know people will help each other to do, you know, like I will help my friend to understand more, this is the only thing as a group, we helping each other to understand more.

Boro explained how graduating from undergraduate and going to graduate school at the same state university brought different social connections: Graduate school was different. I like going to graduate school more than undergrad . . . because there are more mature older people, classes are smaller 10 to 15 people, and its easier just to make connections and meet people because they discuss the issues, start talking to each other more than just the professor.

Alejandro described how friendships with professors he knew prior to enrolling in graduate school helped him in making educational choices: Through those friends and professors I, I knew more about universities in the United States, about my choices talking to them. . . . Mainly, the regular American is very friendly, nice, and helpful. They want to help you. It doesnt matter what is your country. It doesnt matter what is your language. They want


to help you. I am proud to say that I have greatI have met great people, and I have great American friends.

Cultural Capital According to Camblin (2003), cultural capital is the knowledge one has of the surrounding culture and the reciprocal skills they bring to the culture. While social capital involves the connections newcomers make, cultural capital involves the ability of newcomers to learn cultural cues, customs, and norms as well as develop skills that make them valuable in the culture. Morrice (2009) described the importance of newcomers having a safe place to learn about the culture and practice on each other. Building an awareness of the culture helped the participants in the current study integrate into the society more fully. For example, Cira described an experience of riding a bus in New Jersey when she had just arrived in the late 1960s, and she and her mother were subject to verbal harassment by a bus driver. At the time, she did not understand it. Yet, by the time she completed her bachelors degree years later, she had her explanation: So Im sitting in class [a civil rights class in college], and Im taking the information and Im putting my life together along with this chronologicalthen during that time [the 1960s] when [the Civil Rights movement] started, we saw the water hoses, the bus and all that, and I said, Oh my god, Im sure that bus driver was upset Although by this time, they could sit anywhere, but Im sure this was a very, very angry old man, that here I am, and although my skin is not black-black, but he could tell Im Latina, he knew I was not American, Im not 121

Angloit had to be that incident and the bus and 1967 was a reflection of his feelings towards civil rights. And here I am. . . . I ignored him completely . . . I went with my mom and I sat there. I mean it bothered me. It bothered me tremendously, because, ah, you know, why? Why would he do that? But it took the civil rights class. So, discrimination was one . . . I wouldnt say it was frustrating to the point that Iit was just something that I went through it, I rebelled . . . and then gradually you, as you get educated, or as you get older, you handle it differently.

Informal lessons learned. Learning reciprocal skills that newcomers can bring to the culture is part of developing cultural capital (Morrice, 2009). Thus, the educational experiences of the participants were a significant portion of the interviews. While curriculum was discussed with the participants, in the interviews participants also delved into the informal learning experiences that helped them build their cultural capital. Academic skills. Alejandro explained the value and the skills that came from his educational program, including writing skills, teamwork, and presentation skills: Maybe you dont have to study like you have to in Cuba, but you have more investigation than you have in Cuba. You have to do a lot of analysis of essay. Write a lot of essays. It was great for my English and my writing skills and reading skills. Teamwork. When you are working two years in a program like that in the university in accelerated program, you become very close to your costudents. You have to complete some programs as a team. Some assignments in teams. . . . I improved my team working skills a lot because youyou are 122

thinking as a team . . . But then, in that process, you got closer to your costudents, and when they are talking you try to support them.

A lot in presentation skills, because the problem forced you, forces you to do presentation in the masters program. You have to do a lot of presentations. And you have to be able to You have to prepare your presentation in a good level. Even that has improved my job. Luay expressed the value he found in using his masters program to help develop his English language skills: I can feel it, you know? You can feel it, you start one by one, each, each month you have something new, and I can say that without the education through these two universities or the education that I get and the help that I get, I would not be at the level of English even if I didnt start. I would be at the same level. I will not gain any more knowledge, because I will keep using what I know. Studying will force you to learn more. If you read, you will be forced to learn more.

Communication. Learning to defend an argument and communicating effectively, which Morrice (2009) noted is important for refugees to practice in a safe educational setting, was important to Alejandros experience: Defend an argument without hurting . . . I have improved my communication skills, my role in the conversation. You see, its still hard for me to be quiet. But when you are talking, Im looking to you . . . I am paying attention . . . And in the university, it have to be with my culture, too, the Latino cultures, that we have to 123

talk, and talk, and talk . . . . So, Ive improved my communication. Keeping silence. Taking turns in the conversation . . . Attentionyour whole bodyits like your eyes, eye contact, your, your face expression. You didnt want to have this interview with me in 2004 when I came from Cuba, it was [arms flailing]. You know. But now, thanks to American culture, in that program, I learned a lot about thatcommunication skills.

Sonja noted that her college experiences helped her to learn how to interact with people, and helped her understand communication approaches used in the culture that had previously confused her: Um, [education] helped me gave me the answer to certain thingsbefore in the middle of a discussion with somebody, a friend, somebody I met Id get frustrated. I could not understand their reasoning. There are strict rules of logic and very few people follow them when theyre arguing for something. . . . Whenever I got frustrated trying to understand not only what somebody is saying to me, but also why do they think like this, going through education system in this country helped me understand why . . . So yes, going through education here, I understood why people, not all peopleI hate generalization, but for the sake of the argumentwhy some people that I met were like this. And why I was so frustrated with them.

Learning the rules of the game. Education also helps resettled refugees learn to navigate societal rules and cultural norms (Berry, 2001; Hickey, 2007; Koehler, 2009; McPherson, 2010). Sometimes, for the participants that meant learning the rules of the 124

game, even when those were rules that lacked fairness. Brena recalled a class on sex and Christianity at the private, Catholic college she attended. She wrote a paper from a progay perspective, having realized that in the midst of all her personal and medical trauma that she was gay. As a good student with strong grades, she was surprised when she received an F on the paper. She spoke with the professor, claiming that she was simply playing devils advocate, and that she did not agree with that lifestyle. She was not yet open about her sexuality. Her professor changed her grade to a C. Brena recalled this experience: It really taught me this indirect lesson of, you know, you just have to be careful what you say because its not its doesntpeople say certain things, and they do certain things, but they dont really mean it, and you really cant be up front and honest and fair . . . And that lesson has always stayed with me, and unfortunately even nowIm gay, and Im out . . . but I am very careful where I do come out, and where I dont, because people are so sensitive. Its just how it is Oh yeah, were okay with gay people; but theyre not.

I mean I really refuse to believe that people are anything other than good, but there is a system that you have to play . . . You learn how to moderate it when the system punishes you enough times . . . You learn after the few times when you get in trouble with your teacher cause you asked a thing, or you get an F, and you realize and thats how you start correcting it. . . . I work really hard to cherish and nourish that part of me thats true, even though I sometimes feel like I have to play the system, because its really what Id like to be passing on to people and 125

my belief is that eventually it will be where people will just naturally be like that. They will overcome the system.

Societal rules were present in class policies, as Sonja recalled the feeling of frustration in developing her English-language writing skills while trying to deal with class deadlines. So I would spend like sleepless nights trying to write two pages . . . because whenever I would go back and correct it, and I would have piles of books writers references, how to properly do this, or is this the proper way to say thisand so finally . . if I felt a paper was not good enough, I would not submit it. I had the paper, I bring it to school, but I dont submit it. So Id bring it to the next class, because I felt like I perfected it, but now its a B because they take points off for being late, even if the paper was better than the student who submitted a paper on time. So then I started feeling like this great promise that was my educationthis complete freedom to express your opinion exists, but at the same time, there exists a need of university education to teach you to be obedient.

Mirella confirmed the findings of Atfield et al. (2007) that education provided refugees with the opportunity to learn the rules of the local culture. Her practical nursing clinical experiences allowed her to compare her prior practices as a doctor with the more hands-off approach used in the United States: I think as a doctor in this country is very . . . I dont have the same customs and actions. We [doctors in Cuba] like to share with our patients, you know? In this 126

country . . . [hits hand on table] MmMm. [Shakes head no]. Sometimes when I have to care for my patient, I did my assessment, I talk to my patient. Sometimes I feel her. Oh my God, am I doing the right thing? Am I doing the right thing? . . . They dont have this custom here to touch the patient. Speak and touch. You have to feel. You have to transmit. You will be good with me. I will do everything I can incorporate into your normal life. This is the way you can feel the person, share the feelings together, about her life. Its worth it with people. That is our point. Its different. Its different here.

Mirella explained her understanding of the process of acculturation metaphorically. In her description, a refugee or immigrant arriving to the United States is like a child; a child must depend on his or her parents for help like the newcomer must depend on public assistance for help. Much of Mirellas frustration early in her resettlement was that so little help was available to her family at their most vulnerable time. She continued the metaphor by saying that eventually the child becomes an adolescent, and wants to expand his or her boundaries. Like this adolescent stage, newcomers often have high expectations for what they want to do, and they often want to skirt the rules of the game in order to pursue their own goals. As Mirella explained, it took an acceptance of the rules to move on: You have to understand its not your country. You have to follow their rules. Its not your rules. You have to adapt to their environment. That is difficult; that is the truth. You want to live here? You have to adapt here in all the affairs of your life. For everything. An acceptance, you know? Acculturation, acceptancethis 127

road . . . We dont understand why American people gave us a chance, an opportunity to go ahead . . . You want to do this, this, and this. You cant.

Mirella then explained that if the adolescent accepts the rules of the family, then they grow up into well-functioning adults. Likewise, if newcomers accept that there are processes and procedures to succeeding in college and in their careers in the United States, they have a better chance at success. Mirella had to accept that she could not be a doctor in the United States with her medical degree and practice from Cuba, and she realized that to be a doctor in the United States meant a very different set of rules than what she was used to in Cuba. She believed that this was her process of growing up: And when you grow up, you can understand why your friends say that [you cannot be a doctor here or pursue a particular career]. As American, as immigrant, you can understand this point, because American people have the rule. Diversity. Participating in post-secondary education opened participant experiences to working with others in a diverse culture. Inevitably, this exposure created openness to other types of people that led the participants to seek the opportunity to work with diverse groups. Brena described a positive experience: Another thing I really liked about college was the exposure to different things and different people and different walks of life. I mean that was reallyeven for a small, Catholic school I had exposure to a lot of different diversity. Andum, thats something I wouldnt be able to get at home . . . In Bosnia were all the same, were all Bosnians, you know, its how it is. Forget the whole religious thing in the war, but in general were all the same, were all like somebody 128

stamped us, and very similar. Here its veryits really like a melting pot. Theres very much a diversity. Thats something I really kind of appreciated and kind of looking back now, I probably would have wanted to go to state school to even have a bigger school in the state school, but at the time I didnt know.

Luay also explained his experiences in working with classmates in his graduate program who were from diverse backgrounds, which led him to greater acceptance of others and taught him flexibility: Lesson that I learned while Im in, uh, school: Dont look at this person how he look like. See his thoughts, maybe his thoughts different than yours, maybe theyre similar. I have a friend in [my] university, and I can say it: Hes my friend. And you look at him firstI believe in difference, so, my person I will feel more safe with a similar peoplebut, this guy, is older than me, I think, 10 years, and hes African-American, and Im Middle Eastern, hes manager assistant, and Im employee, so almost everything like, different. We had a couple of classes similar. We are together in the same class, but we are now friends. We call each other. . . . He asked me for help or something, but we are friends. I didnt look at how he looked like or what his background; I looked at what make me with him, and it was my education. And so the first thing, I dont look at the person, how he look like. I have a co-worker that their background is Spanish, and mines Arabic. I have the idea that my background as a Muslim, over there they are Christian or he is non-religion. He has different thoughts than mine. But I will not cross on him, and I hope he will not cross on me. . . . So I 129

need to adjust to continue living in this country. . . . I need to be more open and able and ready to change or adjust just to continue living and continue reaching my goals, each one I can.

New Identity Identity was discussed a great deal in the interviews; in fact, it was the most heavily coded theme in the study. Participants used various descriptions and metaphors to describe the process of retaining elements of ones prior identity while recreating an identity in the United States. Sonja explained that her background and her experiences created a blend of her ethnic background with her new life to help her in forming a new identity: I feel like I am equal Serbian and Bosnian. Im Serbian because I was born in a Serbian family, I was prosecuted for being Serbian, but on the other hand Im Bosnian because I feel that I was born there. I cant really denyyou cant reallyif a person is a tree, if you cut the lower parts of the trunk it becomes a very unstable tree. I could not deny certain parts of your identity. It would be like trying to raze things, which is always wrong even if when they are bad things. . . . It is easier to assimilate in the United States than it is in the European countries, but its actually harder to acculturate in my opinion. Part of that, its not only folksy, its also the fact thatwhat does it mean to be an American? . . . You have to, to, become an American, you first have to decide what kind of American do you want to be. Um, if you just decide Oh Im going to be just like all the Americans that surround me this moment thats the wrong approach. I 130

think you have to meet a lot of different kinds of Americans before you can decide what kind of American you want to be. And you have to become your own version of American to be happy in life.

Empowerment. Cira also commented that education empowered her to blend her past identity with her new identity in acculturating within society here: First of all I learned that I had the potential . . . I found that, you know, through my own efforts I started gettingmaking this country part of me. I didnt feel detached any more. I probably felt not a belongingmaybeprobably the first 5 years, 6 years, but by the time I had my son I remember I was fine with it. It takes time. It didnt happen overnight . . . That was very powerful for me being able to openly communicate, you know, reading, asking, making a point. I dont recall asking anyone to do anything for me, because I had the English to at least write what I wanted, the first year when I wasnt able to communicate, but I was in power, it was a sense of power, a belonging. This was a part of me. Not that I forgot my past. I dont ever forget my past. Its part of me, the good and the bad if you want to say it that wayits hereits in me. And, its good to talk about, its good to share, and its here, its who I am, so everything combined makes me the person I am today.

Blended identity. Luay reflected on his initial cultural orientation in Jordan in 2009, prior to leaving for the United States. He expressed a common viewthat identity is mixed between cultures and it can change with experiences and time spent in the United States: 131

When I was in Jordan, I didnt leave yet, the teacher that she was giving me that orientation that 3-day orientation on living in the resettled country, I remember very well. I went to the second level of the building, and I was walking, going to my classroom cause I have, you know, I have number on the classroom, I have the paper. . . . I see British flag, American flag, Australian flag, because people going to Australia, people going to Great Britain, people going to United States. I went to my room, and I sit over there, and she was, you know, by herself, as an American. She had a like uh, US citizen. Shes from Jordan, but shes a US citizen, and she was, you know, talking with us as the new American. And as an American. So now Im a resident, yes, hoping one day I will be a US citizen, but I told you that my dream to finish my masters and go to PhD, and I think at this time, I will have my uh, I hope, I will have my citizen at that time, so I will be . . . an American. So one day I will be an American, and at this time, let me say itIm half. Im half.

Some participants also felt that identity transcended nationality. Boro described his feelings of self-identity with respect to his past experiences. I dont identify anywhere anymore. Because Ive been so many places, and moved around, I see myself as an individual. Because like people here they have still like, national identity over there, and some have like new identity over here, but I have my personal identity. . . . I see myself American, Bosnian, Serbianactually, I see myself as myself. . . . Im still American. Im a citizen.


Over there, I was like Bosnian, Serbian, but at the end, Im just myself. I dont like to put myself in any groups or something. When asked if he noticed that his self-identity had changed over time, Boro replied, A little bit towards this side [American side]. . . . Because you live here and like work ethics and how you live here and all.

Alejandro explained an inclusive understanding of his own identity, based on getting to know people and learning their culture: Now I feel more American than Cuban now. Im a person and a growing person. Im dynamic person, you know what I mean? I feel this here. . . . If I go to Japan, I will speak JapaneseI wear the kimono! [Laughs] You know? Why not? I am a citizen of earth. The planet. Everybodys good, and everybody can be bad. Its the person, not the nationality. Its the heart of the people I want to findI dont want to be a label.

Djuraskovic and Arthur (2009) discussed the acculturation process as one that requires newcomers to let go of some things from their past. Sonja used a metaphor to describe the experience of letting some things go in creating a new identity: The older you are when you move the harder it is to forget the habits and develop new ones, especially when old habits save your sanity. It kept you going for such a long time; you cling onto them. Imagine in Serbia we wore these dressesyou know how Madonna used to have those corsets . . . . So imagine in Serbia thats what we wore but we had these huge dresses. Now I go to America and the cars are built differently and I cant fit my dress, you know, and I cantbut I like my 133

dress, Im trying to graduallyI keep trying to sit in my car and gradually pluck off these things to fit my corset in this car, you know, but I cant take it off. So I want to keep some pieces of it, but some I wantI have to get rid of to function normallyto be happy and successful and whatever else to go through life.

Alejandro echoed this experience of mixing cultures and letting go of what was not useful: Its a kind of a connection between the past, present, and the future. To bring the best you can from your past and you mix it, you try to use where possible in your present, in order to build a better future. But, in that process you change. And some of the, the luggage, some of your baggage you bring with you, you treasure, is not useful. Doesnt pass the test.

Participating and Giving Back In creating their identities (which many expressed as an ongoing, fluid process), the participants in the study each demonstrated ways that their personal empowerment led to their participation in society. In addition, the desire to give back to the society that had brought them in led them to wanting to help others. Brena described her motivation for achieving in her career and in society in general: Um, back then and now, my motivation is pretty much the same. . . .Theres been so many people that have helped me get where I am, that helped me survive, you know, from Sally Becker [the British civilian who rescued her] coming risking her life, coming to get me out, to everybody else down the line. That I want to be a successful person that makes a difference in the world so they can look at me 134

someday and say, I was part of that. I can feel good about myself. I want to make it worth it for them, that they did this for me, because I think its going to be an example to the world that you should just help out, to help out, for no other reason than that. Because it does, you know, it does pay back. I believe in Karma, I believe things even out, and um, and I really thats my biggest motivation, I want to make my own little ding in the world, that I can just impact people in greater scheme of things and have everybody who helped me, and still helps say, I was part of that. I cant fail.

Alejandro shared his feelings of creating belonging and the importance of wanting to improve the place that one lives: You have to feel itthat you belong to this place. This is your land. This is your people now. You have to learn. You want to learn. You want to be part of this nation and this process for good or for bad. I mean, not everything is perfect. If you love it, you need to . . . to make it better. You say, you need to improve this, and you need to improve that. And when I become citizen I am going to vote, because I love this country. I want to participate. I want to improve it!

Cira explained her experiences participating in society and her continued desire to give back: I founded a non-profit organization where I help immigrants with paperwork for immigration. But other than that I am still exploring, I still want to do more, I still want to learn. I have the energy to do it; I have the desire to do it. . . . I always felt a sense of giving back. Always. I mean, thats who I am. Im so appreciative 135

of this country that, and I didnt feel the same way the first year I was here. I was angry. But that went away; it becameokaythank you, thank you. But it was also me. Thats who I am.

Luay explained the reason why refugees giving back and helping other refugees is so important: To serve refugees and to serve the people in need, really in need. Because I know, when I started working after a couple of month, why the agency . . . hire people who have already been resettled from another country or have history . . . because they will remember . . . and [refugees] arrive and they dont know what is going on. And they need help, so do you have the feeling, yes, we have that.

Policy Participants were asked to share their recommendations for US policy governing refugee resettlement. As noted by McPherson (2010), refugees have limited opportunities to share their experiences and influence policy. Empowering the participants to give voice to their ideas for improvement based on their personal experiences begins to mitigate the loss of control participants had throughout their premigration and post-migration experience. The primary policy issues of this study included (a) the support provided to newly arrived resettled refugees, (b) the requirement for rapid self-sufficiency at a time when they are recovering from traumatic experiences, and (c) the effect these two things had on their abilities to obtain post-secondary education. Without educational credentials to enhance their employment options, refugees often remain in low-wage jobs, in increased 136

isolation devoid of social connections and support, and with few opportunities to learn the customs and culture of the society (Dawood, 2011; Mamgain & Collins, 2003; Stevenson & Willott, 2008). While several of the participants worked in various social services that helped refugees, immigrants, or low-income families, all of the participants helped refugees informally through their own social networks of family, friends, and classmates. Each had strong feelings about the need to scaffold the refugee experience (Threadgold & Court, 2005) by working to help refugees become self-sufficient through education and employment. Cultural Orientation Education Nadeau (2008) examined the importance of the cultural orientation in educating refugees about the culture, helping them to manage expectations, and preparing them for the immediate need to look for work. Cultural orientations may happen in refugee camps as refugees prepare to leave, or they may happen in the country the refugee has fled to prior to leaving for the United States. Typically, cultural orientations last a few days. For Luay, this was not sufficient; in part because there was so much to learn, but in part because issues of trust prevent those migrating from one culture to another from hearing the information that they need to hear. According to Strang and Ager (2010), barriers to refugees creating trust (such as a limited time to do so) inhibits integration. Luay described the cultural orientation education that refugees receive just prior to their migration: So, I just hope that one day that when a refugee arrives here he have more than three days, the knowledge of more than three days. I had the three days and I was 137

real open. [A fellow refugee] was like, shes lying on me, shes not saying the truth [about what life would be like in the United States]. So before I need to come here, I need to learn the meaning of trust.

[Cultural orientation instructors] will give you the map, and they will give you the rules, they will give you what you need to do, they will give you, they will give you. . . . [the refugee] will not know whats going on. Almost like people, they are arrived, they just get their approval, like to come to the United States, they went to the orientation and after one week, they find their self in the United States. They didnt have the time to understand what is going on, and these peoplethey will have shock. They will have the shock because, let me say, Middle Eastern people or Iraqi people, they have, you know, theyre really, some of them, they build their background . . . their walls, their barriers, they put their thoughts, theyre already built. And they need to have the time to adjust, and just give them more time. [emphasis added]

Disconnect Some of the participants talked about the disconnect between the federal governments refugee policy and the state and local agencies that carry out that policy. The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) within the State Department, the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security, and the ORR within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are the federal offices that work with refugees from pre-migration through the expiration of their benefits. The state and local officials within the branch offices of the ORR and the 138

Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) are assigned to carry out US policy for refugee resettlement with refugee families locally. They must follow national mandates and support refugee arrivals, though with increasingly limited funds. Alejandro noted: I think that there is not a real connection between immigration as a agencyIm talking about USCIS or Homeland Securitythat agency control how many people we accept or how we classify the people. You are public interest; you are refugee. There is not a real connection between those guys, and the resources in the country to serve these people. . . . I say that you should have a national policy and resettle people where the people is needed, and where people can have community support. And where those people can have a job with less population.

Brena noted the location of arrivals for resettled refugees: Refugees are brought, theyre brought to the areas that are like ghettos, if you will. So, youll see in Detroit, the ghettos are filled with Bosnian refugees. . . .They come over here, they speak no English, and somebody throws them in a ghetto. Well, they, they separate immediately . . . . what happens is they end up hating this country and thinking this country is like that. Because for us, the community is reflective of the country, and here, its not like that. So, they get this whole different picture. I had to take my family out to the different parts of the country, and different parts of the town, and say No. This is just where they placed you. Theres a whole different America that you dont know because


youve never had a chance to experience youve never had a chance to experience because youre placed in this ghetto.

Educational policy. The participants each emphasized the importance of educational policy that would scaffold a newcomers learning, while helping them to become independent. Cira reflected on those who take advantage of the system in what she has seen among some resettled refugees. However, she also urged that the focus of government support change: If I would change something I would probably the first thing I would do to refugees when they arrive to the United States is investinstead of giving them all this moneyI would invest in giving them an education. This is what were going to do for you for this many weeks. And were going to get you work, and were going to get you here. . . . I would like for people, although we didnt get that education, because we didnt, but I would like that nowadays, that would be the first class they take at the airport, actually. Education about how the system is here. English of course, yeah, but education about how the system is not the same. We have a system of systems and they all need to be respected, and used wisely and respectfully.

Sonja recommended that language be a focus of mandatory classes for refugees early in their resettlement: Some form of mandatory classes for people. Language first, obviously, because thats the way to acquire knowledge about the culture you live in.


Boro recommended government support for classes that would help resettled refugees through the integration process: They should go to school for one year, have it covered. You know, rent and everything. Full assistance, and after, its fine. At least a year. To have classes every day. Just school, and integration classes. [Learn] how to get a cab, everything. Or just have office people come in and ask questions. You know how to get the phone, how to change the cell phone company. . . . How to get scholarship for their college. How to apply for job.

Recertification. Translation of prior education credentials in the home country is significant to the ability of newcomers to build upon their prior learning to improve their employment options in the United States, and to guide them in making wise educational choices here. Mirellas medical degree from Cuba, which included 9 years of medical school and several years of practice in the field, held little benefit to her finding a job in the United States. She ultimately entered a retraining program through one of the local resettlement agencies, which paid for her Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) schooling. Yet, as Dawood (2011) noted, doctors who can be recredentialed as doctors in the United States can do quite well financially. With the closest recertification program across the state, that option became impossible for her. Mirella recommended that US policy focus on bringing professionals to the United States and supporting their efforts to recredential in their professions: If you have the opportunity to bring more professional persons more quickly, you dont have to work in the long way [with less skilled people] because you dont


know if this person [the low skilled person] can support their way. . . .We are anxious to demonstrate our ability to work, everything. You know? . . . Its not only doctors. There are very bright teachersthey come from other countriesin science, maththey are very bright. Engineers, all kind of thing. They are anxious to work.

Smyth and Kum (2010) explained how refugees who have professional training experience a loss of skills during their migration and resettlement. As refugees flee the hardships of home, endure migration, and experience resettlement, they are losing time on practicing the skills for which they were trained. Mirella explained this problem: As a time passes, if you dont practice you lose your ability. You lose ability to hearour ear is very important. Our fingers is important. We can listen, we can see, we can feel I mean you lose all of the ability that you got during your practice in Cuba or whatever country, you know? You lose all of those things.

Brena mentioned the importance of supporting the refugees brought in by the government by using their professional skills, especially in areas where they have a particular expertise: And once you bring those people, at least give them a chance of fighting by allowing them to say, Oh, youre a nurse. Let me at least take your high school degree, and Ill admit it here. Instead of saying, Well were not admitting anything. You didnt go to US school, and everybody has to start from scratch. Which is why you end up working in factories and things like that.


US doesnt admit [transcripts from home], they just say, We dont care. Its worthless, essentially. I have a friend, my parents friend, shes a pediatrician, I mean shes works in the sleep clinic. Shes a doctor! Shes a pediatrician! Shes got, shes a medical doctor. Shes been practicing for 30 years. Shes not only been practicing 30 years at home, but she has seen during war a phenomenal amount of things that, that most American doctors arent even thinking about, let alone exposed. She could deal with a lot of stuff, not to mention post-traumatic stress disorder with kids, where parents come back from Iraq. Shes definitely a value to the community.

Social connections. Finally, a few of the participants believed that those social connections, as highlighted in their experiences earlier in this chapter, were extremely important to the integration of newcomers. They advocated for programs that would promote such connections. Sonja discussed having American families serve as cultural coaches for newcomers: Starting a program where familieslike foster homesIm not saying you bring your whole refugee family to your house, but now like my familylike a nonprofit organizationand when a refugee comes in, they are almost like a life coach. Somebody who teaches you about responsibility, even how to write a check. Some people make, before they learn, they make so many mistakes that it takes them years to fix them. And then that puts you behind again.

Mirella recommended that American families support refugee families the first year. She noted that the practice of refugees living with extended family is not always 143

beneficial. The newcomer may not get the opportunities to practice their English, or learn American customs if they live with family members, or like in her case, the refugees relatives may be taking advantage of them. Thus, she advocated an American family to help newcomers: And you are being with this [American] family during the first year of America. You live here, the family live there. You are under this familys supervision this first year. I think that it would be very great experience for everything. Because you dont suffer for, um, the family. . . . American people bring you to this school, help you with your English, help you with how to live in this country. They can teach everything. They can teach about your culture. They can teach how to drive. They can teach how to respect the law. And you improve your English, because thats it.

Fairness inherent in the policy. Two of the participants who had been in the United States for more than 15 years felt that while changes should be made, the system is fair and provides opportunities to newcomers. Boro stated: So, its really policy makers. But I think its better than nothing. They still give chance for people to come here. Getting chance to live normal life. It is very, very important for this government to do it, and I hope theyre going to continue to do it. Because I think this country has the most freedomand much more chances to succeed than anywhere else. I mean some of the systems I dont like, like the health system. I dont like it. It should be socialized. Education should


be free, but I have to go through it to try to change it. [emphasis added] But you still have chance to make a decent life here if you want to.

Conclusion This chapter contained discussion of the data collection process, information about the participants, and the findings from the 14 one-on-one interviews conducted during July, August, and September of 2012. The participant interviews provided the thick, rich description that is the hallmark of a qualitative study (Merriam, 2009). Member checks and expert advice on the themes revealed from the data provided enhanced reliability and validity to the study. The main themes that the data produced were the acculturation process, self-identity creation, and the influence of post-secondary education in building an integrated life in the United States. Three main categories were the framework for discussing themes revealed in the data: (a) background experiences, (b) acculturation through their educational experiences, and (c) policy recommendations made by the participants.


CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS This phenomenological, qualitative study uncovered the influence of postsecondary educational experiences in the acculturation of resettled refugees in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. Chapter 4 was a presentation of the findings of the data gathered during the interview process. Themes were revealed and organized according to the strength of the codes used. Chapter 4 served to reiterate the research questions and demonstrate the validity of the results as well as to connect the data to the research questions. Chapter 5 is a review of the findings and serves to draw conclusions based on the research question presented in chapter 1. This chapter provides analysis of the data, compares and contrasts the prior research with the findings of this study in order to triangulate the data, and synthesizes the findings within the context of acculturation theory. Implications for policymakers and educational leaders are included, with suggestions for how to carry out needed changes. The chapter also includes a rationale for future research that could be conducted to fill gaps in the existing body of knowledge. Summary (Discussion of Findings) The purpose of the study was to understand the phenomenon of post-secondary educational experiences of resettled refugees and uncover the essence of those experiences (Merriam, 2009) in understanding their acculturation process. Refugees rarely have the opportunity, as with all vulnerable populations, to effect change in the policies that govern their lives. A lack of input into the policies and rules that shape their initial experiences in the United States creates a lack of personal agency (McPherson, 2010). The current researcher assumed that it was important to allow the participants this 146

voice, and give them the opportunity to recommend policy ideas in light of their personal experiences. Going beyond the data that highlight numbers of refugee admissions, numbers of resettled refugees using public assistance, and numbers of refugees employed reveals human lives engaged in the process of adapting, adjusting, and overcoming. Basic data provide numbers for funding, but do not tell the story of individual experiences, the urgency of participant situations, or the strength of their desire to achieve and to give back to the country that has provided them an opportunity. Quantitative data (limited as it is in this field) also do not reveal the unique findings of this study: the informal lessons learned in college, the frustration felt with burdensome bureaucratic school processes, the sense of purpose participants had, the extent to which they were goal-driven, their selfidentification, or their ideas for policy changes. The participants in this study were successful in their immediate educational goals. They represent a small percentage (approximately 12%) of resettled refugees in the United States who are able to participate in post-secondary education and training (ORR, 2011). Because of this, their perspectives and backgrounds should be taken into consideration when examining the totality of the refugee experience and the needs of refugees in various situations. This study is narrow in its focus by design, as I wanted to explore how resettled refugees who had overcome the barriers to enrolling in postsecondary education in the United States had accomplished their educational goals and how it had influenced their acculturation. I was interested in exploring what methods they used to succeed, and how they developed their identity as they went through the acculturation process. 147

The research question addressed in this study was: How do resettled refugees in the Tampa Bay region of Florida perceive that their post-secondary education during resettlement influenced their acculturation? In answering this question, participants shared their understanding of acculturation, and the influence of their college experiences on that adaptive process. Included in these experiences were their stories of personal courage and trauma experienced both prior to and after their migration to the United States. A series of two, one-on-one interviews was used to develop the thick, rich description of experiences for seven participants who lived in the region. The interviews were conducted in the offices, homes, or favorite coffee shops of the participants, and typically held about a week apart. I recorded the interviews with the permission of the participant, personally transcribed the interviews to ensure accuracy, and to help in my retention and feelings of immediacy with regards to the participants words. I conducted member checks with the participants by reviewing my understanding of the major concepts shared in the first interview during the second interview, and then by emailing the participant my understanding of the major concepts shared in the second interview in addition to overall themes discussed. Participants were also supplied with a transcript of both interviews with encouragement to inform me of any changes needed and corrections to be made. Member checks did provide clarification of the themes revealed in the study. Confirmation of the studys findings provided by professionals who work with refugee clients in the Tampa Bay area aided in the process.


Significance of the Work The study provided research in an area where little exists: the influence of postsecondary education in the United States in the acculturation of resettled refugees. The research results indicated a beneficial influence in how education yielded opportunities for participants to develop social and cultural capital, taught informal lessons about society, and provided a valuable credential to help the participant gain employment. A significant aspect of the study was to give voice to the participants as a means of understanding their struggles, their value to society, and their input on needed changes to governmental and institutional policies. In addition, giving participants a voice can inform teachers and educational leaders about the realities of the limited English proficiency students in their schools. Helping educators recognize the power of the stories of resettled refugees in their classrooms is important if we are going to create a society that benefits from, rather than resists, diversity. Participants consistently demonstrated that self-identity was instrumental to acculturation, as indicated by Djuraskovic and Arthur (2009) and McPherson (2010). The study established that acculturation is a deliberate, thoughtful process of experiencing life and deciding which aspects of ones former life to keep and which ones to discard as well as which aspects of the new culture to adopt. Participants often talked about living between two identities: their prior identity and the one they were developing. Alejandro used a metaphor of getting rid of the old luggage he no longer needed in the process of acculturating. Cira discussed her past: The first year when I wasnt able to communicate, but I was in power, it was a sense of power, a belonging. This was a part of me. Not that I forgot my past. I 149

dont ever forget my past. Its part of me, the good and the bad if you want to say it that wayits hereits in me. And, its good to talk about, its good to share, and its here, its who I am, so everything combined makes me the person I am today.

Participants varied in the length of time they were in the United States, with four of the seven arriving between 2002 and 2009, and the rest arriving earlier: one arriving in the 1960s, and three arriving in the 1990s. While some language skill differences were noted between those who had arrived recently and those who had been in the United States for several years, only minor differences existed in their view of the acculturation process, as discussed in the section titled Taking the Long View. Each confirmed a need to remain true to who they were prior to arriving in the United States, while at the same time adapting to the United States by developing social connections, understanding the culture, and completing educational degrees. Each viewed education as something that needed greater reinforcement from policymakers, as it enables newcomers to develop skills that will help them develop lasting sufficiency. Analysis The strongest themes were the process of acculturation, the participants understanding of self-identity, and the importance of post-secondary education in aiding acculturation through the development of social and cultural capital. For the participants, acculturation was an ongoing process that began with accepting their cultural identity within new surroundings. Through a process that was at times thoughtful and other times unconscious, participants created their new identity as residents and citizens in the United 150

States. Brena described what it was like when she first arrived, and then how she feels about her identity now: When I was in the hospital, in that basement, I asked my uncle to go to the Old Bridge [a famous cultural landmark in Mostar, the town whose name means Old Bridge] because by that point they had bombed the bridge. I asked them to go to the bridge, and cut out one piece of the bridge and bring it to me. . . . So, when I came here [to the United States]no English, rock, teddy bear, and a t-shirt, you know, no parents, no sense of culture, no sense of anything

[But now] Im so immersed in the American culture I can barely think anything differentum, than what I know now. . . . Its not fair to my Bosnian side to say, Hey, Im American. Its not fair to my American side to say, Im Bosnian. I would choose to always identify myself as a person. I mean, its the beauty of being in this country that you can just be a person, and not have to answer to color, creed, or whatever. Its, its, itsthis oldthe good ol United States that it was founded and it was made and how it was meant to be and what it was for.

Sonja described her desire for time to go through the process, to understand and adjust to the culture: Refugees are very vulnerable population. Especially, you just throw them in the middle of everything its not likeI almost feel like if it would be beneficial like in a science fiction movie if somebody threw me in United States and 151

everybody was like stuck and time was stuck, and I had time to observe and study and look. And then when I was ready to become part of this, I push a button and everything starts moving and I jump in.

A non-linear process. Research on acculturation indicated that several steps occur in the process of a newcomer integrating into the society in which they have joined. Acculturation is not necessarily linear; the process is dependent upon the refugees background, their level of English proficiency, their personal circumstances with health and family needs, and the strength of their ethnic identity as it relates to the strength of the dominant culture they are entering (Duraskovic & Arthur, 2009; Mamgain & Collins, 2003; Smyth & Kum, 2010). Participants who lived through war had their education interrupted and felt the need to catch up when they got to the United States. This produced some anxiety, but also served as a strong motivator for enrolling in school. Once they got into school, though, they were surprised by the challenges. There had been an expectation that US schools were elite and difficult, yet, mostly they found the curriculum interesting, but not terribly rigorous. Learning academic English and navigating the myriad of choices among classes to take was difficult, but the curriculum itself was not as challenging as they anticipated. A few of them were glad for this, noting that they already had enough challenges with the language, needing to work full time, and needing to support their families. In fact, most of the participants discussed the lack of curricular challenge in higher education. While this may have helped them in the short term, it may have compromised their long-term potential given what they were capable of in their schools back home. Yet, the greater 152

implications may be for the public enrolled in school that does not have these challenges and does not get challenged in school, either. Acculturation theory. Literature reviewed for the study defined acculturation theory as a framework encompassing assimilation, multiculturalism, and integration. The ultimate stage would be one in which the newcomer adapts and changes, and the receiving society adapts and changes, and they influence each other (Berry, 2001). Strang and Ager (2010) expressed the importance of specific markers that indicate acculturation such as employment, development of language skills, and the creation of social and cultural capital. McPherson (2010) stressed the importance of the newcomer first understanding who they are within the society, and then developing cultural capital that helps them to acculturate. For example, Cira recalled identifying the time where she accepted her accent and herself within the US culture and how that helped her to develop cultural capitalthose skills that helped her grow: And I remember back then I was not able to communicate this in the way that I am communicating this now. . . . I was good with the verbs, but I was learning. But I wasnt intimidated at all. I was there for a reason. I was learning. Andlike I told one person one day at the hospital when I was with the doctor that she made a direct statement about the way I was speaking, and she was very rude. And I said, Excuse me, how many languages do you know? She said, What do you mean? I said, How many languages do you know? You know English, right? Yeah. What else? No Well, okay, I feel that I am more intelligent than you. Because here I am: I have Spanish as my native language and Im trying to learn your language. You, instead of being that rude, you 153

should teach me instead of making fun of me. But you know what? Thats okay. That shows your ignorance. And ever since that time I never, never felt intimated by anybody, Id speak anywhere, I didnt have a problem. And I was always very aware of my accent, and I tell people, I do not care about my accent. I like it. I like accents. I think it speaks highly of people. And as long as I always excel to correct any grammar mistakes, accent does not bother me at all. So if you have a problem with my accent, you know I dont have a problem.

Self-identity. I wanted to ask each of the participants to define acculturation, so that they could inform those who would seek to define it for them. Their answers were remarkably similar. Each expressed a need to retain their identity, while at the same time accept new elements to their lives in the United States that would necessitate changes to their identity. Each noted the need of the newcomer to adopt the language in order to access the benefits of living in the country, and to be respectful in learning the language of the country that accepted them. Some of them, like Brena, noted that acculturation was a two-way street for the newcomer and the society. However, it is not that easy, as she stated, I think, and this is just my opinion, but I think that the correct way is that the person needs to adapt just like the country needs to adapt so that you have a twoway process. In reality, both parties complain.


Brena continued to identify strongly with her past and her former country. Despite feeling well-immersed in the American culture, her Yugoslavian background was not something she wanted to let go of: You have people saying, Youre frickin an American now, so you know, you better In fact, I have my best friend, who Im going to see tonight, she told me, Well, youre in my country, so you now need to be doing things differently . . . . [She was] half kidding . . . . And thats just it: its half kidding. You know, I wish she was totally kidding because it would be funny. . . . There are parts of that I refuse to lose, and its just how it is. Its, its, its an honor to me, I mean I dare any American to go to any country and say, Im not going to be an American anymore, and not have goose bumps when they hear or see American flag, or the anthem, or watch the Olympics. . . . Because, its, because, itsit becomes part of you, part of who you are.

Resiliency. That strength of identity was matched only by the strength of the participants resiliency. Resiliency may be an indicator that Ager and Strang (2004) should have considered in determining the level of integration a refugee has in a new country. Each of the participants dealt with tremendous hardships, which only made their determination and motivation to go to school and get an education stronger. Each valued education because it was prioritized when they were growing up; each wanted to attend college in the United States because they knew it would provide them with skills or a degree to get ahead in a career. Each knew of the importance of education in helping them learn about the culture. However, education as a mechanism to create a new life, a 155

new identity, or a new possibility was strongly identified in the research. Yet, what seemed to be insurmountable barriers often matched that desire for education. Thus, it was their individual courage and resiliency, first displayed when they left their countries behind, which would help them overcome the challenges they had in the United States. For Boro, that resiliency born from war, migration, and resettlement in Florida, became the same resiliency that helped him manage going to work full time and going to school full time. For 7 years, he coped with an intricate work and school schedule, a long commute, and little time for studying so that he could earn his bachelors degree. For Sonja, her resiliency came from taking on a leadership role in her family at an early age. She talked about leaving her life behind in Serbia, and taking on new challenges in the United States by making social connections in her ESOL classes: I felt like I was on the road to making my dreams come true [in Serbia] and that suddenly, um, I was losteverything that I hadI had to re-invent myself suddenly. I was 20 years old, it doesnt sound like much, but I was already an adult, already the I felt that this slowed me down, and I fell behind in many things. . . . Im very social being. I enjoy knowing many people and being around people. So when I did start the ESOL class, it was nice. They understood I didnt have a caractually at that point I already did, but I had to share my car with my brother so sometimes if I wanted to go out they would come pick me up and we all would get together. We went to camping, and certain things, and finally started to see how Florida looks other than my regular route to school and work. So that was much better. 156

Trauma. In the literature, there is discussion of the presence of trauma pre- and post-migration (Djuraskovic & Arthur, 2009; Geltman et al., 2005; Georgetown University, 2009; Morris et al., 2008; Nadeau, 2008). The findings in the study mirror the conclusions in the literature. Four of the participants came out of war, with varying experiences in overcoming life-threatening situations. A few of the participants experienced direct abuse from those taking care of them upon their resettlement in the United States. For some, the experience of having to grow up quickly and take care of their parents in the United States when they were working and going to college became traumatic at times. All of the participants experienced some level of family separation during migration, whether it was leaving extended family behind in Cuba or not knowing where a parent was during war. However, the trauma experienced by the participants increased their motivation for school. For Brena, school created normalcy. Similarly, for Boro and Alejandro, school was a way to start their lives over. For Sonja, school provided the stimulation and challenges she craved since leaving her university in Belgrade, Serbia. For Mirella, school would provide a way for her to get back to the medical practice that she loved as well as increasing her sense of personal fulfillment. For Luay, education was an opportunity not just to engage in self-actualization, but to work in a diverse environment where he learned to trust those of a different ethnic background or cultural practice. For Cira, attending college was the fulfillment of a longstanding goal she had since she was a young girl in Cuba. For each of them, education represented a path toward self-determination.


Social and cultural capital. Research reviewed for the study highlighted the importance of developing social and cultural capital, which included developing language skills, learning the customs, acquiring the degrees and licenses needed for meaningful work, and developing inter- and intra-ethnic bonds (Ager & Strang, 2004; Buckland, 2006; Harris & Marlowe, 2011; Koehler, 2009). For the participants, attending college was a deliberate decision to develop these skills, rather than merely seeking improved employment options. The extent to which they realized that education was necessary to integrate into society was surprising because it showed a strong awareness of what they needed to do. They were very self-directed. However, they recognized that not everyone who arrives in the United States has that personal agency. Personal circumstances and abilities can affect ones ability to recognize what they need to do to get ahead. Indeed, several of the participants described a feeling of everything hitting them at once when they arrived in the United States, accompanied by overwhelming stress. While they were able to overcome or adapt to that stress, they recognized that not everyone might be able to do that. They felt that if the goal was self-sufficiency, as the US government mandates, then support for educational attainment is critical. Clearly, the capital they developed in school was important as well. Learning to read and write in academic English was a significant skill they developed. Learning to understand the rules and customs of society was important. Educational programs provided participants like Alejandro and Cira the chance to practice their presentation skills. Luay discovered that attending graduate school in the United States meant that he would be surrounded by the English language not just at work, but also at school, and


then at home when writing research papers. Immersing oneself in the language is something that he recommends to clients who are refugees. The Multiplier Effect Atfield et al. (2007) described the importance of social connectedness for refugees, with college classes providing opportunities for meeting peers outside of their ethnic groups. The research in this study indicated a similar importance of ESOL classes and college classes in exposing participants to people of diverse backgrounds. Making social connections with classmates, colleagues, and other refugees helped in the participants adjustment to the culture. Some of the participants used these social connections to help with study in school, while others benefited from social connections by gaining advice on educational and career options or just enjoying social gatherings. The necessity to work while taking care of family members also affected their ability to make social connections, as most of the participants did not have a traditional student life experience. Developing social bonds within their ethnic group as well as outside of it helped participants to establish roots in the new society, and helped them to learn about employment or school opportunities. Mechanisms for aiding newcomers in establishing social connections could greatly enhance the support they receive from the resettlement agencies and government aid. Therefore, social connections have a multiplier effect. Traditionally an economic term, a multiplier effect is the injection of demand into an economy that stimulates further demand, which stimulates more worker activity, generating more income, and improves the economy overall. Threadgold and Court


(2005) mentioned the benefit of mobility multipliers (p. 22), which were those public benefits including education, that helped resettled refugees work toward self-sufficiency. In this study, the multiplier effect is expanded to mean that when new connections are made in the resettled refugees life, they create opportunities that not only increase their employment options in society, but also create opportunities for enjoyment and happiness. For example, new social connections found through school helped to increase participants exposure to people outside of their ethnic group, enhanced their opportunity to learn English, enabled them to form study groups to give and receive help in school, provided social occasions for enjoyable conversations with fellow students, and even made possible some travel experiences outside of their normal commute to and from work and school. Building Personal Capacity Creating cultural capital involves newcomers developing an awareness of their new society, and understanding its rules and customs (Camblin, 2003; Koehler, 2009; Morrice, 2007). For the participants, education helped them to develop that cultural awareness and to understand what several of them termed learning the rules of the game. Participants shared many informal lessons they learned such as how to work in teams; how to work in diverse environments; and how to improve their communication, presentation, and writing skills. To each of the participants, attaining higher education was critical to his or her self-actualization: to gain a sense of belonging, to learn the language and culture of the United States, and to earn a degree or employable skill that would lead to a meaningful career. They each displayed a strong locus of control, believing that it was their 160

responsibility to get ahead. Each demonstrated resiliency in overcoming barriers to make that happen. As Alejandro described, I felt that only with the bachelor degree from Cuba I was missing somethingI wasnt complete for my professional role and growthmy professional growth in the United States. And I felt that in order to seriously, um, get ahead with my profession, I needed to finish a master degree in the United States. I mean, it is okay when you go and validate through credentialing services. It is okay when you get your report of validation of equivalence which takes your studies in Cuba or in your country, it is considered bachelor degree in the United States. Its good. But its notwhen you go to the job market to compete its not really, uh, strong thing to use in the job market.

The skills developed in their educational programs, and the cultural awareness created by learning about their society helped participants to build personal capacity. While capacity is a term that implies organizational readiness in meeting the needs of constituents or clients, the participants expanded their personal capacity by developing the skills through post-secondary education and training that they needed to provide for their self-sufficiency and support their families. They also helped to expand the capacity of the organizations they worked with by developing the skills that made them valuable working members of society. For example, the skills that Cira obtained in college, combined with her experiences within the community, led her to start her own agency to help newcomers with their immigration paperwork. She also left the corporate world in order to work in social services helping Hispanic families. Mirella still hopes for more 161

opportunities to build her personal capacity. As a doctor, she feels she has a great deal to offer society, but understands that she must learn the protocols and the necessary level of academic English in order to facilitate her career goals. Taking the Long View Educational experiences in the home country influenced how participants felt about education in the process of resettlement. Hartog and Zorlu (2009) found that refugees who arrived to their country of resettlement with little education upon arrival had an increased ability to adapt over those who arrived with advanced degrees. Reasons for this finding may include greater acceptance of less-educated refugees with their circumstances: They recognize that they must start with lower level classes and work their way through a training program. By comparison, those who were well-educated in their prior countries must learn to accept the lack of a professional career and status, or spend years learning academic English and undergoing retraining in their field. In this study, however, the participants revealed no inverse correlation between higher education attainment and inability to acculturate. The three participants who arrived with college degrees each used that understanding and perspective to motivate themselves to continue with further education in the United States. For these participants, education helped them to take the long view of the acculturation process. They developed a perspective that helped them to balance their priorities between their lives and their goal attainment. Mirella described her patience, yet determination, in getting through the barriers. Luay created rules for himself in distinguishing between goals and dreams. He interwove his goal-setting with his understanding developed from prior education: 162

[In a] dream I have the right to dream whatever I like. But my goal, I need to work to reach it. So, what I did, I put my goal to graduate. To get a bachelors degree. And when I was in the fourth or the last year, I understand the meaning of education. [emphasis added] I really, at this point, I can say, I understand what the meaning of higher education, what the meaning of person that has a masters degree, what the meaning of person that has GED or high school. When I went through this level, I told myself, no, I dont want to be like others. I want to do something.

By contrast, the results suggest that the participants who completed their college education in the United States felt a need to catch up with their peers, whether that meant learning English to get ahead, completing their degrees, or taking an extra year of high school to prepare for the challenges of college. Cira, Brena, Boro, and Sonja shared the barriers they had to overcome, both personal and policy-driven (in which immediate employment superseded their chance at an education), in order to complete their college degrees. Cira completed her bachelors degree over a longer period because of family and work priorities. Brena completed her bachelors degree quickly, but did so after taking an extra year of high school to prepare for college and the challenges she faced due to medical issues. Boro was anxious to complete college, as he had had to start over with his university education once he finally arrived in the United States and several years after he left his university in Sarajevo. Sonja felt that her generation of Bosnian peers had been left behind due to the war, and now she had to make up for lost time.


While all of the participants experienced manifold frustrations and barriers to enrolling in college and successfully completing classes, those who had already completed their college degrees prior to migration each explained that their prior education helped them to understand the importance of continuing their education in the United States for their own self-actualization. Alejandro described how having an education helped him to understand that adjusting to the culture and taking time to reach his goals was understand[ing] your moment. He also felt that the additional training he did in the field of education in the United States was easier because of the university background that he already had. Likewise, Mirella described her patience and understanding with the process: I have to improve more. I have to continue to study while my husband work. And I have my daughter. And I prepare myself. I got my driver license. I feel in this moment I didnt feel as a social completed person, [so] I finished [school], I got my [nursing] license, but I dont have experience in this country. And all employee need that experience for almost two years, and I dont have any. But I will find a job. I am a patient person.

While not definitive based on the participant group size and varied experiences, the experiences and comments of the three participantsAlejandro, Luay, and Mirellawho completed their education prior to arrival appear to suggest an easier process of initial acceptance of their circumstances, and understanding that acculturation takes time and patience.

A Rapid Self-Sufficiency Versus Lasting Self-Sufficiency 164

Rapid self-sufficiency. Refugee policy in the United States emphasizes rapid self-sufficiency (US Department of State, n.d.). Rapid self-sufficiency, typically within an 8-month time period, requires immediate employment, and prioritization of tasks that often run counter to the resettled refugee adapting to society. When newcomers must take a job in a factory rather than recertify in medical or technical skills that would enable them to have a good income, they are prioritizing tasks that are not in their long-term best interest. They languish in low-paying jobs where they subsist, but do not thrive. They do not have the opportunities to gain social or cultural capital, and enjoy the full benefits of living in the United States (Dawood, 2011; Mamgain & Collings, 2003; Stevenson & Willott, 2008). For example, when Sonja arrived to the United States in 2002, she immediately went to work in a factory counting needles for a medical supplier because she needed to help her parents with the familys living expenses. As a former literature student in Serbia with a dream of being a professor one day, she became depressed about her greatly diminished options. While she eventually overcame the monetary and language barriers that initially prevented her from getting her bachelors degree in the United States, her parents were not able to do the same. She would like more for them, but because they must prioritize work over learning English and training for a better career, they continue in low-wage jobs. Likewise, Brenas success in college and in her business career is contrasted by her parents who arrived to the United States several years after she did. Her parents were both professionals in Mostar. Yet refugees with professional backgrounds have a difficult time recertifying in their prior careers due to barriers put in place by institutions 165

of higher education and accrediting agency requirements (Buckland, 2006). When Brenas parents arrived in the United States, her parents went to work immediately in a factory to make ends meet, leaving no time to learn the language and retrain for a new life. Brena explained her frustration: So my dad is a registered nurse and my mom is a CPA. They are nowthey find themselves working in a plastic factory. Not speaking English, and just being stupid, and just not being able to do anything. And thats very, I think, demeaning. Especially after what they have gone through [in] the war. Its just like, at one point you want to say, Can I just have a break? Lasting self-sufficiency. Brena was able to transition into college after an extra year of high school, but when her parents arrived, it was very difficult for them to get beyond basic self-sufficiency. Brena believed that part of US refugee policy should be to reconsider how it evaluates the prior education and experiences of people who have skills that could be helpful in the United States work force. As a nurse in Mostar during the war, her father trained some of Brenas friends to be medics. He set up a hospital in their basement of their home to triage and treat the war wounded, without the standard supplies and medications (such as antibiotics and anesthesia). Yet, this experience and education counted for nothing when he came to the United States. Changes to standard practices among US educational institutions could strengthen the workforce by accepting these past experiences and education as credits toward retraining for a meaningful career in the United States. This could create a lasting self-sufficiency among resettled refugees rather than a rapid self-sufficiency that does not call on their greatest skills and strengths.


Empowerment. As mentioned in the literature, refugees may develop empowerment as they go through the process of acculturation, overcome hurdles, learn skills they can apply in their new country, and ultimately help others. Cira mentioned that education helped her realize that she had potential. Luay mentioned the empowerment he discovered in himself and how he encourages others: If you have the ability to go to community college, go to community college. Do it. Dont be afraid. And because of that, I started thinking of going for my PhD. Because I can get a masters degree in the United States, if I have knowledge, I will get my PhD. So, I will try hard to maintain a good average of GPA and like all my points to let me allow to go to program that I want to. And to reach the point that I can teach, I can learn, give my knowledge to the people that are in need.

Likewise, Alejandro described how he encourages newcomers with the perspective he gained through experience and education. Throughout his interviews, he reiterated the importance of not growing stagnant, and how he shares that with newcomers who are struggling: Its okay if you have different approach in what the United States is before coming here. Its okay, its normal. Its okay when you come here, you confront those conflicts. It is okay in the process that you want to return to your country. It is okay even to feel bad about the society. It is okay even to sometimes feel that you dont want to be here and feel that everybodys racist because your boss, your supervisor, your first job, your supervisor was terrible and you think all 167

Americans are like that. Its okay. But the problem is that you dont get stuck in that. Keep moving forward. [emphasis added.] Like I told you, if you feel like you belong to this country, that this is permanent, and never back journey, that is your life now. This is your place. When you feel that, you got to the point that you understand that this is the process. That you are just living a stage. That I teach my, my clients: This is a stage. This is not your life.

Empowerment has that multiplier effect, as mentioned previously. It is created out of the personal identity and awareness mentioned by McPherson (2010), and the means and markers created when resettled refugees engage in education, as mentioned by Ager and Strang (2004). Because of this potent combination, because education is strongly implicated in its ability to teach newcomers about themselves, their abilities, and their desire to help others, refugee policy needs to provide educational options to newcomers. Post-secondary education benefits society, and creates lasting sufficiency, rather than just rapid sufficiency.


Conclusions Acculturation Theory Acculturation theory was addressed in this study, providing the philosophical framework from which to understand refugee resettlement. The theory also provided a means to operationalize the constructs of integration, identity, and education in the process of acculturation. The research served to address the problem of barriers to acculturation for resettled refugees. The study highlighted the influence of postsecondary education on newcomers integration into society. Understanding the essence of the participants educational experiences, and how those experiences aided in their acculturation was the purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study. Acculturation is defined by Berry (2001) as a process that has changed in society from one based on assimilation to the local culture, to marginalization of the newcomers into isolated enclaves, to one that involves merging the newcomers culture with the societys culture, and each changing and influencing the other. Djuraskovic and Arthur (2009) described the deliberate process of identity transformation that resettled refugees undergo in shifting from one culture to another. McPherson (2010) explained the importance of providing resettled refugees with the time to create knowledge of self, which is accomplished, in part, through education. Strang and Ager (2010) discussed the need for newcomers to develop social and cultural capital. Education can help newcomers develop capital as well as help them navigate the societal rules and cultural norms (Berry, 2001; Hickey, 2007; Koehler, 2009; McPherson, 2010). Atfield et al. (2007), Mackenzie et al. (2007), and McPherson (2010) noted the importance of giving resettled refugees a voice in the policy-making process by providing them a mechanism 169

to share their stories, and enlighten policy makers of their experiences and the realities they confront. The themes presented here are confirmed by the results of this study, and discussed below. Personal Identity Development The findings confirmed the results of the literature review. The coded interviews revealed a strong sense of personal identity development that each of the participants experienced. They illustrated the deliberate processes of how refugees determined what aspects of their personality to keep and what aspects needed to be discarded in order to integrate into US society. The development of identity was aided by their college experiences, primarily in learning about the individual strengths that they had, and the accomplishments they achieved. Participants learned that they had potential. They learned that they could earn degrees by developing intricate and complex schedules that combined their work lives, the family lives, and their school lives, thus enabling them to spend hours studying a new subject in a language that was not their native one. Implications of this will be detailed in the Implications for Practice section. Sense of Belonging Closely paired with developing a new identity was participants desires to develop a sense of belonging. In order to develop a sense of belonging, they would need to develop cultural capital in order to understand the culture they were immersed in, and how they could become valuable members of it. Participants identified the need to go through the educational system in the United States to feel a part of it, to gain the credentials they needed, and to develop the personal capacity that would maximize their potential. The participants were able to expand their skill set and their cultural awareness 170

through their educational experiences. The informal skills learned in higher education aided in English language writing, creating and giving presentations, working with a diverse group of people, and understanding the rules of the game. Overcoming barriers to education and identifying their personal goals made each of the participants particularly motivated to complete their education and move toward a valuable and meaningful career in the United States. Each of the participants also sought ways to expand the personal capacity of family members or the clients they worked with by advising them in educational options that could improve their careers. Social Capital and the Multiplier Effect Educational experiences of the participants helped them to create social capital. They were able to form social connections with those outside of their ethnic group. These social connections provided them with exposure to different cultures, access to social outlets for entertainment, assistance in studying, help when they had scheduling conflicts, and the opportunity to give back to help others. These social connections had a multiplier effect, which as described earlier in this chapter, meant that social connections created new opportunities and helped with adjustment that expanded their options in society. These connections further enabled them to meet their basic needs of providing for their families. Social connections helped them become self-sufficient as well as created opportunities to learn more about the culture, gain help in studying for school, make connections for jobs or for housing, and enjoy new experiences such as camping or visiting different parts of the United States.


Taking the Long View Expectations of life in the United States led to some disappointments upon arrival, when participants described a country that condoned labor practices that reminded them of slavery (such as the factories in which one of the participants worked), or an educational system that was not as robust as they had thought it would be. Yet, some participants took the long view on acculturation and goal attainment, particularly those who had completed their college degrees prior to arriving in the United States. In their view, education was necessary for achieving not just goals for employment, but also dreams for advanced degrees and personal potential. They urged a step-by-step process that would keep goals in immediate view, but also encouraged patience in the development of these goals. They reminded those they were helping that it was normal to want to go back to their home countries, but that making those social connections and developing personal capacity would help immensely. Policy Finally, participants provided their perspectives on how policy should be created for a lasting self-sufficiency rather than a just a rapid, but weak self-sufficiency. They suggested a stronger linkage between the federal government and state government with regard to refugee arrivals, resettlement funds, and support personnel needed to help them. They urged for more support to help resettled refugees go to college or technical school. Luay recommended more time for refugees to have in their cultural orientations prior to arrival so that they could develop trust in their instructors, and thereby take their recommendations seriously. They advocated for social connections between resettled refugees and Americans who were immersed in the culture that would help them in their 172

language and cultural development. They sought a more just approach to evaluating prior professional experiences and college degrees to enable better career opportunities upon arrival. Their experiences suggest that better processes within higher education institutions, such as training for support services (admissions, financial aid, the registrars office, and academic advisors) would ease many frustrations that refugees feel when they enroll and attend college. Their frustrations in paying college tuition for attending noncredit ESOL classes imply that alternatives to ESOL classes or alternatives to the current structure of ESOL classes would be welcome considerations.

Implications for Practice Prioritizing Education for a Lasting Sufficiency While policy surrounding refugee resettlement emerges from a variety of government agencies and the resettlement agencies contracted to handle resettlement, it is useful to consider options for carrying out practices mentioned in the study. The most fundamental implication for practice would be that the federal government would have to provide greater support for resettled refugees to prioritize education. This would mean loosening the requirements on rapid employment and self-sufficiency, and in its place, allowing for a longer period of support while refugees were in school learning the language and working toward a diploma or degree. English language education ideally would begin in the pre-migration period, while in the refugee camps or through an extended orientation in the country of departure. However, because each refugees circumstances differ from the next, developing a standard practice of extended language


education prior to resettlement would require coordinated efforts between the UNHCR and the many host nations where refugees live while in transition. The study presents the case for focusing on education in elaborate detail. The need for pursuing education first is based on the need to develop that social and cultural capital that will create the skills and provide the credentials for resettled refugees to find meaningful employment. A focus on education early in resettlement enables a lifetime of self-sufficiency, and allows resettled refugees to be contributing member of society. Awareness in Higher Education There are implications that go beyond policymakers as well. Institutions of higher education should provide professional development to their staff regarding the rights of resettled refugees to enroll in classes and their rights to receive financial aid and grants. Some frustration and barriers could be lessened if staff and faculty were enlightened about the refugees that are enrolled in their school, with their specific needs as well as their contributions in society. Hosting an international day on campus that highlights the diversity of the student body is an excellent way for schools to make their campuses friendlier to all students, and celebrate an attitude of acceptance and diversity. In addition, educatorsteachers, professors, tutors, librarians, writing lab personnel, and teaching assistantsneed awareness training on the diverse students within their schools. As global migration continues with the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and new brutality in Syria, the continued arrival of refugees in the United States and in US educational institutions is an opportunity for teachers to learn about their students cultures and to encourage their students to reach out to newcomers as well.


Creating Social Connections Social connections for newcomers help them maximize the aid and opportunities they have; social connections have the multiplier effect and need to be enhanced in meaningful ways. Seed money from the federal government or private partners could be provided to the ORR for an additional staff member in their regional offices to be in charge of recruiting volunteers from churches, schools, or civic organizations to serve as outreach families for newly arrived refugees. Such volunteers could teach basic skills in managing bills, writing checks, practicing English, or aiding in a job search. While the resettlement agencies help in establishing the newcomer with their initial benefits, an outreach family could show them where to shop for groceries, how the bus system works, and where they could take classes. Likewise, colleges and universities could use their peer mentoring programs to reach out to refugee students who might benefit from help in registering for classes, receiving tutoring, or developing peer networks. Family programs or student mentoring programs would both have the benefit of enhancing the two-way acculturation process mentioned in the literature. Evaluating Credentials The lack of recognition of education prior to migration in countries of resettlement, including the United States, is a significant issue that refugee policy has yet to address effectively (Buckland, 2006). While some resettled refugees can have their transcripts professionally translated and evaluated (if they have them in their possession, and if they have the money to take advantage of this service), many refugees who have medical backgrounds have difficulty transferring their prior experiences and training to a medical license in the United States. The US Department of Education, in conjunction 175

with the regional accrediting agencies, should establish acceptable practices for universities to use when evaluating the medical credentials and practices of refugees who were doctors, nurses, or other medical workers in their home countries. Existing practices of determining credit for life experience are cumbersome, costly to the student, and slow. Recertification programs are often too costly for a former doctor to be able to pay or are not readily available. Bridge programs that link prior experiences to the needed skill training for certification for doctors, nurses, teachers, and other professionals could be more readily available throughout the country, especially in areas where a high number of refugees resettle. Combined with academic English training specific to these fields of study, such programs could quickly train professionals with diverse talents, enabling them to use their skills and experience, fill critical shortages in the United States, earn a good income, and contribute more to the tax base. Bridge Programs and the Affordable Care Act The option to create bridge programs is not unreasonable, especially given the funding provided through the Affordable Care Act for institutions and students. Passed in 2009, the Act provides an initial investment of $250 million for the training for medical professionals, especially primary care physicians, physician assistants, practitioners working in preventative medicine, and nurses. Encouraging the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Affordable Care Act, as well as the Office of Refugee Resettlement, to promote bridge programs for highly-qualified refugees makes sense given the critical shortage of medical personnela shortage that


will only become more acute as 30 million more people are added to the health care system in 2014 (, 2012). Recommendations for Research English Language Training Research The study results indicated the critical importance that the English language had for the participants in their acculturation. Participants noted that their family and friends without English language abilities often grew stagnant in their jobs and in their immersion within society. Thus, research on the most effective types of ESOL classes for resettled refugees is needed. ESOL classes are often taught by volunteers in churches, and are sparsely attended. When refugees work long hours, it is difficult for them to have the energy or time to attend, and often difficult for them to find transportation to the language classes. Having ESOL classes in the community or state colleges is an excellent option for those seeking a college degree, but what would be the effect of providing English language classes on the work site where refugees spend most of their day? Would classes held at lunchtime or classes held at the end of the day be more readily attended? Research to discover the trends would be helpful. A Need for Numbers Quantitative data is needed for researchers to examine the relationship between higher educational attainment and indicators of acculturation in resettled refugees. Limited quantitative data is available for the university scholar. I contacted the Refugee Processing Center, which processes the arrival of refugees into the United States on behalf of the US Department of State. I sought data on refugees arriving in the United States, specifically their educational backgrounds. They could not share their arrival data 177

with me beyond the most basic information about how many refugees arrive from each country each year. Likewise, the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) provides extensive quantitative data on primary, secondary, and post-secondary education in the United States. It provides data on the education of students who are immigrants to the United States, but does not break that information down to examine refugees and immigrants separately. A longitudinal study that used educational statistics on refugees, specifically, would demonstrate the educational outcomes of this population. Research that demonstrated how resettled refugees with higher education degrees improved their earnings potential, compared to refugees in the United States for the same amount of time without a degree or qualification, would be beneficial in policy formation. Psychological Research Psychological research is needed to study the effects of resettlement trauma on refugees, especially the issue of familial abuse that occurs among vulnerable and recently arrived refugees. Such research would have specific policy implications for the resettlement process, such as the practice of placing refugees with relatives, and the distribution of benefits. Refugee Voice and Policy Suggestions Finally, research to explore the refugee experience from personal perspectives informs policy makers, international organizations, and educational leaders with relevant perspectives and fresh approaches to understanding their reality. Researchers have the unique opportunity to provide refugees with a voice to share their stories and suggest novel approaches to address complex problems; such was a goal of this study. Policymakers, administrators, and educators have an obligation to hear these perspectives 178

and consider them when engaging in policy planning and institutional planning that will affect the lives of so many within a vulnerable, but resilient, population.


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APPENDIX. INTERVIEW GUIDE The following interview guide was used to address the studys research question, which was: How do resettled refugees in the United States perceive that their postsecondary education received during resettlement influenced their acculturation? Interview 1 Guide Use background information to begin the interview (Merriam, 2009). Ask day in the life of questions, as appropriate (Seidman, 2006). Tell me about yourself and your life in your home country. Where did you live? What was your family like? How big was your community? How long did you live there? Did you go to school there? What were your impressions of your schooling there? Do you remember any stories your brothers or sisters told about their school experiences? Tell me about your impressions of your country. Describe a day in your life there. How did it start? How did it end? What was a school day like? Describe the reasons that led to your family having to leave. What do you remember about having to leave? Describe the experience, if you are willing, about leaving your country. (If the participant went to a refugee camp, use the following questions.) What were you feeling when you arrived in the camp? What was it like? How big? What did your parents do while your family lived in the camp? Describe a day in the life in the refugee camp for you. Who ran the camps? Were there authority figures? (Jex, 2002) What kind of education was offered? (Zeus, 2011) How do you feel about the education you received in the camp in terms of your ability to adjust in the United States upon arrival? Looking back, is there anything you would want to be different about your educational experience in the camp? What led to your resettling in the United States? Can you describe how that came about? Did you have any preparation before leaving your country or the host country where you were displaced? In other words, what did you know about what was going to happen and how did you prepare for it? (Nadeau, 2008) What would you describe as the factors that help a newcomer become adjusted to their new country? (J. McBrien, personal communication, May 10, 2012) Describe your feelings upon arriving in the US. 189

Can you tell me about your first experiences? Where did you live? How did your family get by? How did you feel about the difference in languages? Did you go to school right away? What was that experience like for you? What kind of student were you? What role did school play in helping you to adjust to life in the United States? Challenges? Benefits? How did you learn the English language? (This next series of questions were reintroduced in Interview 2. Tell me about your educational journey as an adult (Dawood, 2011; Georgetown University, 2009; McPherson, 2010). How did you decide to enroll? What circumstances enabled you to commit the time to education? Did you experience barriers to enrollment? Did you experience barriers to staying in school (i.e., conflicting demands for employment, childcare, transportation problems, etc.)?

Interview 2 Guide What does acculturation mean to you? (I may replace acculturation with integration or adaptation to ensure participant understands the question.) What would you say are some indicators of acculturation? (J. McBrien, personal communication, May 10, 2012) What does integration mean to you? (Atfield, Brahmbhatt, & OToole; 2007). What factors do you think make a person integrated into society? (Ager & Strang, 2004; McPherson, 2010).

In adjusting to life in the United States, how did maintaining for your self-identity within a new culture work? (McPherson, 2010) How did conforming to the dominant culture factor into how you integrated into it? How did you create or retain your identity within a new culture? (Marbley, 2007) Tell me about your motivation to enroll in post-secondary education. In your experience, what was the influence of education in the development of self? (McPherson, 2010) How did post-secondary education work as a means to help you fit in to society? How did education help you find out more about yourself? What are your aspirations? (Strang & Ager, 2010) 190

Is where you are now personally, professionally, and educationally, a gateway to other places, aspirations, career goals, etc? (Strang & Ager, 2010) What do you see as your potential? How does that potential relate to your desire to achieve educational goals? (McPherson, 2010) Are there cultural values that you developed through the process of your college education that influenced your adaptation to society? (Koehler, 2010). What non-academic or informal lessons did acquire in your time in school? (For example, what social cues to did you learn about, what cultural lessons did you learn? Were there any instances in education where the messages were different from what you experienced in society? For example, people in the US have the right to freedom of speech, religion, expression, etc, but did that proclaimed value differ from what you actually experienced? (Koehler, 2010). (If going through recertification, ask these questions) Tell me about your motivation to get recertified/recredentialed in your field here in the United States. What expectations did you have of your career prior to resettling here? (Georgetown University, 2009) How did you feel about the process of recertification? What barriers to recertification have you/did you encounter? How do family expectations placed on you, if there are any, motivate your recertification process? What do you see as your role in your community in which you live? How is education a part of building that community? (McPherson, 2010) In your view, what responsibility does the nation receiving refugees have to help them obtain access to their desired level of post-secondary education? If you could make a change to existing policy governing refugee resettlement in the United States, what would it be?