“My name is Armin Budimlic. I am originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I came to Minnesota in 1994 as a refugee with my wife and two children, 3 months old and 5 years old. We came to America as a direct result of what happened in former Yugoslavia and the war in Bosnia. Before I came here, my brother, his wife, my sister and her husband had arrived in the United States as refugees, so we were brought together to reunify our family.
“I felt great upon arriving in the U.S. because we were finally someplace where we would be safe. When we landed in Minnesota, we had probably 40 people from a local church waiting to greet us and to help us with our initial resettlement. From the airport, we were taken to an apartment that was already fully furnished with used furniture that this congregation was able to collect for us. My only question at that time was, “Is this for real or is this just for taking pictures?” Once they told me it was real, I felt great because it was much better accommodations than we had while we were refugees in Croatia.
“I think one of the biggest challenges for most refugees, including my wife and me, is learning the English language, understanding the new community and culture that we are coming into, and having to start from scratch. We came here with two bags of clothes that were mostly for our children. I had a job interview the following day but the only jobs we could find at the time were entry-level positions so all of the education that we had from back home did not translate and we needed to start over to create a new career here.
“I had a background in mechanical engineering in my home country, but in the United States I had to start from scratch and earn my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration while working full time and raising children. To me, that’s one of my biggest personal accomplishments. Another accomplishment is just being blessed with finding work and aligning my passion with the mission of the organization I work for, which is building bridges between cultures and continuing the work of many before me -- and hopefully mentoring young people into taking the lead and moving this organization beyond where we are today.”