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Somalia: Abdirahman Adan
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Abdirahman Adan left Somalia to escape the country's violent civil war. He lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for nearly four years before moving to the Untied States. (MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)

Columbia Heights, Minn. — Abdirahman Adan is a native of Somalia. Adan, 23, came to Minnesota in 1995 with his parents and siblings. They fled their hometown of Mogadishu in 1990 when war broke out in Somalia, and spent several years in towns in Somalia and Kenya before being accepted into the United States.

Adan lives in Columbia Heights. His mother and eight of his brothers and sisters live in Minnesota. The last brother lives in Kenya.

Adan is a student at the University of Minnesota, studying computer science and medical technology. He also is a member of the U.S. Army, having joined six years ago. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Adan says the only reason his family came to the U.S. was that it was open to them.

"My oldest sister came here first with my uncle. And she sponsored us to come to the United States," he says.

Adan says he enjoys being in the Army. He says he joined because of the experiences he had as a child during the war.

"I really liked what the Kenyan government and the UN did for us during the war, after we fled our country with just clothes and shoes, with nothing. We started from zero as a refugee so the Kenyan military helped us," Adan recalls. "With that experience in my head, it was one thing I always wanted to do was help other refugees. And the one way I could do that was join the Army and help with peacekeeping."

Adan says during his childhood in Africa, he had dreams of becoming a civilian pilot, but that didn't happen because of the civil war.

"Dreams in Africa are mostly dashed because they are in a situation they have no control over," Adan says. "Young man growing up in Somalia, Sudan, you want to set high goals for yourself. But when you are 20, you fight in a civil war. I'm crossing my fingers right now that the young ones growing up now have a better chance than my generation did."

Adan says his dreams now are to finish college and take care of his family.

"I'm also begging God that the war stops in Somalia and around the world."