My name is Oumou Dilika.
"I wanted to greet them when they looked at me, but instead they looked the other way. They all seemed to say 'Why are you looking at me like that?'"

Bamako, Mali

Chicago, Illinois



My first reaction when I came to the United State was different, everything was a challenge for me. When I came out of the airplane, I looked everywhere and it was very different for me. I was very frustrated and scared. Back home, in Mali, I used to watch American movies, actors fighting and shooting at each other in the airport. I thought that the same would happen to me too.

When I came out of the plane I was feeling very cold, even though it was July. I was not used to this weather. Back in my country, the weather was much warmer than here, and that surprised me. Even the people were different. I wanted to greet them when they looked at me, but instead they looked the other way. They all seemed to say” Why are you looking at me like that?” In my country, we usually say “Hi” when we look at a stranger, but this didn’t happen here. Everything was beautiful for me and I asked myself, where am I? What decision did I make? If this new pathway will change all my life or will affect my life or make me a special, important and happy person in the future during this new adventure I just was beginning. The other thing I was thinking about, I will be able to see my parents or my family again, to hug, laugh with them like we used to. However, I decided to not think about negative things, because it was my dream to travel to the United State even just for a visit it will make me happy. So, I decided to be brave and face the consequence of anything that will happen during this new adventure that I was about to start.

Now the scariest was on my way to the shelter with some officer, I was confused where he will take me to because it was far away from the airport and I couldn’t see anything else besides cars. There were no people walking on the street like they do in Mali. Finally, we arrived at the shelter, the other kids start looking at me and then they stare at each other and smile. I was very scared, because, in the movie, the prisoners are against each other or kill each other, so I was feeling restricted. The shelter was a very closed and strict place that I had to obey. They let me take shower and eat then they take me to show me to my room. My first suspicion was that the other kids if will turn against me or fight me. And the worker said that nothing will happen to me and there are cameras everywhere, so if it happens they will see and know who did. Also, there will be someone overnight just to make sure everything is right here. I remember them saying, “We are here for you guys, so don’t be scared, we understand how you feel.” But I was still scared, I couldn’t sleep at night. My first experience in the US was very challenging and I had to be patient to find my path in this new adventure.