“What am I doing here?”
“What am I doing here?”

As the weeks pass, the desperation for the answer becomes less consuming as I begin to accept the reality of things. I mean, I know what I’m doing. I’m working at a school for refugee students, doing research on better integration methods, and putting that research into effect by following through with plans of action for the school community, but is it really me helping them or them helping me? On a practical note, it’s the former, but on a personal one, it’s definitely the latter.

My experiences alongside these students has put a lot of my own realities into perspective. Before myexperience here, I struggled a lot with gratitude and finding the silver lining of situations in my life. I was engulfed by a constant negative mentality and placed values on the superficial success of life. Even when the consequences of doing so became very clear, I still failed to change my lifestyle and justified my actions by blaming the world for what it gave me. However, the experiences and the attitude of these students has forced my pride, my mindset, and my nearly self-destructive lifestyle aside.

Yes, these students are refugees and I can’t pretend to understand what that really means, but they, like myself, are so much more than the label that was given to them based on the experiences life gave them. They are soccer players, artists, rap fans, and sometimes they’re just like any other typical teenager who hates doing homework. However, my reality check came from realizing that they’re not the typical teenager in so many ways, yet they still have the attitude, faith, and mentality as if nothing happened to them. It is extraordinary how they live their lives without letting the ugly parts of life change or affect them negatively like I did. It’s ironic how I’m the “teacher” in the classroom yet they showed me more about mental health than I could have ever taught them or myself. This was the moment the teacher became the student.

I can honestly say that I am friends with some of these students. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me, yet we were very open with each other about the things we have struggled with in life and how to move forward in a healthy manner. I have enjoyed playing on a small soccer team with them and sharing that passion with each other. Even as I reached a point of homesickness, we were able to get through that yearning together. I am hoping they can continue to have a close-knit community with other students as they have been able to with me through our honesty and openness with each other.

So, what am I doing here? I’m learning, and for once, living.