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From Nepal to the United States: Subash Gurung’s story

“I want people to understand their stories, rather than just saying, ‘They’re illegal immigrants, they should be kicked out, they should be deported.’ It just seems wrong. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative. You’re a human first.” Subash Gurung's journey to the U.S. By Kathleen Morris
By Kathleen Morris Last week, an article was shared featuring the story of a young Springfield College student who is living the reality of being an immigrant here in America. This week, another student’s story is shared. At this moment, there is a caravan of over 5,000 people approaching the southern United States border from several South American countries. The people in this caravan have been called many things, such as drug dealers and terrorists. The list of accusations runs high, as does the conflicting thoughts on what to do about them. The debate on immigration has seemed to grow more fervent in the past two years, and not for the better. Subash Gurung and his family arrived in the United States when he was 11 years old in 2009. They came here from a refugee camp in Nepal, a country located in South Asia. Gurung explained that his family moved to the refugee camp after being forced out of their home country of Bhutan, because of cultural clashes. Removals such as theirs began in Bhutan in the 1990s as part of an “ethnic cleansing,” resulting in the forced deportation over 100,000 people. “It’s hard to describe what the camp was like,” Gurung explained. “It was strictly huts, made of mud and brick. Everything was kind of very close quarters. The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] provided food for us, like rations. It was kind of what you’d expect of a refugee camp.” Of arriving in the United States, Gurung explained, “Coming here was different. I’d never been on an airplane before, and when I came here, it was like, ‘Wow. Lots of people.’” He and his family landed in Newark, New Jersey. A flight delay meant that once they arrived, it was night time. When he looked out, he could see the New York City skyline as clear as day, a sight he still remembers to this day. From there, they took a flight to Manchester, New Hampshire. Gurung describes the transition period as being difficult, especially for his parents. “Back at the camp, they had a community,” he said. “But when we first got here, there were only five Burmese families who resettled in New Hampshire.” His parents didn’t know English either, so being dropped into an entirely new environment where everything was unfamiliar added to that difficulty. “My parents struggled a lot. We came during the end of winter when it was still snowing. We didn’t know about public transportation. We were walking five, six miles to get groceries,” Gurung said. There were agencies that helped with the family’s resettlement, but learning how to navigate their new surroundings was something that Gurung’s family had to do themselves through trial and error. When going into detail about his own experience, Gurung spoke a lot about his schooling. Middle school was a mixed bag of sorts. Making friends was often tough, especially since he only knew a little bit of English. Finding the right words to say what he meant was a challenge. When classmates would choose to say things like, “Go back to your country,” and “You don’t belong here,” to Gurung and his friends, he said it was instinct to stand up for himself. In his classes, he did well, testing out of ESL [English as a Second Language] classes in his first year. He changed schools in eighth grade, when he was put into mainstream classes.“[Those classes] forced me to get out of my comfort zone,” Gurung explained. “It helped my English a lot more. I started to learn the culture a lot more too.” However, Gurung still remembers being frustrated during that time. Seeing his parents struggle to find work and make ends meet made him want to help. “But you can’t do that when you’re like 12, 13 years old,” he said. On a positive note, Gurung shared one of his major accomplishments since moving to the U.S. “From eighth grade, I picked up an interest in music. I wanted to learn to play the guitar, and I think it got me through hard times,” he said. “I used to literally put myself in a room and watch YouTube videos for hours and hours.” Here at Springfield College, as a senior, Gurung is majoring in Biology with a Health Science minor. “Being independent here, having new experiences, has made me a better person. My perspective has changed,” he reflected, crediting classes like anatomy, history and sociology for changing his world view. When asked about his thoughts on the current climate surrounding immigration, he immediately brought up the issue of the approaching caravan mentioned at the onset. Gurung was split over the matter and could see both sides, especially having been in a similar position as those on the other side of the border. “I don’t fully understand their reasoning behind leaving. I’m sure it has to do with a hardship they’re facing right now. I think the United States government saying, ‘We don’t accept it, that’s illegal, we want you to turn back,’ is wrong, because they’re trying to seek refuge,” he said. “But also, I understand why doing that is breaking the law.” “You see women and children walking thousands of miles to get to a safe place. I think, rather than saying, ‘Hey we don’t accept you, turn away,’ we should have things we can do to help. This government has the power to do so,” he further explained, trying to lay out his thoughts on the matter. “There’s this fear of drug dealers and terrorists coming in. I understand the fear. But at the same time, they don’t know that for sure.” Gurung didn’t express a lot of hope for the future. “I try to keep updated, but because so many things are happening, you lose hope. Yes, there have been wins, like the judicial system stopping Trump from completely disbanding the DACA program. Those things give me hope,” he said. “But at the same time, you have powerful people with big agendas, mainly just to hurt people.” He finished the interview with some words of advice. “I’d say learn more about people who are suffering and where they are coming from. Try to figure out why they’re going to such lengths to run away from their homelands,” said Gurung. He continued, “I want people to understand their stories, rather than just saying, ‘They’re illegal immigrants, they should be kicked out, they should be deported.’ It just seems wrong. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative. You’re a human first.” Photo courtesy of Subash Gurung

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