Congolese refugee speaks to AP Human Geography students


Rachel Parkison

The guest speaker, identified only as Vivian, speaks to Bateman’s students about her life as a refugee. Vivian came to the United States several years ago after fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo in her early childhood alongside her family.

Twenty-two years in a Rwandan refugee camp. Twenty-two years of walking miles every day for water. Twenty-two years of fearing starvation, rape, and murder.

This is the story of the Congolese refugee, identified simply as Vivian, who spoke to AP Human Geography students on Nov. 20. Vivian, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and spent most of her life in a refugee camp before coming to America four years ago, addressed the reality of life as an immigrant in Rwanda and the United States.

“In AP Human, we’ve been learning a lot about migration and refugees and such,” Forrest Dixon (9) said. “It was very interesting to hear a story from someone who actually went through all that.” This session, which was organized in part by AP Human Geography teacher Jeremy Bateman, was intended to provide students with a look at the real-world representation of the topics they discuss in class.

“Learning is more than reading and listening to someone,” Bateman said. “True learning is experience. This gave them that experience.”


“By bringing real-life stories into the classroom we get to hear about first hand experiences from other people, and we can connect. It was through this unusual opportunity that many of Bateman’s students, including freshman Leslie Avila, came to recognize how textbook topics actually manifest themselves in the world.

“We can connect what we are learning to the story that’s being told,” Avila said. “We can also better understand and comprehend the topic being discussed in class.”

According to both Avila and Dixon, Vivian’s powerful story had an unexpected impact on their general outlooks on life and education.

“It really taught me a lot about how easy we have it here. Our lives are so relaxed in comparison to what people in places like Rwanda have to go through,” Dixon said.

Following his students’ positive responses to this session, Bateman hopes to recreate this opportunity for future classes.

“There are many people on this planet that are different… I want them to be tolerant of others,” Bateman said. “Our lives are amazing— we are blessed by geography. If we were born in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo], that would be our story too.”