Warda Mohamed Abdullahi is the author of the memoir Warda: My Journey from the Horn of Africa to a College Education. Born in Saudi Arabia, she lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir, and how long did it take you to write it?
A: I decided to share my story because I want people to know that anything is possible. By sharing my story, people can learn and be inspired by my experiences and struggles. I was once a shepherd girl with no educational background and I was able to get my Bachelor of Science in Public Health 11 years later.
I aimed to inspire the younger generation, my siblings, and my kids -- who look up to me and admire me for my courage for not giving up. It took me five years to complete. However, I was a full time student and only focused on writing my book during my breaks.
Q: You’ve said, “I grew up in a place where every child's dream was to have an education but was not available or affordable. Because of this, I made it a point to take advantage of the opportunities around me.” Can you say more about the role education has played in your life?
A: My father was one of the many children that did not receive a formal education; he and [others] never had the chance or opportunity to have their dream, which was to live a life full of education. He made it a strong point to put us in the best school, so we don't miss out and have the same fate he did.
Growing up, I never received any education, even into adolescence, and when my father first put me in school, I took that opportunity and never looked back. I knew that I wanted to accomplish a lot with my life and understood that education was the only way for me.
I want to use a quote from the honorable Malcolm X in which he said that “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Education is the key to success. Being educated will open your eyes and provide you with many opportunities.
Q: Can you say more about what you hope readers take away from your book?
A: By reading my book, I want others to know that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Never give up your dream regardless of your situation. It will get better; I was once a farm girl who did not read or write. Your struggle only makes you stronger and teaches you a lifelong lesson. Never have regrets but instead, look at your struggles as a lesson and learn from them.
When young girls read my book, I hope they know their values and to dream big, the sky's the limit; I hope that they never give up on their dreams. I hope they ignore all the obstacles life throws at them and continue their journey, even when someone puts them down and tells them they will not accomplish their goals.
I hope they become who they want to be. I hope I can be a role model for them. I hope they follow their heart and have a memorable journey.
Q: Professor Kenneth Olivier called the book “an uplifting first-person narrative that takes the author from the African savanna to a US high school. Authentic, and laden with a deep grit and appreciation for her Muslim faith and her family.” What do you think of that description?
A: Firstly I would like to thank Dr. Kenneth Olivier for the beautifully illustrated review of my book; it is an honor. Dr. Olivier has perfectly summarized my book so well with such few words.
I grew up in the African Savanna, not knowing how to read or write, not knowing there was a future out there for me; 11 years later, I completed my bachelor's of science and planned to go to medical school. School was not easy but I stuck firmly with my faith and values, which saved me from the harms and ills of assimilation when I was new to the country.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Being the first generation is not easy, and it comes with a lot of stress and struggles. I am currently taking pre-med courses to apply for medical school.
Not having someone to look up to as a role model and not having a sense of direction can set you back in so many ways. During my four years of undergraduate school, I did not know the required pre-med courses, and now I have to take all the pre-med courses before applying for medical school.
I also got a Certified Nursing Assistant Certificate and plan on working as a CNA to get experience and strengthen my application. My future career plan is to go to medical school and become a family physician, hopefully at the University of Minnesota.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I am planning to publish a children's picture book in the coming year or so.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb