When Sami Saber Bahrami started at Virginia Peninsula Community College in 2014, he was studying computer science. He switched to social science because he enjoyed it more and learned he had a knack for it.
While he’s on track to graduate in December 2023 with an associate degree in social work, he already has a job in his intended field. He’s been a linguist with the International Rescue Committee for more than three years, helping with translations.
“Eventually, I want to be in a place where I can remove the language gap for all of these newly arrived refugees/immigrants, and be a problem-solver for them,” he said.
He’s speaking from experience, as he and his family immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan, settling in Hampton in 2010, on a sponsorship from his grandfather.
Doreen Dougherty, who works in Student Services, said Bahrami is a hard worker and persistent.
“He did not realize that he was already in high demand,” she said. “Now that he has had a successful outcome as a translator, his face lights up when he talks about the experience and helping non-English speakers, and he feels successful.”
However, he is more than a translator. He also pays attention to what people are going through, seeing if they need help in other areas.
“He has become a very successful language translator working for U.S. court systems, lawyers, medical providers and assisting with immigration-related issues,” Dougherty said.
He speaks four languages in addition to English: Dari and Pashto, which are the official languages of Afghanistan, Persian and Urdu.
“It’s not hard to switch back and forth because two (Dari and Pashto) of them are my primary languages,” he said.
Bahrami, who has four brothers and one sister, is a graduate of Kecoughtan High School. His schooling won’t be done when he graduates from VPCC. He hopes to attend the University of Virginia. He’s grateful for his time at the College, even if it was difficult at times because of all the required classes.
“I learned a lot from VPCC through the process,” he said.
Dougherty says other students can learn from the example he has set, providing a roadmap to their future.
“I encourage other students to think about skills they may already have that can be marketable, used to obtain additional income while attending classes or even just continue to develop as a hobby,” she said.