English Language classes

Suleiman's Story

"My name is Suleiman Hussein Ahmed. I was born in Somalia, a place called Afmadow. When the Somali government collapsed and civil war broke out, people started torturing, murdering, raping women and assaulting people from other tribes.

I was raised by my parents in these dire circumstance. I remember many times we were attacked and intimidated by different militias because my dad was a minority tribe in that town. Because he was a sheikh and scholar, as well as a Imam, many times he was spared.

The fight continued in that city of Afmadow. One day, though I don’t remember exact day and year, but estimate was either 1990 or 1991, I remember I went to madrasa and a fight broke out. Many dead bodies were scattered on the roads, Every corner you looked, those bodies...the majority were children and women. There were stray bullets coming everywhere because the militias were fighting in the city. People were running for their lives in different directions.

What haunts me are the dead bodies that I was jumping over while I ran the wrong direction. Since then, I never ever saw my family. I fled with other families, who were fleeing to Kenyan side, and that is how I ended up in Kenya with many other children who were like me." 

"Since I was a child I never ever thought I would be safe."

Finding peace in Minnesota

"But grace to God, now is the opposite of what I thought would happen to me. I cannot express how I was welcomed to Minnesota. What beautiful people you are, you Minnesotans. Frankly speaking I am safe, and happy in the life that I am in. 

Look how I am now. No one will ever think that I was traumatized in life. And again, today I have to say to you all thanks for what you are doing, and the work that you are doing for a devastated people who never experienced peace of mind in their lives.

Today I would like to thank each and every Minnesotan person who allowed a real refugee to enter their state and provided food, shelter, education and work."

"From today on, I am a Minnesotan like you."



Building language skills and community

When students like Suleiman come to the International Institute, they grow language skills that help them navigate life in the U.S. and advance their careers. But they also find a diverse, welcoming community, sometimes the first place they truly feel at home in the Minnesota. 

This year, students went on field trips, took part in community potlucks, and shared their culture with classmates through a class-created cookbook. Confidence speaking English is a huge step towards feeling Minnesotan, and the Institute provides a safe, welcoming place to learn.


"[In Minnesota] I feel freedom, peace, and more safe. A little stress...but now I feel truly alive." -Faiza, Somalia  

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"I am very happy, comfortable, and safe here. I am learning with the fantastic teachers and partners." -Wilgen, Colombia

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"In Minnesota I feel very safe and comfortable. Although the winter is very harsh and cruel, in my heart I feel very warm." -Ester, Taiwan


We could tell 4319 stories.

Every New American who walks through our doors has a powerful story. We wish we could introduce you to everyone. Since we can't tell 4319 client stories, here are six that perfectly represent our mission.




"As a nursing assistant, I gained the experience I needed to make me a better nurse."

Read Nour's story >


"With this program, I understood what I had to do."

Read Gnande's story >


"People have heard about [DACA] but they don’t know the facts."

Read Mariana's Story >



"My dad just got here two months ago. We’d been apart 3 years. I don’t know how to explain, we were all very happy and excited."

Read Raouf's story >


Over 50,000 people came together to celebrate diversity in Minnesota at the 2017 Festival of Nations.

Read Jeannine's story >


Some people have asked whether we’re concerned about our future. We answer with a resounding “no.”

Read Jane's Story >