This study investigates the lived experiences of one unaccompanied and undocumented Afghan refugee now living in Iran, who, through parental loss, displacement, and the conditions of war, was compelled to function as an independent human being since the age of 6, and who experienced further trauma and hardships on into his adolescence and young adulthood. This research documents significant "turning points" that occurred for this participant during his pre-, mid-, and post-refuge journeys and which have contributed to shaping his identity. Nine major themes emerged in conjunction with these turning points, highlighting that a person can develop quite fully while not having opportunities for "formal education". He though learned deeply through "non-formal" and "informal" means, that is, by learning through experience. The researcher, who is from Iran, with a similar culture and background to Afghanistan, emigrated to Canada under very different circumstances. She utilized a method of thematic analysis to distinguish the dimensions and depth of the participant's lived experiences. These themes include: 1) Loss of a Parent; 2) Independence; 3) Ethnic Discrimination; 4) Distrust; 5) Zoor (external forces exerted on one's sense of identity and character); 6) Collectivity; 7) Silence and Distractions; 8) Hardship and Traumatic experiences in Childhood and Adolescence; and 9) Bazigooshihaye Koodakane (Childhood Playfulness). The commonalities and differences between participant and researcher served to compel the researcher to reflect on these themes in light of her own experiences, and to rethink and re-examine notions of " refugeeness" and "education" in particular. The theoretical and practical contributions of this research emphasize that small-scale and localized action such as this form of research, can help understand and address the existential challenges that young refugees face. Additionally, this research offers guidance to others who may seek to engage with people who have the experience of being refugees. To conduct research in this area is to attempt to grasp a deep understanding of refugees' lived experiences by taking a shared journey of seeking meaning through their stories.
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Thesis advisor: Williamson, Robert
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