Finding home

Layla Mohamed, asst. news editor

In second grade, I came to grasp the idea of being the only student of my ethnicity in my school district.

Being African, Muslim, and even being a person of color provided me with some kind of a community. Yet, being Somali never really did. 

As much as I tried to hide my identity and say I did belong to other communities, I felt trapped and alone. When I saw my friends speak their native tongue with others at school, I realized I would never have that. I could never have these kinds of relationships within my reach.

That all changed when I went to Somaliland for the first time this summer.

Honestly, I was afraid. I was afraid that my Somali would be terrible and that the people there wouldn’t like me. Yet, it was my mom’s first time seeing her family in 20 years, so I could not help also feeling excited for her. I was excited to finally put a face to the names I have heard so much about.

When I got to Somaliland for the first time in my life, it was thrilling. I saw a bunch of people who looked exactly like me. As my cousin picked us up from the airport, the view from the car window felt like I was in an entirely different world. 

In the United States, I felt enclosed in a small bubble without any idea of what a third world country looked like. On my trip, we ventured to places that I never thought were in Somaliland: tall mountains, beaches, and shop markets.

I had then realized how much I was missing home. I had made Somali friends and talked about our experiences. I had never gotten to talk about these things with someone my age. It was an entirely different and enriching experience. 

I found that traveling to your home country allows you to understand your identity as I did as a Somali-American. I advise anyone struggling with their ethnic identity to try visiting their motherland or search for their community. 

Cherish your roots; they give you a sense of belonging wherever you go.