The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Michael Schwartz

Second Advisor

Choonkyong Kim

Third Advisor

Semya Hakim

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Somali-American Identity, Somali Diaspora, Somali culture, Somali immigration


This paper examines the ongoing large number of Somali-American diaspora living in Minnesota returning to their country of origin or country of birth. This ideology of returning to the motherland is often referred to ‘counter diasporic migration’ to describe this phenomenon of immigrants or diasporas longing for a visit to their ancestral homeland. This thesis closely inspects the role language and identity plays in their return back to Minnesota. I will do this by exploring the ambiguous views of place, home, belonging, and identity, along other core elements responsible for Somali-diaspora visiting their home and motives for coming back to their other home, Minnesota.

The findings are based on data collected through two semi-constructed interviews with 10 Somali-Americans who have returned from Somalia in the past five years residing in Minnesota. Eight of the participants are second generation Somalis and two of the participants interviewed are first generation Somalis all residing in Minnesota. The participants were also asked to complete a demographic questionnaire, which asked for general information about their lives in Minnesota and questions, that dealt with the construction of two identities in two homes and which was the core elements of this research project.

Through this qualitative research project, it was found that the idea of ‘home’ was a very complex word to many of the participants who returned to their country of origin. Where is ‘home’ when you were born and raised in Minnesota, but your still regarded as an outsider? The research showed that for Somali-American diaspora who grew up in Minnesota, the process of identification with Somalia was especially complex when they returned to their country of origin. Politically, religiously and ethnically, these young people were up against powerful forces from both worlds that made identification with Somalia and America a special challenge. For these reasons, the participants easily aligned themselves with different aspects of their identity depending on where they where and who they were with. The researcher looked at the reconstruction of identity that occurred in the return to Somalia and back to Minnesota. While the research showed that the return to Somalia is a grim reality complicated by major obstacles for Somali-Americans who are in between two worlds, the researcher hopes that through the stories of people, she will show some fresh ideas in the minds of researchers and bring raw data to the diverse community in Minnesota.


In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I would first like to express thanks to Allah (God) the almighty, for giving me the strength and guidance on completing this project. With that being said, I’d like to acknowledge the individuals who have made this project possible at its various stages. First, I would like to thank my thesis advisor and mentor, Dr. Michael Schwartz who has persistently contributed to this project and provided meaningful advice and suggestions as well as his expertise in writing an effective qualitative study. I thank him for his creative thinking, encouragement, and his generosity with his time and always providing tremendous support when I needed it the most. I would also like to express thanks to Dr. Semya Hakim for providing me with her expertise in this field and providing me with valuable resources on this topic which has limited resources.

My greatest thanks goes to the study of the participants who have shared their beautiful stories with me. This project would not have been possible without your stories and your courage to share your identity struggles, identity reaffirmation through a trip, which may have been difficult to discuss. I want to thank them for granting me their time, patience and, the opportunity to share their lives with me.

Lastly, I would like to give a big thanks to my family who has provided me with encouragement, love, and remarkable support. This thesis would not have been possible without the presence and support of my beloved mother, Amina Afrah. Special thanks goes to you hooyo (mom) for never giving up or giving in, for helping me through it all. I would also like to thank my sisters for always asking me about my project’s progress. Thanks to my sisters Nasra, Maryan, Rahma, Ubah and Ayan. I would lastly like to thank my close friend Deqa Yusuf who has provided me with tremendous emotional support throughout this whole project.

I’d also like to thank every each person who has entered my life, even for a short or long time. Without the help and presence of people in our lives, we all would not be where we are today. Life is beautiful and you can’t live it alone…we all need little or sometimes lots of help.