Isir and Hamdi Farrah

Sisters Hamdi (left) and Isir Farah (right).

  • Majors: Humanities and Social Sciences
  • High School: Fowler, Class of 2016

Isir and Hamdi Farah are Somali-born sisters whose parents were determined to give them a better life. That’s why a decade ago they walked from Somalia to a refugee camp in Kenya and stayed there until they were allowed to immigrate to the United States in March 2009. Upon arrival one of their first challenges was the English language. “Learning English happened pretty easy,” said Hamdi. “When we came here there weren’t many other Somalians here. We were surrounded by English speaking people. It’s actually taken me longer to learn to write.”

Hamdi is 20 years old, her sister Isir is 19. Both credit Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection with helping them adjust to life on campus. Hillside is a program which helps students overcome the barriers that cause them to drop out and abandon their education. “I made friends through Hillside,” said Isir. “I got to see another side of students who I saw in class. I felt like I grew up because Hillside helped me do activities with other students outside class.”

Both sisters are enjoying their second year on campus. “I really like OCC. It’s the best school for me. It gives me hope for the future. The professors are really awesome and the tutors are great,” said Hamdi. “OCC is very good. I felt coming here was the best choice. Everyone is so diverse here. I feel like we are all the same,” added Isir.

The Farah family includes mom, dad and eleven children ranging in age from 22 to 4. Both sisters are focused on doing well in college and setting a good example for their siblings. “I want my mother to be able to say, ‘your sister did it. You can do it,’” said Hamdi. “I’m going to graduate no matter what happens. We will be the first in our family to do so. I guarantee it,” added Isir.

This year’s Common Read, “God Grew Tired of Us” by former Lost Boy John Dau has caught the attention of both sisters. Dau is a 2005 alumnus of OCC who will be on campus this month to share his story with students. “Even though we never saw the violence he saw we look forward to meeting him,” said Isir. “I am reading his book for two classes and it makes me more grateful for what we went through.”

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