Shabir Kabiri and Alex Kolker

Recorded October 28, 2021 Archived October 28, 2021 38:43 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv001220


Friends and coworkers Alex Kolker (27) interviews Shabir Kabiri (29) about his experience attending university in the United States, the differences between Afghan and American culture, and what the American dream means to him.

Subject Log / Time Code

- Alex asks Shabir about coming to the US for the first time and his perception of America.
- Shabir shares how the movie Titanic influenced his ideas regarding American culture.
- Shabir talks about studying at West Point University, becoming friends with different people, and learning about America.
- Alex asks Shabir about the differences between Afghan and American culture.
- Shabir talks about migrating to the US on three separate occasions—the first and second time as a student and the third time as a refugee.
- Alex asks Shabir about his hopes and dreams for being in America.
- Shabir shares what the American dream means to him.
- Shabir shares how the toll of war has impacted Afghanistan’s cultural development
- Alex asks if Shabir feels as if his family maintained Afghan values since moving away.
- Shabir talks about the differences between being an immigrant/refugee in America versus being an immigrant/refugee in other countries like Pakistan.
- Shabir shares his desire to eventually become an American citizen.
- Alex asks Shabir about some of his accomplishments and career aspirations.
- Alex asks Shabir about his experience learning American slang and accents as well as his experience speaking 4 different languages
- Alex talks about her job teaching citizenship classes to refugees and helping refugees integrate into Kansas public school system.


  • Shabir Kabiri
  • Alex Kolker

Partnership Type



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00:00 Today is Thursday October 28th. 2021. My name is Alex. Kolker. I am 27. My conversation partner is [email protected] my co-worker and friend.

00:18 Today's date is Thursday, October 28th. 2021. My name is shabir. Kabiri. My age is 29 years. My name of my conversation partner. Where is Alex? Kolker and relationship is co-worker and friend.

00:37 Alright, I'll go ahead and get started in shouldn't care when you first came to the US. How old are you? And why did you come to the US? So my first was it was back in 2012? And other time, I was 19 years old and I came for college. And that was the first time for school.

01:04 What did you think the US would be like before you came here? Like Afghanistan is our whole idea is and everybody knows that movies are not accurate. But first, you have some idea. So when you, when you land in the US and the airport, you're not just like if you go to my car is what is happening, but the other hand have some, even if I would have some idea, I thought it was helpful.

02:04 A movie or like piece of American Media, you are kind of like facing your perception of the United States off of. Did you have a favorite Hollywood movie when you were growing up?

02:14 It's

02:16 Well, I guess my before coming. My favorite Hollywood actor was Tom Cruise. And how many of the one thing is very fun that I don't know why, but the movie Titanic hasn't had become so famous in Afghanistan. Everybody know it knew about it back home. So we just watch randomly range of American movies and also in, in Afghanistan Bollywood. Movies are back since we don't have a local industry of Cinema, the deep end. It's pretty much randomize people. Like don't know, maybe who died, actor or actresses. I guess don't pay much attention, but they just have this overall General, you of all right. This is America. This is how it looks.

03:16 No, no, not at all. So much. People have to work and not all people are. I guess folks like in the movies who are just having fun time, all the time cuz you have like people who are conservative here that looks and college which I guess. Maybe it'll bring up later that I went to West Point. So they are my roommate was very conservative and that he actually belong to his his family are missionaries. So that was something you are me and like all right, they're different and diverse people here.

04:16 Odds are very good friends. Say something. I guess that the credit goes to Westpoint. So, I went to West Point, as an international student from Afghanistan and Robert audience will be hearing. This. The West Point has a small very small international program, but it does happen cuz it is such a respectful environment. You also to be fair. You also get some of the best men and women are all great people. And I was really amazed me. How about what to do with the US Army because when you wear the uniform and I could share that aspect to that, how in the US Army.

05:13 It's something which is nice about it. There's no, like, just the notion of differences culture is very minimize in the US Army cuz everybody's Soldier. So I had a very, very positive experience in relationship to where college at West Point. Is that right environment? Do you get that? Like, right when you arrived or the back kind of develop throughout your time there?

05:57 Iry was amazed also by the infrastructure in this country. So it also have everything was so or especially West Point. New York is a very beautiful place in the area surrounding Academy's very beautiful. That was keep telling myself. Is this real why everything you saw or organized the walkway. The signs everywhere, he goes back in our country and pretty much in South. South Asia. I mean, you have the signs and the roads, but most of the time, people don't follow it sitting in there. So, these are the things that it was very interesting and it by the time I started to learn from them. We appreciate it. Is mynute and small things in American culture, like holding the door, before you open the door. And if there's somebody behind you,

06:57 I don't think this is a universal thing in the many other countries. You just open it. And I are you making eye contact or smile. These are things, I really appreciate it and I started to learn about them Afghanistan culture and and United States culture that struck you. When you first came is the individual life in the family. So far me back and I always tell my friends that within the 30-minute drive. I can pretty much reach to my any relatives house that I can think of.

07:57 And then why? Because industry, where there's good in the Stream, has been there for many years and people go out to different locations, but that was something in the US which was quite different for me. All right, here, people looking for you may not necessarily even see your immediate family all the time and traveling part of it. Were there any at this moment? So you remember I like culture shock or like a really memorable cultural difference.

08:41 Culture shock is

08:46 Is interesting cuz I think it's a process and it's very hard to if I if I sometimes I think about it, I mean, so right now as part of the refugee resettlement, I have my family with me and this is the first time I'm looking to see how to make their transition easier. And I tried to, I guess use the lessons that I learned culture show you, it has, it is, it is, I would say negative experience cuz you're very unsure, you done it down. You don't feel comfortable. When you feel like your hands are tied behind your back. And I guess, the reason why everything is so new so you when you're walking down the street, you're so selfish.

09:46 And so much like paying attention to every single move that you make to make sure like you're not offending somebody to make sure your I guess not breaking any rules and especially when you come to learn that. There's so many laws in Roseanne in this country, even aware that you're in that process, but eventually you get out of it. And that's when you starting to feel very comfortable in, this is like, your wings are at. Now. You can just meet yourself.

10:25 This is your second time coming back. Is that right? Third time? You went to college at West Point and then you came back for a masters. And you came back for the third time in August. Is that right? Maybe I'm more shocking experience when you came back for your masters that it was Oklahoma a right. Did you feel more comfortable? And then that this last time the third time? Did you feel like you were very comfortable? And kind of, you talked about hiding your family through it? Cuz I feel like an easier thing to do. Yeah, so a second time was definitely easier and also I was more, I guess prepared and

11:25 Do I would be I would be more social justice first time in with the culture, shock with the arch of my spine, and other challenges. I guess not not socially night time. I could speak. Well, and that's another thing. First time I came, and I was the same anguish, and I learned back home cuz everybody was and am using the slangs. So, it took some weeks. I understand. I always tell others that you have to.

12:12 Become familiar with the accent. So you like subconsciously pick up the language. I mean just been no deaths. Second time, Oklahoma State,

12:28 It was much better and I did the grad school. Finished make good friends. And I also came to the Fulbright scholarship program. So we had seminar. I not only, I met with American students but also other International students can go back home, but this third time and effort in Afghanistan. The government fell to the Taliban and I pretty much had to leave the country. So this time that I came to the US, I guess it's different now cuz I'm here.

13:21 To resettle and my uncle said now. Alright, I'm going to be leaving now and I have to stablish myself financially. Also, the livelihood sign this this time is I'm still exploring it. What this experience going to be. And I guess the next month in years. I would learn from it in the United States. If you want to save the American dream, but to be honest, it has been holding for all these years and it still holds.

14:06 Yeah, amazing. When you with all of, you know, with all the challenges in this country, going on politics, and then covid, and some issues, even with the elections and stuff. And I think they'll just shows the strength of this country and its values. And I, whenever, and whenever I plan to before starting my whole, but my plan that, whenever I talk to an American

14:37 Someone who hasn't my same age, I would really like to explain to them that how much great stuff is. And there's so many things that this country has no single country. Has it. All of these things. Preserved does have all the ability to preserve the same values. Yesterday. We have all these differences and to truly Mei. I know they believe, but truly cherish, his core core American beliefs, which are

15:23 Respect, which are like friendliness and positive attitude, positive energy. So, one thing, when I first came to this country, was truly amazing. To me. The hospitality weekly claim back on the down-low. Be Giants, are very Hospital people with everybody's door was open and they treat us like a family, and I don't think so. I really hope these Irvin Cherish cuz that's not defined America. That's where the strength of America comes from. Everybody wants to come in here and contributed to Society tonight. My aspirations are very super positive. I understand there's a lot of disagreement and political issues going on, but I'm confident that they will be resolved because I believe in the

16:24 This is strength of the values that is Nation have. And I think those values will hold people together. So, yeah, I left the core values that you listed respect friendliness and positivity. What is the American dream mean to you? You mentioned that earlier, you still believe in The American Dream Rides and every single American Dream. First discount reborn again, raise your ancestors, and then it might even different for every single person. I don't know. But unfortunately,

17:24 When the people like me from RS, former countries where there's been Conflict for decades now. Our options are so limited. Our freedom is pretty much doesn't exist. And we are so intense social norms and even government control, it was some time you going to government doesn't care for set. It sounds like they take tailor shape or other forms of the government. So at First Step, the American dream is to just being a, they call it land of the land of the free and it's true. I land where your choices are respected and your treated as equal.

18:05 And that's just great about it. And then obviously a country that is doing great economically industrialize and you can get a job and obviously make sure that you're financially, okay, but I think mostly Ruby, this is freedom.

18:29 I think we talked about a lot about like the US dream and US, core values and culture. What are some core values of Afghanistan and maybe the dream

18:45 Yeah, and what would makes you very sad is that unfortunately these Decades of war in Afghanistan to even get close to its full potential until you go back. A couple of decades. And you said his country was doing so well. Back in the sixties and seventies and Kabul was one of the Civilized cities in the region people from all over the world, Americans, Europeans would come to Kabul. Kabul had a university which was had International students. The same the same Exchange program that we have today in the US. It was so active enough in Afghanistan and also in our heritage and culture. We have a great poets, great philosopher.

19:45 Great painters in there. All well, documented in the people. Unfortunately, though, and Afghanistan has is going through his fifth decade of conflict years fighting, and do you stabilized so that all on your on your eye would see on your strength to preserve your guys. This but I would still give credit to my try to preserve, some of our values. And our values, are honest, Afghans are like hospitable people, very family-oriented. Friendly oriented optimistic, and very positive thinker in very big thinker. But unfortunately, the situation and I would say the geographic location that I'm going to Saint has been located.

20:45 And there you have the regional Powers fighting each other. We are also usually caught up between the fight of the great powers. Back in the day with Great Britain. During the Russian Civil War Cold War. And then a game today. We live in the global terrorism, 3 months, So it's sad to see that this country cannot have any opportunity.

21:23 Was your family living in Kabul, during all of these conflicts, you said it is. In the fifth decade, the country is in. The fifth decade of conflict, has your family always been there. The last two decades, when you are supposed to be B-Dubs, in Kabul, before that, before 2090s, my family had another sad story. Once he returned back to Afghanistan from Pakistan in 2001, and it's over. Now. We will have our own country and another generation of immigrant now. So I know if my family

22:23 Do you feel like your family retained? A lot of values from Pakistan or Pakistani culture living in Afghanistan?

22:32 Do something send something because in all due in Peshawar, the time that we left were there was a very large community of Afghans habits in millions, close to five million people. So, we grew up there and my family don't have other Afghans nearby, but definitely hit any adverse impact. And I have to say it was a very positive impact, the people from Pakistan, the kindest, people have their own agenda and unfortunately our government

23:31 Dari bad relationships and never constructive with the people are nice and we always have we share a lot of culture and food in like

23:47 We both countries, watch the Bollywood, the India's Cinemas. You consider yourself Pakistani a skin or how do you identify and that brings us back to the America? Why why you said for immigrants? What does the American dream mean? That truly values? I mean, takes and Refugee with taking it obvious that you have you can you can get a path to citizenship there. Many other countries around the globe are years. You want to get in your Society, to their economy, to their culture, politic B. Tell you're, you're never considered. I mean, you're never going to give until there's no power.

24:47 I mean, probably you can just stay up there on a weasel or like a residence residence for a couple years and you have to keep renewing. So that's when you lived there for years, but if no path to citizenship, so, you always know that this is not, this is, you cannot call this a home. So you cannot you don't get that identity in the states. If you're coming and I can write, this is where I'm going to live.

25:32 Something like that. Do you plan to become a citizen of the United States and the hits?

25:47 Yeah, it's it in Ireland that feeling. I really still don't know it. Since it's been two months that you've come here as refugees. The past few times. I came August and was holding my passport and I was here for her college education and it ain't. So I guess I don't know what that feeling. I feel. I've done all my education here. So I would really like to contribute back and half Loft lights on Friendswood.

26:46 Right now. So I would say I'm still early in my career. I've been credit goes to Westpoint such a prestigious institution, but I went back home and I work in the industry for two years and I got recognition from my work because West Point are we worked on that technical stuff and back home. I work in public projects and I brought the technical expertise and also leadership and communication skills that really helped our team to exceed our objectives.

27:39 And I want to go with us. I don't know if it's called. My scholarship was an accomplishment really grateful for and that also such a great and Rich program, the United States offer treatment across the globe. I don't know, which country doesn't have it. But it has all the countries has have a Fulbright scholarship, which is a 2 years of program in coming to the states and do your Masters after my masters. I went back home and I start working for the World Bank. That's also an i and I have another job offer, which I'm going to be starting soon without

28:34 Manufacturing Company here in the states. Accept Altec Industries with your team of internet, or Internet of Things systems engineering, making the products smaller and more effective and efficient. So I'm excited about that.

29:09 Congratulations.

29:16 In the next five years. Do you want to continue working at all Tech or do you have other aspirations? Are there other dream jobs you want?

29:26 Remember, not sure there. I think they'll be a learning process once I'll see how it goes. I'll take a look so great company and I've been talking to the managers are very amazing information that I'm in right now as a refugee and the hiring process. So and that is very important working for a place of care for you. And also did you an amazing work pretty much an industry. So I have not started yet. I'm still in the ER and from there. I'll see where it goes.

30:19 I kind of want to jump back to something you mentioned earlier about learning English in the United States. You talked about mastering like an accident in learning slang. You have a favorite piece of American slang, that maybe you picked up initially or something you really enjoy saying. Now, I know, I'm not sure if I have a training with salt at peace. Peace, directions to 6 weeks, training, physical training. So one of my supervisor,

31:19 I was I was not even playing, I was a new credit and the Junior wants a cow. So he, he told me and I we were inside a building site outside. You're always standing at attention and you're not like your hair. I mean setting an attention position, but he he told me, we were okay. That's what you mean.

32:06 And I think everybody would have different experience of learning English, but my an American accent. No, I just meant like there's just standard. Like at Universal or standing English so far. Is my siblings. Does the new English Learners. I'm telling them that try to like

32:38 Pay attention to how the words are pronounced, because I think if you know how to pronounce when other people talking others, will talk fast, and that's my whole life. I'm trying to get them up to speed to understand others quickly, that's in their attacks. And I just mean, let's say, if we called, there is just a standard English accent. So pay attention to how different words are say correctly. Because once you're familiar, it just makes it easier to hear everybody else. Can understand what they're saying, more than back home. In Afghanistan. We have dairy in postal or official languages. I speak to, and I speak English.

33:38 On Andy watch, tons of Bollywood movies. We can beat her back. But because we have to learn how to read Quran, but we don't know the language. It's just me can read it. And now it's 40K. Tau are there any similarities between Urdu and English? That you found? I know that might be a stretch, but the three language is Dari Pashto. Do they are the Arabic Alphabet Song by Arabic during the 9th or 10th Century 5.

34:35 Probably sent it wrong. But in that era when Islam came to Salvation or Advance towards India, so dealing with the languages of this region were influenced by. That's why you have not also English. I don't know. I am sure there are similarities by. Yeah, I don't know.

35:05 Do you have a favorite Indian referees in English by England?

35:10 I think I do a lot but I see myself saying them a lot. Okay, I think you're getting close and I talked to her, I guess for our audience. Do you want to talk about yourself really quick? So minutes to talk about yourself in your work that you do with refugees.

35:51 Okay. Yeah, maybe I can talk about the work we did together and also a little bit. Yeah. My job is a teaching citizenship classes. Too old to use as a half of the job and helping them overcome some barriers to getting citizenship in the United States since 7 years. If you're in the United States for 7 years, you don't have access to Social Security assistance anymore. So people who are really dependent on that assistance, is that. And then the other half of my job is working with public schools in Kansas City, Kansas to help them integrate and adjust the refugee families into the school system. Especially sumibi. I've never been to school before you arrived here from around the world. Yeah, and I meant El Paso.

36:51 I'm a military base that was receiving incoming, refugees or folks from Afghanistan after the country fell to the Taliban. So yeah, we was mostly collecting questions at the time and should be are you did a few different things. I think you want to talk about your role there.

37:17 All right, so I didn't volunteer to help Alex. You went to the team who was working there with the interpretation interpreting did a few families and also share I really wanted to cuz I've been here before and most of the families were there was their first time. So I really wanted to share some cultural background to the team that was working at the base. And then since it was a military base and I knew the commander who was also West Point. Graduates of West Miner on the same page. There's no there's nothing I work with him for the next month about helping up things in the face.

38:08 Or we can also finish Saturday night. I hope I have not offended if I've said anything. Sorry about that, if it's happy to share my experiences.