Pan Young

My Life Story as a Refugee Here in America

I am a 15-year-old girl and a sophomore at Bishop Maginn High School. I live with my mother on Morton Avenue. I came here to America as a refugee back in 2014. Yes, that means that this year on July 12th me and my family will be here in America for five years. Now, the reason why I am writing this story is because I want to share what happened in my life here in America, and basically how I become who I am today.

First, I want to share how is life here in America as a refugee. It is not easy at all. When I first came here, I felt like I was in a different world. Everything seemed so different — I mean basically everything: the culture, the language, obviously, the weather, the food and much more. Even myself — I felt like a different person living here.

I still remember how I was struggling to speak or answer back to my teacher about how I felt at school, or how I am doing with school and life. And sometimes you do feel like you regret coming here since you feel like you don’t belong here That’s how me and my mother felt at first, especially when I go to school for the first time. Let me tell you, English is “ridiculous.” One word can have a thousand meaning and it can be translates to many things. English is my third language, and It took me lots of concentration and focus, trying my best to get used to the language and how to pronounce words and learn their definitions as well.

At Giffen Memorial Elementary School I was put in 6th grade, based my age. I bet I was 11 years old. I still remember the first day of school here. I was sweating the whole time and looked like I was about to cry and faint. My communication with others was not doing well; I was very shy and intimidated. I was assigned to English as a Second Language, or ESL, as well as regular classes. That’s where I met the ESL teacher, Ms. Domenico. I believed she’s still there in charge of a little higher class of students who attend ESL like fourth graders, fifth graders and sixth graders like me.

And the day I met Ms. Domenico, I started to see the positive side of my life. I feel happier and more grateful to be here in America. She is one of the greatest people that I’ve met in my life. She taught me not just English language but many other things that had not made sense to me before then.

She helped me to overcome my struggles and my fear of this new place and new culture and people. She also helped me with my behavior and encouraged my personality to come out of my shy un-outgoing personality to who I really am. She also helped my mother, giving her ideas on places to go to get answers to our questions. I could go to her and tell my problems and she will just help me through it without hesitation.

I believe that’s why you don’t judge things too quickly. I realize she showed up to me for a reason and she assure me that I am not the only who feel and act like this. I was just shook — my brain couldn’t process what was going on with my life, I feel like that’s when I felt brave enough and my life started to change I felt relieved and as time went on, before I even knew it myself, I start to make new friends at school and not being alone.

At Giffen I began to feel like a new me. I entered a new good chapter of my life Bit by bit my new personality emerged, but my old self is still somewhere deep down in me. And you should never forget who you are and who you were; that way you will realize how far you’ve come, how much many things have happened and changed you, and how many things you’ve achieved.

Before I end my story I just want to tell you a short message to all the others refugee out there those who are still struggling to get through their life. It doesn’t matter where you came from or who you are, don’t be afraid, and don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. I believe that you were born for a reason and live your life according to that reason. why you were born in the first place. And one more important thing is to love yourself. That way you can love and take care of others.

Reprinted with permission. This piece was originally published in the South End Community Collaborative July 2019 newsletter.

Refugee and Immigration Resources in the Capitol District:

Trinity Alliance: Refugee Community Health Partnership Program (RCHPP)

Tuesdays from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm

Trinity Center, 15 Trinity Place, Albany, NY 12202

Website: http://www.trinityalliancealbany.org/rchpp/

RCHPP activities, supported with language interpretation, include:

  • providing weekly Quick Help sessions for walk-in clients at which a certified health insurance navigator is available for those who need to apply for or re-enroll in Medicaid or obtain some other health insurance;
  • promoting informed decision-making regarding choice of primary care and dental providers, especially for those who need language interpretation and who must rely on public transportation;
  • helping clients choose a pharmacy and obtain needed prescription medications;
  • helping clients apply for state and federal social services benefits;
  • facilitating referrals of clients who need mental health and substance abuse services;
  • connecting clients with legal assistance on various issues, including immigration issues;
  • promoting preventive health care practices including wellness visits, immunizations, medication management, and building health care competencies through health literacy collaborations with the government agencies, New York State Department of Health, managed care organizations, county departments of health and mental health, the American Red Cross, Planned Parenthood, etc.


Catholic Charities Immigration Services

40 N. Main Ave Albany, NY 12203

Telephone: (518) 453-6650

Website: https://catholiccharitiesny.org/what-we-do/welcoming-integrating-immigrants-refugees

Catholic Charities helps immigrants reunite legally with their families, obtain proper work authorization, learn English and civics, and prepare to pass citizenship exams. Catholic Charities also assists immigrants in avoiding exploitation by unscrupulous practitioners by providing correct information and realistic counsel about immigration status. Below you can learn more about our immigrations services in NY.

US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

99 Pine St #101, Albany, NY 12207

By appointment: Monday- Thursday 9am-5pm

Drop-in Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 1-3pm

Telephone: (518) 459-1790

Website: https://refugees.org/field-office/albany/

In the neighborhoods across Albany, New York, we open doors for uprooted people, helping the world’s most vulnerable rebuild their lives. We are part of a nationwide network that breaks through social, cultural, and economic barriers so previously interrupted lives can flourish. The first welcome begins with navigating American culture, laying solid foundations for a fresh start, and making essential community connections to successfully integrate into our community.


Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) Immigration Unit, Albany

Telephone: (518) 694-8699

41 State Street suite #112, Albany, 12207

Hours: Monday- Friday 8:30-5:00

PLS provides representation to detained immigrants facing deportation hearings providing critical legal assistance to one of our most vulnerable populations. In one recent case, PLS represented an individual who was wrongly placed in removal proceedings. After presenting the case to an immigration judge, the judge terminated the removal proceeding. After being released, our client was able to reunite with his mother and sister. Without PLS’ help, this person would have been wrongly deported to Jamaica, a country that he left over a decade ago.

The Legal Project

24 Aviation Road, Suite 101 Albany, NY 12205

Phone: (518) 435-1770

We can help you with answers to your immigration questions by providing free, confidential one on consultations with an immigration attorney.

  • We can help you understand your specific Immigration situation and what your options may be.
  • We provide representation to qualified cases through our Staff Attorney, BIA Accredited Representative and the Capital Region Immigration Collaborative with other local immigration service providers.
  • We can provide referrals to private Immigration Attorneys to qualified clients.
  • Our Staff can assist you complete certain forms at no cost, such as N400 Application for Naturalization, N600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship, Consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), etc.
  • Our staff speaks Spanish, Turkish, Arabic and French. We also work with local, in person interpretation services to provide for other languages.


Office for New Americans Opportunity Center

99 Pine Street, Suite 101 Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-459-1790

Offers free services for all immigrants including naturalization assistance and community workshops.

Private Attorney: Barbara C. Brenner

Copland and Brenner

410 Troy Schenectady Rd. Suite 20 Latham, NY 12111