Samia Osman, 1L, Somali Refugee, Interned at Binger Center for New Americans
1L Samia Osman says her choice of Minnesota Law for her legal education was an easy one as the Law School was “already home” to her. As an undergraduate, Osman interned at the James H. Binger Center for New Americans, where she got to work shoulder-to-shoulder with faculty and staff. A Somali refugee herself, she is looking to use her law degree to help those “in whose shoes [she has] been.”
You have had two summer internships at the Binger Center for New Americans at Minnesota Law. Could you describe a little bit about what drew you to that work and what you had the opportunity to do there?
I think being an immigrant in Minnesota and an interest in law is what initially drew me to the Center for New Americans. I did not know what exactly I wanted to do in regards to law until I was given the amazing opportunity to work with Professor [Ben] Casper Sanchez on a federal immigration case during my internship. Ultimately that work and my time at the center reinforced my desire to go into law once and for all.
What is motivating your decision to become a lawyer?
My dream is to go into international law with a focus on human rights and humanitarianism—a dream born from being a refugee who comes from and grew up in a world filled with corruption, conflict, and overall instability. I hope to someday lessen some of that instability that many refugees and displaced individuals are forced to deal with; none of which is their fault but who are often the only ones faced with the consequences of it.
You were vice president of the Muslim Student Association at Macalaster. What motivated you to take on a leadership position in a student organization?
During the period when I took on this role, there was a lot happening in the Muslim community in regards to Islamophobia and general distrust of Muslims. So I just wanted to be part of the solution in tackling that rhetoric and I could do that at the very least at my school if nowhere else.
What do you hope/plan to do with your legal education (realizing, of course, that may change during the course of your studies)?
I think there is supposed to be some complicated answer or maybe a more eloquent answer but for me, I just want to help those in my communities and in whose shoes I have been—whether that is children living in refugee camps, or Muslims, Blacks and immigrants in America who are demonized, stereotyped, and discriminated against for simply existing.
Why did you select Minnesota Law?
Minnesota Law was already home in more ways than one. Though I never actually attended the school, it was where my mentors, the men who had shaped my love for law, graduated from. It was also in the middle of Cedar where a huge piece of who I am, a Somali refugee, resided. It was because of those pieces of home that I felt courageous enough to not just pursue but accomplish my legal aspirations at Minnesota Law.
Can you discuss a bit the importance of diverse perspectives in the classroom and what you hope to add to the mix?
One of my favorite authors, Chimamanda Adichie, warns of the dangers of a single story in understanding our life and the reality that we live in. Ever since I heard that warning I’ve always tried to be cautious of falling in that trap in how I interact with the world. How can people, especially lawyers, claim to know anyone who is not them when you look through a single lens or are essentially hearing a single story from a single point of view? You simply cannot. As such it baffles me every time someone ignores, dismisses, or forgets to acknowledge others’ perspectives and experiences as valid because they do not agree with or understand them—ironic, since law is but a tool that calls for interpretation depending on one’s perspective.
Minnesota Law as an institution emphasizes leadership. What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership has always seemed like a lofty ideal for me. Who it should be and what it means felt like complex questions requiring much thought, experience, and commitment. So, what it means to me is probably too ambitious but I often associate leadership with those who veer off the given path and fight for others even at their own peril—those who seek change, create community, and simply make it possible to imagine another way.
Law School can be stressful at times. What do you like to do for wellness or to de-stress?
I read, exercise, and play with my younger siblings. I also turn to community work to remind me what’s important when things get too hectic.
What three words or phrase describes you best?
Outspoken, assertive, and earnest.
Do you have any interesting hobbies or leisure activities you’d like to share?