My Friend, A Refugee


Noelle Natividad, Staff Writer

The first thing I should say is that refugees are no different in human person than we are. My friend does not stand out in a crowd because he was displaced from his home country, his status doesn’t call attention to himself, and the title doesn’t hang over his head like a label. If anything, he was so much like me that it scared me just a little from the outset.

I remember that he had called me lucky for living the life I do. In the midst of a Trump presidency and racial controversies, the American Dream was dwindling for me until I went on this trip.

I met my friend in France, during a summer camp meant for unifying cultures by bringing together children from different countries. For those two weeks, it was as if there were no boundaries between all of us. Four different languages and countries, and yet we each belonged and understood one another. Now, I consider them family and my heart melted to hear how difficult life could be for children my age or younger.

To start, my friend was extra ordinary in a sense, spacing intended. He wore worn Adidas sneakers and sported colorful soccer jerseys. When I asked, he’d seen the new Tom Cruise movie online, when we talked it was in perfect English, and when his earphones were in they were playing Beyoncé. If I were to say that I was expecting something, I’d be lying. The amount of normalcy made his story that much more impactful. My French friend learned American English from rappers and action movies, and for a countless number of instances, I didn’t think twice about where he came from or what he’d been through in the past.

It was about a week in when I learned that just like me, his heart lay thousands of miles away. He told me of Algeria, where his family had come from and where he wished he could go back. No matter what the news tells you, no matter how much world leaders want to protect their country first, my friend was a victim of war, not the cause. At sixteen, he was the sole provider of his family, working a number of questionable jobs to put money on the table. He went to school, he was best at math. It pained me to remember what I had thought before, thinking with naivete that they could help themselves. I’ll warrant that he could to some extent, but not past the kindness of others. In his time of need, France was there. From then, I wanted to be there, too.

My friend had come by a packed boat across an unfriendly sea. He told me that people had died, that a few didn’t make the trip across. It had been months since he left Algeria when he’d docked at a French port. His family had made a life, setting up some semblance of future while they waited. They are still waiting, for some unspoken word that it’s safe to come home.

If you met him, you wouldn’t know that he was one of a few million. My friend reminded me of the rest of us, growing up, making the best of life, and looking toward the future.


Photographed by JEFF J. MITCHELL and CINDY TRINH