A group of University of Maryland students met with Afghan refugees Friday to clean up a creek in Riverdale.
As they cleaned together, the refugees shared their stories with the international studies students.
"I think these will be my great future friends," Muhammad Bilal Wali, an Afghan refugee, said.
Wali came to the U.S. 16 months ago. He said his father fled to protect their family.
"The situation was very worse and my father was working for international community so his life was in threat," Wali said. "My father applied for SIV and, fortunately, we came here to the United States."
He said it's hard for him to watch the news and see what's become of Afghanistan as the Taliban takes control.
"A lot of [lives] are in danger," he said.
Now, Wali is learning to live in safe spaces.
His experiences served as a lesson for the UMD students.
"If you ignore some of the politics around it, the baseline is that they are people who are just, like, they are our age who have been displaced and they need a home and they have all these hopes and dreams of what they want to do. Just like us," UMD student Jessica Ye said.
"Having the students take away both the sense of the human community, but also the diversity that we share, is kind of the goal," said Stacy Kosko with the UMD College Park Scholars International Studies Program.
Wali is a high school junior and wants to go to Harvard.
"I just heard America was the land of the opportunity. Now, I believe that America is the land of opportunity," he said.