Seeking Refuge and Finding a Home in France

The Journey of Karam, From Darfur to L’Oréal

Karam is an intern at L’Oréal. He is also a refugee from Sudan. Born in Darfur, a region filled with conflict, war, and genocide for over 10 years, Karam was forced to leave his family and the place he called home. In 2015, Karam arrived in France. Determined to make a better life for himself, he immersed himself into the French culture; learning the language, building a network, studying, and finally creating an association to help other refugees settle into their new home. Through hard work, perseverance and hope, Karam tells us his story.

Hello Karam, why did you come to France?

When you are a refugee, you don’t leave your home by choice. Home is home. It’s tough, it’s against your will, but you have to if you want to survive. When we get here we start from scratch again, get the papers, it’s a real fight then, learn a new language we never knew, then have new friends, find our place, and find a job. All this is very hard and arduous, it takes a lot of resilience, a lot of courage and indeed support from people.

Indeed here in France, now I feel at home much more than in Sudan by the respect of people and the way they have encouraged me since my arrival.

What helped you integrate into France?

First of all, it was a challenge to learn this language. I studied alone for 6 months, I did not go out at all from home, my goal was to be able to speak this language and go back to university. I guess for me, I fell in love with this wonderful language, and I still am in love with it. I love the pronunciation and the musical notes when someone speaks in French, and I think I loved the language also because of some of the people that I met along the way. I will never forget those beautiful people who have helped me, I owe a lot to them. I want to say to them ‘thank you very much’.

I always think back to the first sentence I heard… “Je suis désolé”. It means “I’m sorry”, and I kept saying it for days and I thought, what a beautiful short sentence. I think that learning the language in a host country is crucial because it is just the key to success, and integration is done first through language.

You’ve also founded a non-profit here. Why?

The first place I arrived in France was in a Northern City called Calais. When I was there I was very touched by the helpers and the presence of the volunteers, since I adored the association and their values which in essence was “when we receive we should give too”.

Moreover, in 2016, I visited my oldest brother who settled in Norway after fleeing Darfur. I saw the integration of the refugees there and the motivation of the refugees to learn the language and to make trainings, to learn a trade etc. It motivated me a lot to create the same atmosphere in my new home, France.

It is called “La Voix des réfugiés” [The Voice of Refugees] and we give French lessons 4 days per week thanks to our volunteers.

How did you arrive at L’Oréal?

At the time I applied for the internship at L’Oréal, I was finishing my studies in France. Formally, I applied with the ‘Interngration’ programme at L’Oréal which is a program designed to help integrate refugees into the working society in France. I was at a point where my French language skills had advanced to a level where the integration team advised me to apply for a six-month internship at L’Oréal. After a couple of interviews with HR and the hiring manager, I was selected for the internship. I was really happy and delighted to join this company.

Karam and his team at L’Oréal

What is your role on your team?

What would you make feel proud out of this experience here?

So I will be happy and proud if some of the young leaders from L’Oréal going to One Young World this year come with a real desire of changing the world and are engaged and motivated. It’s also an opportunity to meet different people, and it is a great moment to talk about sustainability and issues like poverty education.

And if they can imagine other projects like Interngration in their country and in the company, I would be very happy.

Do you have recommendations for other refugees?

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