Opportunity, Community, Empowerment
Homecoming: a classic tradition of connecting with friends, welcoming back alumni and celebrating everything it means to be a college student in the United States. For university students, homecoming is an anticipated and quintessential aspect of their college experience. For students from outside the United States, like Abdirahman Farah, homecoming represents the opportunity to experience new cultural traditions and connect with the campus community. Recently Farah, or Abdi as he is affectionately known around campus, was elected to The Ohio State University at Newark’s homecoming court. He explained that, “being elected to court means a lot, because in my country I never experienced traditions like this.” Farah credits Ohio State Newark not only for providing him with the experience of homecoming, but also helping connect him with the campus community and his passion.
In search of economic and educational opportunities, Farah’s family immigrated to the United States from Borama, Somalia in February of 2015. As a graduate of a Somalian high school, he struggled to find a college that would accept him. Fortunately for Farah, The Ohio State University has pathways that ensure access to higher education for students from abroad. He was able to successfully navigate the admissions process and enroll at Ohio State Newark in the fall of 2018.
Farah initially thought of the Newark campus as merely a stop on the way to the Columbus campus, but what he discovered was a comfortably-sized campus that afforded scaled-down class sizes and provided him the personal attention he needed to thrive. Farah was placed on the Dean’s List for three semesters. As a freshman, he began working as a student ambassador. He was nominated to and participated in Propel Ohio Collegiate Leadership Summit, a leadership program that promotes civic engagement and inspires undergraduate students to grow into civic leaders in Ohio. He traveled to North Carolina for Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge to build homes for people in need. The Ohio State Newark campus was the perfect fit for Farah, allowing him to be active on campus and giving him the opportunity to be seen as a leader among his peers.
Farah’s involvement on campus helped him make friends, establish relationships with professors, and develop a sense of the importance of community. Friend and former student government president Roman Lee described him as “kind and calm,” and said he, “carries a warm heart for his family, friends, co-workers and the world around him.” Campus leadership noticed Farah as well. Assistant Director of Student Life Justin Khol said that “Abdi has a passion for working towards positive change that drives him in both his roles on campus and in his life off campus,” and that he is, “confident that Abdi is destined to be a change agent in our community.”
During that first year, those relationships would help Farah take an unexpected, but a serendipitous change in course. After taking some beginning courses – in what had been his planned course of study engineering – Farah was feeling disconnected from the material. He approached Senior Lecturer in History Michael Mangus, one of his favorite professors, for some guidance. Mangus said that “Farah was a very dedicated and hardworking student. He relished attacking the most difficult assignments and also contributed immensely to class discussions, making sure that multiple sides of an issue were always represented.” Impressed with Farah, Mangus directed him towards an internship at Simakovsky Immigration Attorneys.
While interning at Simakovsky, Farah found inspiration watching the lawyers encouraging their clients from immigrant communities to pursue higher education and work towards their dreams. They were empowering people to take full advantage of the opportunities that exist in the United States, opportunities that exist in part because of a strong judicial system that protects individual rights. As an immigrant himself, Farah saw first-hand the transformative power of justice and education. His own experiences with injustice in his home country of Somalia and here in the United States, coupled with the experience of his internship, ignited a passion for civil rights that had been there all along. With this passion brought to the surface, Farah’s new career goal was to become a civil rights attorney and empower others to embrace the opportunities offered by the United States and follow their own dreams.
Homecoming is a well-known tradition, but beyond that, it is another example of the many opportunities that exist for students at Ohio State to connect with the community of the university. A community that is diverse, welcoming and pushes them to become the best versions of themselves. Students, like Abdirahman Farah, who embrace that community will find endless opportunities exist for them here, and that with hard work they too can discover their own passion.
Farah’s hard work at Simakovsky paid off, as it developed into a paid part-time position where he is currently employed. Despite a full-time course load and his new employment, he remains a dynamic presence on campus continuing to work as a student ambassador and participating in several student organizations. After graduation, Farah plans to apply to law school at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State. No matter where he goes in the future, Farah knows he will always be a member of the Ohio State community and being a part of the tradition of homecoming solidifies that connection.
The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service-learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.