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This student's new home feels safe but unfamiliar as he navigates life as a refugee

The 16-year-old travels an hour to school each way on public transit.

DENVER — Mayco Caal Osorio answered these interview questions in Spanish. A 9NEWS translator interpreted them for this article.

When Mayco Caal Osorio got to the United States in April 2022, everything was unfamiliar. The town he lived in in Guatemala had around 200 families, and few cars.

Denver, Colorado, is different.

“In Guatemala, I only had to walk 10 minutes and I was at school,” said Osorio.

The 16-year-old now takes a bus, transfers to the train, and then walks about 15 minutes to South High School.

On a Friday morning in February when we spoke with him, it was 12 degrees and Mayco shivered as he waited for the 83L bus in Aurora.

When I arrived, I didn’t know anything [English], but I am learning now,” he said. “You learn things little by little."

Osorio has two stops before he transfers at the Nine Mile train station.

He came to Colorado last year with his parents, his brother and sister-in-law and their two-year-old son.

His mother, Margarita, was an activist, who spoke out against companies polluting their river, and worked to help domestic violence victims.

“We came to the United States because they threatened us,” said Osorio as he walked to the train platform. “Mainly my mom was threatened by the mayor. And they shot as us, along with my brother.”

Because of that persecution, the family obtained refugee status in the U.S.

Osorio feels safe here, but it’s still unfamiliar.

Volunteers from a refugee resettlement agency helped him navigate the transit system.

“I put in all this effort to get to school to learn English, learn new things, and hopefully one day to graduate,” said Osorio. “I would like to study something in medicine.”

Once he gets on the train, Osorio said he can relax. It’s five stops until the University of Denver stop.

“These are my friends,” he said, as he pulled up a photo of two other students on his phone.

One is from Guatemala, and the other from Afghanistan.

“They come from different countries like me, and we kind of understand each other in that way,” he said. “I talk to them about everything going on in my life.”

All that’s left to get to South High School is a 15-minute walk.

Osorio's first class is math.

It’s his favorite because it’s the same in all languages.

As Osorio walks inside the doors, he sings “llegamos, llegamos” softly to himself.

“We’ve arrived, We’ve arrived,” he said.

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