BUILDING A NEW LIFE IN THE UNITED STATES

Abdullahi Mohamed

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The life narrative of Abdullahi Mohamed can be summed up in a few words — “against all odds”.

His journey, along with that of his family, is one that demonstrates the significance of seizing one’s opportunities in life and running with them as best one can.

When Mohamed was just six years old, he and his nine siblings, along with his parents, fled a civil war in their native country of Kenya and made their way to Tucson, Arizona.

During the conflict, it was estimated that more than 46,000 individuals were forced to leave their homes — the Mohamed family were some of those people.

It was a blessing that Abdullahi’s father had relatives in Tucson as he made the courageous decision to leave home and relocate with his family of ten children and his wife.

“We were just trying to escape,” said Mohamed when reflecting on his time back in Africa. “We lived in a refugee camp in Kenya. Our only focus was on surviving, getting to Tucson and finding a safe place for our family.” 

They were able to find that safe place in the United States. Since then, they call Tucson home.

While Mohamed was still getting used to the ways of American culture, soccer was a very popular sport in the neighborhood he lived in. He opted to join a local soccer team after watching his older sister sign up for one as well.

“All I did was follow her around,” Mohamed said when asked about the impact his sister has had on him. “Her decision to join a soccer team served as an inspiration for me to do the same. I was fortunate enough to get discovered by a coach who took me under his wing, which ultimately led to the path I’ve been on today.”

The next level

His older sister, Khadija, also inspired Mohamed academically. She was a trailblazer in the Mohamed family as the first person to attend college in the United States.

When Mohamed was first thinking about his future, going to school in the United States was definitely not on his mind.

“I wasn’t even aware of the steps involved in getting there,” he said.

“I was at a loss for what I wanted to do after I reached my senior year of high school and realized that all of my close friends were going to college and making commitments.”

Being a person who brings about a shift in the family’s cultural norms is not an easy task. But Mohamed is the type of person who welcomes challenges and endeavors to benefit as much as possible from whatever life throws at him.

Several Division II and III institutions extended offers to him.

However, these offers did not provide the necessary financial support, and the Mohamed family was not yet in a position to take on such a responsibility.

As a result, Mohamed chose to attend Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Although he was farther away from his hometown, it was an ideal opportunity for him to further develop his soccer skills.

“I had a decent first year, and thank God I received some exposure,” mentioned Mohamed when reminiscing on his first year. “The majority of colleges that expressed interest were located on the East Coast. I’m very family-oriented, which is why I wanted to stay as close as possible to home.”

“Pacific offered me an opportunity to join at the very last minute and after seeing the campus and learning about what they had to offer both academically and athletically, it was an absolute no-brainer for me.”

Her decision to join a soccer team served as an inspiration for me to do the same. I was fortunate enough to get discovered by a coach who took me under his wing, which ultimately led to the path I've been on today.

University of the Pacific

Being just the second member of his family to attend college in the United States is something truly special for Mohamed. He attributes his accomplishments to his optimistic outlook and inability to take anything for granted.

Mohamed remarked that it was quite humbling for him to watch his parents raise 10 children with very little assistance.

“When you see what my parents have done for me and my siblings, you don’t need any extra motivation,” said Mohamed who is pursuing a degree in sports management.

He attributes the way he carries himself to his upbringing and the sacrifices his parents made in order to provide a stable environment for their family.

“I constantly have to give 110% because I am aware that other people would give their lives to be in my situation,” Mohamed added.

Although Mohamed’s first year at University of the Pacific was interrupted by a high ankle injury, he was able to grow in other aspects.

He took this setback as a challenge and used it as motivation to immerse himself in extracurricular activities, maintain his academic focus and make his new school feel like a second home.

Understanding the importance of sports in his and his family’s lives attracted Mohamed to a business and sports management program at University of the Pacific.

He desires to continue expanding his knowledge of sports marketing, analytics, media and other topics.

When asked about his goals for the future, Mohamed responded, “I want to live in the here and now. After I sustained my injuries, I made it a point to refrain from thinking too far ahead. I simply want to take advantage of this season and get more done.”

Mohamed has had nothing but great things to say about his experiences in the United States, and how University of the Pacific has welcomed him with open arms since day one.

“They accept me for who I am, they embraced the differences I bring, and I couldn’t ask for better teammates and staff, ” Mohamed said.

“You get what you earn” is a saying that is often quoted by the men’s soccer team. Mohamed has internalized its meaning and is firm in his commitment to never take any opportunity for granted, defy the odds, and continue placing his name in the family’s history books.