USA Remains 'Land Of Opportunity' For Sudanese Student Athlete

Feb 10, 2017

NAU's Peter Lomong
Credit NAU Athletics

International students are some of the people affected by President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which remains in legal limbo following Thursday's appeals court ruling. Northern Arizona University has identified fewer than ten student whom this affects, including sophomore Peter Lomong, a track and field athlete from Sudan. Arizona Public Radio’s Aaron Granillo spoke with Lomong after one of his practices.

Aaron Granillo:  You're getting pretty good now at running. I know you qualified for the Big Sky championship as a freshman. Do you want to be like your big brother one day, and represent the United States in the Olympics?

Peter Lomong: Of course. Every child has a dream to be an Olympian. And, I believe that. I believe that personally, for myself. If  I start saying that, oh yeah, it's too impossible. No, that's going to ruin my own  my own dreams. Of course I'm going to be -- I will be an Olympian.

I want to understand your story. Tell me when and how you came to the United States?

2007. My brother, Lopez Lomong, told my mother that he wanted to bring us to the United States. Me and my little brother were extremely happy about it. We were excited, but without knowing how the process was going to be like. And, it was a difficult process.

How old were you then?

I would say I was nine when he first came. Because, it took two years for the process for us to come to the United States. 

When you come to the United States, you are living with a family in Virginia, right?

Yeah, I am. 

Can you talk about your first experiences coming to this country?

I landed. I was surprised by my coach and also my foster father.  And of course, I was extremely nervous. The first thing that I even thought about is I was excited about snow. I wanted to see snow. And, once we landed, when we exit the airport, my goodness. The cold breeze that hit me -- my body shut down of the cold. And, I just started shivering, and that's when I knew. Oh yeah, United States.

The weather made you realize you were in the US.

Yeah, yeah.

Let's go back two weeks now, two Fridays ago. The president signs an executive order, temporarily banning refugees from seven countries, including yours, including Sudan. What are you thinking when the news comes down?

United States has given me something really tremendous. Right now, you can understand me. So, the fact that I can talk to you right now and you understand what I'm saying -- that is a gift from what United States has given me. And so, this is a policy, and I can never, in a way, be mad if anything occurred to me. I'm going to carry on and be happy the way I am. Everyone in America that I've met loves me. And so, I think I'm going to be okay.

Have your feeling changed at all since this executive order came down? And watching the news. I mean, have your feelings changed at all about America? 

Every foreign child all over from developing countries sees America as, like, heaven. They see this place as like a land of opportunity. It has been the land of opportunity for years, and still. There's no one going to come and try to change how this is going to be. And so, my views of America has not changed. Still the same everyday. Still thankful for this. And, there's no one has, in a way, made me feel unwanted in a way recently. I have friends from all over the country, and for personally, I still see it the same way.