Overcoming Barriers as a High Skilled Immigrant in Philadelphia

I am Fode Kaba Traore. I am from Guinea which is in West Africa. In 2012, I earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from University Gamal Abdel Nasser of Conakry. Also, I earned certificates in HSE and transportation. Afterwards, I worked for different companies in the transportation field in Conakry and the countryside of Guinea until 2015.

“The U.S. has been one of my dream countries since my childhood.”

While I was working in Africa, I planned to immigrate in the United States. The U.S. has been one of my dream countries since my childhood. Also, my father shared many of his experiences with me because he spent many years in the U.S. In addition, the lack of opportunity in my country encouraged me to immigrate. In 2017, I moved to the U.S.

When I arrived in Philadelphia, I faced some barriers such as language, culture, and work experience. At first, I focused more on language, which was the key to interacting with Philadelphians. Therefore, I did some research in my community and found the public library in the neighborhood. Afterwards, I heard about other places such as District 1199c, the Welcoming Center, and Community College of Philadelphia.

I learned a lot from District 1199c to improve my language. Once I was fluent in English, my friend Luciana talked to me about a great program at the Welcoming Center called Immigrant Leadership Institute (ILI).

Pictured: Fode

“During the different sessions of Immigrant Leadership Institute, I learned about barriers immigrants face in the U.S. and how to overcome those barriers.”

I joined the third cohort of ILI, which was made up of an amazing group of people from all over in the world. During the different sessions of ILI, I learned about barriers immigrants face in the U.S. – such as language barrier, social isolation, and American work experience – and how to overcome those barriers. ILI also taught me more about different opportunities in the U.S. and it was a great place to share my experience with other participants in the program.

When I completed all my ILI sessions, some participants and I organized an event, and shared our experiences with the audience on how to get U.S. work experience and overcome that barrier. Afterwards, I applied that knowledge in my daily life. For instance, I started to communicate with more people, participated in events in the community, and shared my different experiences with others.

“When I graduated from the International Professionals Program, I became confident in my job search.”

After graduating from ILI, I was encouraged by my tutor, Oya, to participate in the Welcoming Center’s International Professionals Program (IPP). IPP is an excellent program which showed me the path to follow to get a professional job in the US. I learned how to write a resume and cover letter, which are totally different from the formats we use in my country. My mentors gave me the right resources for a job interview such us how to present yourself, how to share your different job experiences, and keep the right posture during the interview. When I graduated from IPP, I became confident in my job search.

Fode (second from right) at the International Professionals Program graduation

“The Welcoming Center is a great place where all immigrants are welcome.”

The Welcoming Center is a great place where all immigrants are welcome. Also, this organization is a great temple of knowledge for immigrants where they can get the right resources for success in the United States of America. Finally, the staff are dedicated to help in any way they can, they are passionate about their jobs and create new opportunities for immigrants. I would like to say thank you to the staff of the Welcoming Center and all other organizations which helped me to become a better version than I was years ago.

Finally, the world is facing a pandemic which is causing many to lose their jobs. Although I am still working during this chaotic situation, I have sympathy for those people who are struggling. I am hopeful that everything will be fine and that we can get back our normal lives soon. Until then, we should all follow the guidelines and help our community to stay safe.

This blog article was written by Fode Traore. He is a graduate of the Welcoming Center’s Immigrant Leadership Institute and International Professionals Program. Learn more about community engagement and workforce development at the Welcoming Center.

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