Methods: Twenty-one in-depth, semi-structured interviews (60-90 minutes) were conducted with adults (ages 27-70; x̄ = 41.46) that had refugee (n=12) and asylum (n=9) status. Participants were recruited using a convenience sampling technique via posted and distributed fliers. Interviews were conducted in English, transcribed verbatim, and double-coded by four trained qualitative analysts using NVivo software and guided by an inductive approach. The sample predominately self-identified as cisgender male (62%) and originated from 13 countries. Most participants had a four-year university degree or higher (52%) and were in the United States for a median of eight years (range: 2 months-68 years).
Findings: Participants discussed difficulty in finding individuals they could converse with due to language barriers and turn to for assistance, indicating perceived loneliness and low levels of social support, in ethnically discordant communities. Participants sought out ethnic enclaves when possible and relied on co-ethnic resources, including markets and places of worship, to further adaptation processes, thereby highlighting self-determination and coping skills. While this sample did not prioritize the need for cultural connection over safety, research regarding secondary migration, that is relocating from the original location of resettlement, indicates that some refugees out-migrate in order to live with other refugees within their own networks, which usually share ethnic, cultural, and/or language similarities (Bloem & Loveridge, 2017). Furthermore, similar to previous research findings (Weng and Lee 2016), participants shared similar sentiments in that connecting with other migrants offers them the opportunity uphold their own cultural values.
Conclusions & Implications: Our results provide formative data for social workers and community agencies working with refugees to assess community environment in resettlement experiences. Given the expertise of social workers to refer clients to necessary services, there may be benefit to understanding the role of matching refugees with ethnically-concordant families and organizations in their lives as possible resources to protect against social and mental health consequences. Finally, findings from this research can also inform refugee resettlement policies for both future service provision and integration needs.