“I can finally live,” Elena Habersky recalled a refugee telling her.
Despite the language barrier and difficulties he was facing, he was overjoyed to be living safely in the U.S. and to be able to support his family without fear. Habersky remembers a lot of conversations with a similar theme.
The 2009 Dallas High School graduate spends a lot of time working with refugees of all nationalities and creeds — and not just in the U.S.
She has been visiting Arabic-speaking countries since she took an introductory course in the language during her freshman year at the University of Scranton.
Habersky, 26, took German in high school but could not continue her studies in college due to a scheduling conflict. Although she had no interest in taking Arabic at the time, she fell in love with it.
She became so passionate, that fresh out of her first year of college, Habersky took a trip to Amman, Jordan, by herself for an immersive summer course.
“I had been abroad previously, twice, but with groups of people. This was my first time going by myself, and going to the Middle East was a little daunting when I first landed,” she said. “But I really enjoyed it.”
This was when Habersky had her first experience with refugees.
“I knew they were there … it depends what year they came to Jordan and if they’re more integrated and have citizenship. … Some still lived in camps … I was interested in how they kept their culture alive, how they integrated into society but still kept their pride and heritage.
“That’s when I was first exposed to refugees and what that really means … that word is thrown around so much. There’s the legal definition, and then there’s the definition that people internalize, how they define themselves.”
Habersky then spent her entire junior year of college studying in Cairo — right after the Egyptian revolution of 2011, and in the midst of controversial former president Mohamed Morsi’s election.
Despite the turmoil, Habersky said she…