After earning her master’s degree at a university in Virginia, Arunima Dasgupta moved to Vermont in 2004. When her airplane landed on a cold night in February, she saw the white snow and a moon-lit sky and “fell in love.” She now works at GlobalFoundries as an engineer and lives in Essex.
Arunima grew up in Kolkata, India and was aware of certain things she couldn’t do because of her gender. She said being good at academics allowed her to “break that barrier and become a career person,” but she never thought she could play soccer, especially with boys. But her daughter, Souma, who has grown up in Vermont, has done just that.
While Arunima has felt like an American ever since she moved here, she said she decided to become a citizen because she wanted to vote. “I love Bernie,” she said. “I don’t think I have that strong of a voice until and unless I am a citizen of this country.”
Said Bulle moved to Vermont 15 years ago at the age of 15 after growing up in a civil war in Somalia and living in a refugee camp in Kenya. In the latter place, he said, there are only two seasons: Wet, and dry. “If you run out of your water,” Said said, “you’re in hell.”
Said hadn’t ever attended school until he arrived in America and started as a freshman at Burlington High School. He received a lot of help there, he said, and by the end, he didn’t want to leave. “I wanted another four years.”
Said is the founder of A2VT, an Afrobeat band that sings in several different languages. While Somalia will always be his motherland and first home, Said said Vermont is his second home because he’s been able to do what he wants to do here, including making music. “I liked how Vermont welcomed me for who I am,” he said.
Islane Louis was visiting the United States as a tourist when the deadly 2010 earthquake hit her home country of Haiti. Under protected temporary status, she moved to Vermont to work as a nurse. Her husband and children eventually followed, and they now live in Colchester.
Islane has family in Montreal, and they were worried about her moving to one of the whitest states in America. And in the beginning, Islane said living here as a black woman was “overwhelming.” Her nursing patients and their families would ask her where she was from, and then what she was doing here all the way from Haiti. “So I started to think, did they say that because they can see that it’s a big change?” Islane said. “Or did they say that because I’m not where I’m supposed to be?”
Islane now works for the University of Vermont as both a nurse and a clinical instructor. She said that while it has become more stressful “day by day” to be an immigrant in the United States, her coworkers often check in with her.“They want me to be here,” Islane said. “They want me to be OK.”
These stories were produced by digital producer Elodie Reed. Production assistance came from Emily Corwin and editing from Mark Davis. Music by A2VT and Blue Dot Sessions. Special thanks to Liam Elder-Connors, Henry Epp, Chris Albertine, Noah Cutter, Jonathan Butler and Meg Malone.