By choice or by circumstance, Aweys Ahmed Aweys has long been adept at adapting.
Even he has his limits, however.
After he collected his St. Ambrose University Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance and Marketing, the native Somalian planned to stay around the SAU community and the Quad Cities through the end of summer, perhaps even into fall.
Another Midwestern winter, though, is not in his plans.
Five years an Ambrosian, Aweys has never adapted to the cold.
"More than anything," Aweys said when asked if he will miss St. Ambrose after a planned move to Arizona, where he will join extended family and pursue a master's degree in business. "This has become a second home for me. I've moved a lot. St. Ambrose is one of the best places that I have found."
"Trust me," he said. "I will not miss the winters."
Born in the midst of civil strife in Mogadishu, Somalia, Aweys was sent to India when he was 13 to continue his education in safety.
When he finished the equivalent of high school there, he set his sights attending college in the United States, with plans to work his way through medical school. He was two years into a St. Ambrose Biology major when new immigration restrictions were put in place in 2017. Aweys quickly realized the new limitations on his visa status would not provide the years he would need to complete his both SAU education and medical school in the United States.
It was a disappointment, but Aweys did what he has always done: He adapted.
"It wasn't such a challenge," he said of changing his major to a business focus that will help him eventually join the family-owned import-export business in Mogadishu. "I thought going from biology, this would be completely different and the transition would be hard but I started relating to the material rather quickly. I'd say it was a very smooth transition, thanks to the support system that Ambrose has in place."
Aweys found a family among the international student community and, particularly, the International Student Services office at St. Ambrose.
"I don't think all of this would have been possible if there wasn't an International Student Services office and people like Cathy Toohey and Sumita Amrik," he said of the SAU staff that overlooks the university's 100-plus international student community. "They played a huge role in this. That goes for every international student here. The fact that they treat every student as family is what amazes me the most."
Aweys said the supportive environment at St. Ambrose is far different than what he experienced attending high school in India, and, as such, far different than what he expected when he came to St. Ambrose five years ago.
He expected to be welcomed. He didn't expect to be embraced.
"There were random emails just to check up and see how you were doing," he said. "They'd tell ‘you got this' and ‘it will be all right.' You'd think those small things don't matter, but those small things matter the most. They let you know no matter how far you are from home you still have a home here."
For all the help he found at St. Ambrose, Aweys said he also found himself at SAU. And he found the confidence of someone who has learned to assess challenges and navigate change.
Considering he came of age in the midst of a civil war, that's saying something.
"When I came here I was scared and I wasn't sure what I was going to get out of this, what my transition was going to be," he said. "How would I be able to survive by myself. But after all these years, I feel like I am more confident about my future life with everything I got and I feel like I am way more prepared for what is coming next."
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