Linfield College in Oregon enrolls Afghan students resettled by LCSNW

by | Aug 29, 2022 | Refugees & Immigrants

Reprinted courtesy of Yamhill County News-Register;

Originally published 8/25/22

Linfield welcomes Afghan students

By Starla Pointer

Staff writer

New freshmen are joining returning students on the Linfield University campus this week in preparation for the start of classes on Monday.

The incoming class includes students from numerous countries around the world — including three from Afghanistan who came to the U.S. as refugees a year ago.

Two men and one woman will attend Linfield through a partnership between the school and Lutheran Community Services Northwest, one of several organizations in the U.S. helping refugees get settled, learn about U.S. culture and find jobs.

Linfield awarded scholarships to all three. Two other Afghans received Linfield scholarships, as well, but have deferred starting until 2023, one because of work and another because she is still waiting for family members to join her in Oregon.

Students will receive federal aid money, and the scholarships will cover the rest of their tuition.

LCSN will cover the students’ room and board. Both the nonprofit and Linfield will provide a variety of support services — in Linfield’s case, much as it does with other first-generation college students, said Gerardo Ochoa, vice president for enrollment management and student success at the university.

“We also have a robust international services office, so we can support them in that way, also,” Ochoa said. “We work with students from around the world.”

Last fall, Linfield President Miles Davis heard about the many Afghan refugees who had come to Portland, Ochoa said. He wanted Linfield to do what it could to help them.

While they couldn’t assist all of them, university officials offered five scholarships to refugees who meet the school’s admission requirements, including academics and language ability.

“We met them, and saw that they had tenacity, grit, determination,” Ochoa said. “They know about overcoming adversity, because they’ve had to survive and thrive.”

Raju Subedi, supported employment specialist with LCSNW, said the five scholarship recipients had been in college or ready to attend college in Afghanistan.

When the U.S. withdrew and the Taliban took over last year, their dreams of finishing school were cut short — especially for the female students, he said.

“It’s very difficult for women there with the Taliban,” Subedi said. “The Taliban treats women as homemakers, not country makers.”

The refugees eventually were moved to Portland, where they became clients of LCSNW. Subedi has been helping them adjust to their new life. They’ve learned about accessing services, looking for jobs, citizenship programs, driving, and other aspects of life here.

“They came here to live as human beings,” Subedi said. “They want to be treated as such.”

Getting to complete college, especially at a school such as Linfield, is “a great opportunity,” he said.

“I wish I could have gone there when I came to the U.S. from Bhutan,” said Subedi, who emigrated 15 years ago.

Linfield will benefit, as well, Ochoa said. Foreign students “bring perspective and contribute to the learning environment for all students in very positive ways,” he said.

One student will live in a dorm — a learning experience in itself for international students, who probably wouldn’t live on campus in their home country, Ochoa said. The other two will live off-campus in McMinnville or Newberg.

“They’re really excited,” Subedi said. “This is a big deal for them, and for everyone.”

He said he’s hoping other schools will be inspired by Linfield’s example, too, and accept some of the many other Afghan students who want to continue their education.