Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Rahel Bosson, March 10, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:07 - Growing up Ethiopia, Sweden, and Belgium

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Partial Transcript: I'm Jack Wilson.

Segment Synopsis: Rahel Bosson was born in Addis Ababa and went to school there until she was seven. They lived in Sweden where her father was a diplomat representing Ethiopia in Scandinavia until she was ten and then moved to Belgium. Because of political unrest her father had to return to Ethiopia but they remained in Belgium because one of her brothers had cerebral palsy. She describes her school and other experiences with different languages and cultures. She met a spectrum of people, from the King of Belgium to refugees with PhD's who were cleaners, and realized that "the human soul was the same" and "fame rises and falls." Her mother had been a nurse and traveled all over Africa with the Red Cross and in Belgium got work in a hospital to support the family after her father lost his job in Ethiopia about 1992. She was able to get a scholarship to complete her education at St. Johns International School. "We went from having what we needed to having nothing." She remembers the strength of her mother's prayers and people helping them, especially giving them an apartment.

Keywords: Addis Ababa (Ethiopia); Belgium; Cerebral palsy; Christians; Diplomats; Ethiopia; Languages; Physical disabilities; Power of prayer; St. Johns International School; Sweden

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

GPS: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 9.03, 38.74
GPS: Sweden
Map Coordinates: 63, 16
GPS: Belgium
Map Coordinates: 50.833333, 4
GPS: St. Johns International School (Belgium)
Map Coordinates: 50.704879, 4.41433
00:17:15 - Coming to the U.S. for college

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Partial Transcript: And then--so, so tell me something about what got you here--

Segment Synopsis: Having gone to school in English, she wanted to come to the U.S. for college education. She felt her destiny was to "help poor and marginalized." Pastor Roy McClung who had come to the International Baptist Church in Brussels on a regular basis and became president of Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas arranged a scholarship and other help for her to go to the U.S. She describes arriving in Lubbock and her culture shock. "The trees are the same size as me." She did two years of pre-nursing. She met people who had never gone anywhere else. She learned that friends didn't automatically share clothes, had personal space, didn't remain loyal. It was "the most amazing time of my life." She then transferred to Texas Tech to get a B.A. in nursing, difficult because it was such a huge university, but graduated in 1998. She did a year of practical training as a nurse in a hospital, and applied for a work permit and green card. She left and took three months to travel to decide what to do next, "her destiny." She went to Louisville for a week to visit Rev. Roy and he suggested Kentucky. She began to work as a nurse at University of Louisville and applied for medical school at U. of L. and completed it in 2011.

Keywords: Cultural differences; Faith; Green card; International Baptist Church; Medical school; Pastor McClung; Plainview, Texas; Scholarships; Texas Tech; University education; University of Louisville; Wayland Baptist University

Subjects: Education; Employment; Immigrants

GPS: Lubbock (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 33.577778, -101.89
GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667
00:42:36 - Current job as director of a refugee health program

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Partial Transcript: Uh, and so describe for me a little bit about what your job is now.

Segment Synopsis: After finishing her residency in 2014, Bosson became Director of the Refugee Health Program at the University of Louisville. They do basic health screenings and then keep them for ongoing health care. They want to develop a community based program and to connect them to other resources.

Keywords: Jobs; Refugee Health Program; University of Louisville

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky; Medical care

GPS: University of Louisville
Map Coordinates: 38.215, -85.760278
00:44:45 - Family now

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Partial Transcript: Well let me take a half step back.

Segment Synopsis: Bosson's mother and middle brother with cerebral palsy still live in Belgium and her father goes between Belgium and Ethiopia. Her other brother is married to a Greek Cypriot and lives in London. Her husband whom she met the first week she visited Louisville is from New Zealand and Savannah, Georgia, spent time in Uganda and has a seminary doctorate. They have two children born during her residency. She talks on the phone with her mother daily and her brothers several times a week and uses Skype.

Keywords: Belgium; Children; Communication; Ethiopia; Family; London, England; Skype

Subjects: Families.

00:49:14 - Acculturation

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Partial Transcript: Uh, in, in, in what ways do you feel you have, uh, become acculturated in the United Stays--United States and in which--what ways do you think you have not?

Segment Synopsis: One of the problems is that people stick to their own groups. To be successful you have to integrate yourself in the new culture. You have to learn the language. She goes to Immanuel Baptist Church and also to the Ethiopian church. You have to be wise and keep the best of yours and take the best of theirs. She wants to be the master of her destiny. "I am trying not to be stuck in the rat race."

Keywords: Acculturation; Integration

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
00:53:10 - Questions Americans ask

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Partial Transcript: Uh, sort of along that line, what, what kinds of questions, uh, have you found that people in the United States ask you about your birth country or about the continent of Africa?

Segment Synopsis: Bosson remembers questions such as, "Do you have running water?" People had a mindset of the famine in the 1980s. There is more of a global awareness with the explosion of technology. Now people might ask, "What is the political situation in Ethiopia?"

Keywords: Famine; Global awareness

Subjects: Immigrants

GPS: Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 8, 38
00:55:57 - Identity / What Kentuckians have learned from you

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Partial Transcript: Uh, if somebody--if you're out someplace else, out of the state, you're to a conference or you're someplace else and someone says to you, "Where are you from?" What--how do you answer that question?

Segment Synopsis: Bosson says "I am from Kentucky." It is hard for her to identify with any one place. She says Louisville is New York meets Lubbock, "best kept secret." People have learned from me: "There is not one way,","You have to live life in the moment," and "Be a free spirit."

Keywords: Kentuckians; Kentucky; Life lessons; Louisville (Ky.)

Subjects: Identity (Psychology); Immigrants

GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5, -85
GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667
00:59:21 - Discrimination

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Partial Transcript: D--have you experienced discrimination at any time in the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Bosson doesn't have the deep roots of African-American/Caucasian history. She feels unfriendliness from African-Americans perhaps because of her language. Some Caucasians don't seem to see her as black. She tells about an experience in New Orleans when young blacks said "You are not black." She knows her uncles have faced more discrimination because they don't speak English as well. At a hospital in Lubbock she was discriminated against directly. Her husband's family had a struggle but then she was fully embraced. She remembers conversations in Texas when people said black and white people couldn't marry. That is the litmus test -- can people of different races marry. Things have changed though.

Keywords: Racial differences

Subjects: Discrimination.; Immigrants; Race relations

GPS: New Orleans (La.)
Map Coordinates: 29.95, -90.08
GPS: Lubbock (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 33.577778, -101.89
01:04:41 - Her children and Ethiopia

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Partial Transcript: Are there--okay, that, that's the general structure of questions that I have.

Segment Synopsis: Bosson talks about introducing her children to the language and culture of Ethiopia, their heritage. She wants them to grow up with a global perspective.

Keywords: Amharic; Ethiopia; Global perspectives; Heritage

Subjects: Families.; Immigrants

GPS: Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 8, 38
01:08:58 - A typical day in your job

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Partial Transcript: I, I've been thinking of one more.

Segment Synopsis: Bosson tells about the refugee experience coming to Louisville. She does initial screenings, immunizations, home visits, health promotions, teaching kitchen safety, conducting a survey to find out their needs, and dealing with mental health.

Keywords: Health screenings; Health survey; Mental health; Refugees

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care; Refugees

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667