Hard Choices

By Aluel Doldol, Fellow Class of 2016
University of Notre Dame

After a stressful first semester of college that included a dropped class and my first-ever C-, I was hesitant to go back to the University of Notre Dame. Like many of the students that attend Notre Dame, school was never an avenue that challenged me. At least I knew that if I worked hard, I would get the results I wanted. After tutoring, hours of studying, and stress, I managed to cross the finish line with a C- in Economics. 

 During my first semester of college I did not know to whom to reach out. I was confused. As a first-generation college student, I did not know how college worked, who to go to when I was facing problems, where tutoring was, and where the resources were for a plethora of challenges I was facing and may face. 

I was beginning to struggle in two of my classes. I failed an exam for the first time in my life (in Calculus), and I was barely afloat in my Economics class with a D. I did not know what to do. However, a text from my mentor Dardoh Sowe woke me up from my slumber. I let her know about how much I was struggling in these classes. She set aside time in her weekend to talk with me about some of the challenges I was facing in my academics. During our conversation, she prompted to me to do research and look around campus for tutoring opportunities and talk with my advisor about how I was struggling. After much careful consideration and many conversations, I dropped Calculus, and my mood improved considerably. 

I sent out an email to all of my Mentors letting them know how I was doing in college. Renee Carmody another one of my Mentors encouraged me to put my pride aside and to start going to tutoring for my Economics class. I used to be a tutor in high school. I was never tutored, nor did I ever think that I would need the services of a tutor. However, college has humbled me. Because of the advice and support of LSYWC Mentors I came out of my first semester much more victorious that I would have managed on my own. 

 My second semester of my freshman year of college has not been painless. My classes are still hard, but I am facing a problem that I did not foresee, Donald Trump. I was born in Sudan. Sudan has gone through countless civil wars. The battle has been between the northern Muslims and the southern Christians. About five years ago South Sudan was created as a response to the long civil war. My family identifies with South Sudan. But because we came to America in 2005, our papers say we are from Sudan because South Sudan did not exist at the time. Sudan is one of the countries on Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning the entry of people from majority Muslim countries.

I had applied for and was accepted into a program to spend my Spring Break in London. I am a greencard holder. As everyone now knows, the first Executive Order affected legal resident, visa holders and people who worked for the United States from these countries. Later, the Executive Order was revised to exclude greencard holders and people who worked for the United States. However, the President sent a message regarding people from these countries. By banning me and people like me (refugees) from coming into the country, the President signaled that we were dangerous (and he also said that we were dangerous.)

The week I found out about this Executive Order, I failed an exam and got a C- on another one. I let my Mentors and Judge Arguello know about the Executive Orders direct effects on me. My Mentor, Heidi Ruckriegle,thought it was best that I do not travel abroad during these tumultuous times. But the most important thing LSYWC did for me was provide a community for me. I have cancelled the grant I received from Notre Dame and I am spending my Spring Break on campus because tickets to fly back home and back hovered in the $600 dollar range. But I now know that I have people who I can vent to about my frustration with what feels like a rejection of people like me by America. LSYWC has, of course, rallied in support of me. I have been flooded with emails. I am currently applying to be a citizen. My greencard expires next year, and, by that time, I should be a United States citizen. That will be just in time for the midterm congressional elections.