Logo for: President's Alliance Higher Education & Immigration

Refugee students and alumni in the U.S. share their experience and perspective.

Current and former students from refugee backgrounds face a number of obstacles accessing higher education in the U.S. Here we share their experiences, their perspectives on the proposed university sponsorship initiative, and celebrate their contributions to U.S. campuses and communities.

Diing Manyang

My name is Diing Manyang. Originally, I’m from South Sudan. I’m a former refugee from Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where I grew up and went to school. Partly because of my passion for education, I was able to go to Nakuru, Kenya, to finish high school.  After finishing high school, I went back to Kakuma refugee camp where I taught at the Kakuma refugee secondary school to help all my fellow Sudanese that were in high school and didn’t have enough teachers to help them prepare for the national examination.  

During this time, I was trying my luck at applying to different colleges around the world. I was lucky to be selected as one of only two refugees from Kakuma by Bridge2Rwanda, which is a highly competitive gap year program that selects students from South Sudan, Burundi, Congo, and Rwanda. Through Bridge2Rwanda, I was able to apply to George Washington University where I’m currently a senior majoring in systems engineering.  

Educating refugees gives them a sense of hope– a belief that there is someone out there who cares about their future. Allowing more refugees to come to college, especially in the U.S., is not only crucial for the refugee students, but will also help their own families, and inspire every other young kid in the camp to achieve their dreams.  

As a refugee myself, it was really difficult to get documents to come to the US for my school. The only alternative, which is dangerous for a refugee, was to go back to South Sudan and get a passport, so I could proceed with the immigration process and attain my F1 visa status before coming to George Washington University. It’s not right for a refugee who left their country because of the insecurity, to be forced to go back again to get a passport to pursue their education.

I believe that, by not only giving refugees scholarships or finances, but also by making it easier for them to get documents, will be one way of helping refugees around the world. I am a strong believer in education because I know education only opens doors for refugees, but gives them hope. It’s no longer a time where refugees should be secluded from the rest of the world. It is time for all of us to take action.”

Diing Manyang