Stories that open new worlds – World Refugee Day 2018

Max and Tiong - opening new worlds
Tiong (left) and Max at Tiong’s graduation in 2017. Paul and Max graduated on June 9 this year.

Hampton, New Hampshire – to celebrate World Refugee Day, a senior in high school honors two of his best friends and the new worlds they showed him.

Last year I had two of my best friends live with me. Their names are Paul and Tiong, and they are different than me in every way.

They are from South Sudan, and they had to flee the country because of the civil war. They opened my eyes to new worlds.

I would talk with them for hours on end about their life before they came to the United States. The things that these two taught me were unbelievable. I had the chance to ask questions about anything I was curious about. They showed me just how tough life can be and how to make it through hard times. They were always open to helping me even though the struggles they had were much more complicated than I have ever had.

They have now gone back to live at their home in Manchester, New Hampshire, a city that I’ve heard is notorious for gang violence and drug use. They once invited to stay with them in Manchester to see how I could do. This idea did not work out but, while I could not actually be in their shoes, hearing about their struggles made me look back at my own life and realize just how fortunate I am, and how grateful I should be for all the opportunities I have been given. They opened my eyes to the horrifying circumstances that people live in, and how tough life can really be.

Paul, Tiong and I played on our high school basketball team together. With them, our team went from being bottom of the league to becoming one of the best teams in New England. We also changed as a team from being very separated to the closest team on campus. During this time, they were trying to get bigger and more muscular for basketball, while I was trying to learn how to shoot effectively. I had prowess with weightlifting, and they had the prowess I needed for shooting.

Together we taught each other about everything we were passionate about, we opened our eyes new worlds, and we changed what we saw in the world and how we approached it.

The experience that I gained from just talking to Tiong and Paul showed me how important it is to help others in need. It has prepared me for my future, because it shows me just how different everyone is and how you have to take everything into account when dealing with people. Everyone is different, and they all have different stories, but these stories can open new worlds to you and change how you view your own.

Refugees shaking hands

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World Refugee Day 2018

This month, to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, US-born Americans across the United States honor newcomer Americans with a story from their state – a story of a refugee, asylee, or immigrant they admire. From soldiers to politicians, employers to students, social workers to business people – everyday Americans tell their stories to celebrate the goodness and courage of the newcomers who make the United States a better place. They will open new worlds for you.

Every day in the month of June, the Refugee Center Online will publish a new story from a different state. Check back for new stories each day:

Learn more about World Refugee Day. All across the country, there will be events celebrating World Refugee Day. Visit this map to find an event in your community.

About Max Gassner
Max Gassner graduated on June 9 this year. He lives with his family in Hampton, New Hampshire, and is headed to the University of Washington in Seattle this fall.

opening new worlds

Max and Tiong - opening new worlds

Max and Tiong – opening new worlds

About Sabrina Crewe
Sabrina Crewe is an writer and editor. She helps facilitate our free GED and Citizenship classes. She also create materials to help refugees and immigrants understand important issues in the United States and stay informed of their rights.