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University of Minnesota

A dream takes shape

November 29, 2011

Suado Abdi.

Photo by David Mendolia.

U transfer student hopes to help rebuild her home country, Somalia

By Bill Magdalene

Suado Abdi arrived in the United States having grown up in war-torn Somalia and then in African refugee camps. In 2006, a year and a half after her arrival, she enrolled in Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Two years later she transferred to the University of Minnesota. Now, as she completes her degree in urban studies with a minor in geography, she's applying to graduate programs in urban and regional planning.

Recently, Suado Abdi discussed her experience as a U of M transfer student.


Q&A with Suado Abdi

How did you arrive at the University of Minnesota?
I transferred to the University in June 2008 as a political science major. ... [When I'd] been in the country for only a year and a half, the best choice for me seemed to be a smaller community college. After my first year at MCTC, my interest in researching about four-year institutions grew. So, I began talking to my professors and friends.

What helped you find a path to the U?
First was my interest in pursuing a four-year degree, although I was not sure what I was going to pursue. Second was the assistance of academic advising—both from MCTC and the U of M. … In a way, it feels like I had been preparing to be admitted to the U of M since 2006.

What was the biggest challenge in making the transfer?
Adjusting to this "large" community. I came from a small community college, where all the buildings (only three) are connected by skyways. … [At MCTC] I used to work a lot of hours, but due to taking large course loads and the new environment at the U, I could not juggle working many hours and school.

Did anything at the U surprise you?
What surprised me most was the fact that my professors knew me by name, considering the large classroom sizes. Whenever I talk about the University with my younger siblings who are in high school, their first impression is about how large the University is. Diversity was another factor. The fact that I have Korean, American, Chinese, and many other African friends made it easier to adjust transferring to the U of M.

Did you get involved beyond academics?
At MCTC I was very active … as the vice president of student senate and president of the Muslim Student Association. Since transferring to the U, I have not taken any officer duty, but have participated in a lot of student organizations such as the Somali Student Association, the Muslim Student Association. ... Because I was in my last two years of college, I wanted to focus on research opportunities and classes.

Why did you pursue urban studies?
I came from a war torn nation (Somalia) and grew in refugee camps in Africa. That said, I have also seen beautiful downtowns in Africa. I was always fascinated with tall skyscrapers in downtown Nairobi. At that time, I did not recognize the symbolism of skyscrapers or the role of a central city. My education and lived experience have shaped my passion to understand and shape cities. I believe a master's in urban and regional planning will allow me to work and shape the ways in which planners engage with and plan for underrepresented communities.

What do you love most about your work?
That I get to have the opportunity to change people's lives for better! Based on my undergraduate studies, it has been fun learning about influential architects and planners who have shaped American cities the way they are today.

What's your big dream?
First is to get my master of urban and regional planning degree. Second, I want to gain the expertise to be a professional in this field and then be a leader in my community in making strong planning processes. Third, when the day comes, I want to help rebuild my home country, Somalia.

Tags: College of Liberal Arts

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