Omer Adam came to the United States from Sudan in 2008. The then-13-year-old spent much of his early years in the U.S. reading books at the library. “I’d go to the library after school and just read,” he said. Adam grew particularly fond of the author Walter Dean Myers. “His stories were very simple and easy to understand,” said Adam. “He was one of the people who helped me learn English.”
Adam is currently a senior at UW Tacoma. His time spent at the library was part of a strategy. “I knew I wanted to attend a four-year university and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be limited by my unfamiliarity with the English language,” said Adam. To this extent Adam would often put himself out on a limb. “I wasn’t afraid to speak English,” he said. “Kids would laugh and correct me but I saw that as a good thing because I wanted them to correct me.”
Adam is the second oldest of five siblings but is the first in his family to attend college. He graduated from Tyee High School in 2014 and came to UW Tacoma the following autumn. “I wanted to stay close to my family,” said Adam. It’s not uncommon for Adam to drop his siblings off at school on his way to campus or to help them with their homework before he starts working on his.
Education is important in the Adam household. “My parents came to this country to give us a better life and the way to achieve this is through education,” said Omer Adam. Higher education has provided Adam a pathway to success. While still a first-year student Adam got involved with student government and the Muslim Student Association (MSA). He served as MSA president during his junior year. “I wanted to use my connections and what I knew about this campus to help other Muslim students,” said Adam.
“One of the things that UW Tacoma offered me was a sense of community and connection.”
— Omer Adam
An information technology major, Adam spent this past summer and fall as an intern for the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association (NOAA). Adam graduates in December and is considering whether to start a career or attend graduate school. “I want to either work in the cybersecurity field or go back to school and get a master’s in either cybersecurity or information technology,” he said.
This past July Adam returned to Sudan to visit relatives. “I was having this conversation with my cousins, a lot of them didn’t continue with their education,” he said. “That made me appreciate my situation even more. To come from a very disadvantaged place to a very advantaged one is to have opportunities that people back home don’t have.”
Maybe it’s all the books he read in the library or maybe it’s his personality, but Omer Adam is introspective. The way he sees it, he’s not the only one in his family going to college. All those hours spent studying weren’t just for himself. “I’m trying to set an example for my younger siblings,” he said. “I want them to look up to someone who finished a four-year degree and to know that they can do the same.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org