This is the story of Adnan

The Welcome Card is an idea born out of our investigation of the refugee and asylum seeking challenge through human-centered design, a creative design approach that focuses on the people at the center of the design challenge. Human-centered design is about building empathy with the people identified in the design question, continuing to generate plenty of ideas to transform into prototypes, which are then shared and piloted with the users of the solution. Our human-centered design approach started by giving the asylum seekers and refugees we interviewed the voice to answer one particular question: what would be the single most important improvement in your day? 

I am just waiting all day. I can’t do anything but wait.
— Adnan, Syrian Asylum Seeker

One of the first people we interviewed was Adnan, a young asylum seeker from Syria who had arrived 8 months before our interview took place. In a Swedish-English mix, he told us he wanted to become an orthodontist. When we asked him how he learnt Swedish in such a short time, he told us about his expeditions to the library in the city, where he would read children’s books to familiarize himself with the syntax and grammar. As a self-taught Swedish speaker, he said he had a hard time knowing the pronunciation and apologized several times if we didn’t understand him. Soon, he told us that his library trips came at a cost, one that Adnan had to carefully calculate before every purchase. With a 600 Swedish kronor monthly allowance, he had to evaluate what he could afford, and his choices were between a phone card (ca. 245kr per month) to stay in touch with his family in Syria, or the public transportation card (ca. 31kr per ride or 830kr for a 30-day period) to get to the library.

Inside of the refugee home, he shared a small space fitted with three bunk beds for six people, one small desk and a small TV. He was provided with three meals a day, which he could only take at the home itself using plastic spoons and forks. He tried to attend the free language courses provided by the refugee home volunteers, but these often became repetitive to accommodate the arrival of new guests in the refugee home. For this reason, Adnan commuted 45 minutes to the library, where the quiet environment made it more efficient for him to learn the language, but had to give up his meal, which he was not allowed to bring along. He also told us that one of the best way to learn for hims was watching and interacting with locals in social situations, and encouraged his roommates to do the same. However, he still commuted alone, and many of his roommates were relocated to other homes during the asylum seeking process.

When we asked Adnan what would be the single most important improvement in his day, he told us having access to public transportation to travel to the library, so he didn’t have to sacrifice part of his cash allowance for speaking with his family. His biggest hope was to be able to use the waiting time of the asylum-seeking process to learn as much of the language and society in Sweden to be ready to start his life once his immigration paperwork would be complete.


Adnan: please note that we often change the names of our asylum seekers and refugees we speak with, in order to protect their identities.