Greater Allegheny gives teen refugees a glimpse of college life

Imagine being forced out of your country, coming to a new country and not knowing anyone at all. All of a sudden, you are in an unfamiliar community surrounded by strangers, you don?t know the language and even the foods are strange.

The South Hills of Pittsburgh is home to a growing refugee population with families from around the world, according to the South Hills Interfaith Ministries website. Currently, more than half the individuals served in SHIM?s programs are refugees. The organization recently brought 25 of the refugees served at SHIM to visit the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus.  

Greater Allegheny student Diwas Timsina was born and raised for 14 years in Jhapa, Nepal, in a refugee camp.  Originally from Bhutan, his family and 70,000 other Bhutanese were forced to leave the country due to the interethnic conflict that occurred in the 1990s. Timsina shared his experiences in college, why he decided to attend Penn State Greater Allegheny, the struggles and challenges he faced when he came from high school to college, and the multicultural programs offered at the campus.

The goal of the visit is for the refugee teens to get the opportunity to see a university campus and to get a feel for college life. According to Susie Backscheider, youth mentoring coordinator for South Hills Interfaith Ministries, the majority of the refugee students? parents work low-level jobs due to limited education and/or English skills. She said, "A lot of the students are interested in furthering their education past high school but they cannot talk to their parents for advice.? 

Backscheider gives an example of one student who told her that he wants to be an engineer but that he isn't interested in going to college.

?I would like for this student to understand what steps he needs to take to achieve his goals because he has some misconceptions," she said. "His misconceptions are understandable though because he's new to the United States and has no family members who have been to college.?

Another student told Backscheider that he has been accepted to Penn State Greater Allegheny but he has never been to the campus. She said, ?This field trip will show students what college campuses look like and what it is like to go to college. The campus is a great option for the students because it is near their homes, has a lot of course and extracurricular options. It's also a more affordable option than some bigger schools in Pittsburgh.?