• Katharinehn

Life Updates: Grad School, Immigration, and Privilege

Hi friends and family!!

In this post, I want share with you some exciting new developments that have happened recently in my life. I am SO thrilled to share the good news with you, but also want to be mindful of the current climate in the US and around the world. I believe it would be inappropriate and quite frankly tone-deaf to share my news with you, and not acknowledge the wholly-justified hurt, anger, and pain the black community faces today and every day due to systemic and outward racism in the US.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing my best to learn from the Black Lives Matter movement, listen and learn from black voices, and educate myself on the reality of systemic racism in the US. One of the books I've been reading lately is called, So You Want to Talk About Race, and is by Ijeoma Oluo. In the book, Oluo describes privilege in the social justice context as “an advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not.” She then goes on to explain, “These privileges are not due 100% to your efforts, although your hard work may indeed have helped, and the benefits of these privileges are disproportionately large, or at least partially undeserved when compared to what the privilege is for.”

When I look back on the past 25 years of my life, I can see that I've been privileged. Simply put, my life has not been made more challenging due to the color of my skin; in fact, I have probably even benefited from it. This sentence, although true, makes me sick to my stomach to write. White Americans don't want to recognize that we have benefited or have been given a leg-up for something as minute and irrelevant as skin color. But that's the problem. It is relevant in the US, and you can see this when looking at the statistics on education, incarceration, health care— and tragically— police brutality.

We have a broken system of systemic racism in the US that unfairly and unequally distributes wealth, health, and opportunity. This is unfair. This is unjust. This is something that needs to change. And change starts when white Americans educate themselves on the systems of oppression that we benefit from, and not look away when the reality is uncomfortable. Change starts when white Americans don't just blindly accept opportunities— but when they ask why they were chosen over others. Change starts when people make an active effort to change the system through having difficult conversations and checking one's own privilege.

Recently, my privilege has helped me gain two new opportunities in my life. And although I am enormously grateful and super excited for these opportunities, I can think of a handful of privileges I've had in my life that have made these things accessible to me. I recognize this, and I plan to do everything in my power to help create a more equal and just society with the opportunities I've been granted.

. . .

1) The first announcement is that I'm going to grad school! I've been accepted to 3/3 graduate programs that I applied for including: Roskilde University, DePaul University, and Aalborg University Copenhagen. I’ve decided to go to Aalborg University in Copenhagen as I was granted a full-tuition waiver and was blown away by their facilities, professors, and of course, the program.

Starting this September, I will be studying Development & International Relations with a focus on Global Refugee Studies. If you want to learn more about this program, you can check it out here. I cannot be more excited to pursue this education, and I look forward to expanding my knowledge on international relations, refugees, and forced migration. I hope to use the privilege I have been granted through this study to help immigrants and refugees in the future, and to fight for more equal and just societies.

2) The second announcement is that I have *officially* immigrated to Denmark!! For those of you who know me well, you know that I've been in the process of immigrating for quite some time. My Danish partner and I actually started looking into it around this time last year, when we were getting ready to leave Dubai for good and move to Denmark. We looked into a few different options for immigration, but we decided the Family Reunification (FR) residence permit was the most appropriate one for us.

The FR application process is quite extensive and if you want to learn more about this specific permit, you’re welcome to read more here. The actual FR application is fairly straight forward; although, it is certainly a time and financial commitment! For me, it even included a weekend road trip to San Francisco as that was the closest visa processing center to where I was living in Bend, Oregon.

The photos on the left and in the middle are from the trip my mom and I took to San Francisco to turn in my visa application. The photo on the right is of Simon and me in Nyhavn, Denmark and was taken by Ashley Olafsson. So thankful to have such a loving and supportive family, and to finally be done with the immigration process!

The actual processing period is a bit more opaque. The processing time for this application can take up to ten months, during which, one is permitted to something called procedural stay, or the ability to stay in Denmark while the application is being processed; however, the only caveat is that you’re not able to work or volunteer during this time.

This was the most difficult part of the whole process for me. For the first few months of our processing time, I was lucky to have been able to live with my mom back in Bend, Oregon and work and volunteer to my heart’s content (which believe me, I did!!) After a few months of being in the US, I decided to come back to Denmark so I could continue to study the Danish language and work on assimilating and integrating into Danish society (that is, as much as you can when you can’t work or volunteer, and when a global pandemic hits).

But I was privileged. I was fortunate to be able to go back to my home country and save some money before returning to Denmark. I was blessed to have been supported by my wonderful partner while the application was under review. And I was privileged to have been able to meet all of the requirements of the Family Reunification application. Not everyone could have done this, and I recognize that.

It is with this privilege of being accepted as a resident of Denmark, that I plan to promote change. As Denmark ranks as one of the most equal societies in the world in regards to income and gender equality, I believe there is a lot that can be learned from living in this society. During the next two years, I plan to learn as much as I can from this country, and also engage in conversations revolving around race, equality, and immigration both in Denmark and the US, and around the world. I also plan to never stop checking my privilege, and using it to fight systems of inequality.

. . .

A lot has happened in the past few weeks, and it's been inspiring to see the world come together and stand up against the deeply ingrained racial injustice in the United States. These are difficult times, and change is long overdue. It's time for us— me and you— to do our part in breaking down this system of oppression; a system that has been developed and hardened throughout our history; a system that invisibly gives white Americans a step up in education, health care, financial security, and life expectancy and for no reason other than skin color; a system that somehow, elects a president endorsed by the KKK; a system where holding a bag of Skittles while black is deadly; and a system where "I can't breathe" isn't heard.

We need to do better. For those of you who have been given privilege, use it. Fight for equality anywhere you can. Ask difficult questions. Confront racism. Continue to learn. And lastly, identify areas where you have the power to change systems of inequality and systemic racism, and do it it. And please, if you are eligible to vote in the US, please show up in November.

Thank you everyone for reading! I hope you are all safe, healthy, and are doing well.


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