Class of 2017: Meet Tanvir Hayat, Teaching English to Refugees and Exploring Peace after Conflict

Tanvir Hayat 2017

Meet members of Geneseo's Class of 2017, who exemplify the college’s commitment to community, innovation, creativity, sustainability, and excellence. Student writers are highlighting our newest alumni and the contributions they have made, the calling they have found and discoveries made along the way. Hear Tanvir's favorite Geneseo memory and also what Geneseo means to him.

For two years, Tanvir Hayat ’17, an international relations major on the war and peace studies track, has volunteered at the nonprofit organization Refugees Helping Refugees in Rochester (RHR) as an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher.

He helps them with their English for practical living skills, including how to read recipes and medicine labels, as well as basic English grammar. Tanvir also teaches refugees facts that would appear on citizenship exams, so they can eventually take the steps to become citizens.

Former Somali refugees began the program to help others get what they need and navigate whta they need to in their new life, says Tanvir, who moved to the United States when he was 5.

“I have made some really close relationships with some of the students at RHR, and it’s truly inspiring to hear their stories and to see how dedicated they are to making a better life for themselves here in America,” says Tanvir. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to see these students progressing in their studies and in adapting to life here in America, and I’m honored to be able to help them make that journey. Particularly now, when refugees have been thrust into the national spotlight, I think it is all the more important to reach out and help refugees and show them the American values of compassion and charity.

This spring, Tanvir was recognized for his service, impact on the community, personal motivation and leadership by Geneseo with a 2017 Volunteer Service Award.

He takes his service to others to heart. This January, Tanvir hopes to join the Peace Corps. He says that inspiration came largely from working with the refugees, and what’s going on around the world.

“I have really come to appreciate how important it is to help those in need. After seeing how much of a difference I made in the lives of my students, even through simple things like helping them learn a new grammar rule, or how to write a resume, I wanted to continue that work after graduating,” he says. “The Peace Corps provides the perfect opportunity to continue helping others, in places in the world where they need it the most.

He will start with some real-world experience.

With the help of Lecturer in Political Science and International Relations Jeremy Grace, Tanvir studied peacekeeping and conflict transformation at American University of Kosovo last summer. The five-week course focused on learning the skills and tools necessary to work in a post-conflict environment such as Kosovo. He worked with staff who led the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, and learned about the difficulties they faced in implementing peace and law and order in Kosovo after the war.

“Conflict happens all the time all around the world. There are some really tragic conflicts happening right now,” says Tanvir. “But eventually, all conflicts do come to an end, and when that happens, there are always people who need help getting back on their feet. I hope that through my experiences at Geneseo, studying abroad, and now with the Peace Corps, I can go on to be one of those people on the ground, after a conflict, helping those in need.

— By Alex Ciarcia '18