The number of refugees who have fled across international borders due to conflict and persecution is at the highest level in recorded history. The vast majority of these refugees find exile in low-income countries neighboring their countries of origin. The refugee children who are resettled to North America, Europe, and Australia arrive with previous educational experiences in these countries of first asylum. This article examines these pre-resettlement educational experiences of refugee children, which to date have constituted a ‘black box’ in their post-resettlement education. Analysis is of data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, key informant interviews in 14 countries of first asylum, and ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in four countries. The article argues that contemporary conditions of conflict usefully inform conceptual understanding of refugee education globally, including the types of schools that refugees access in countries of first asylum and their rates of access. It further identifies three empirical themes that are common to the educational experiences of refugees in countries of first asylum: language barriers, teacher-centered pedagogy, and discrimination in school settings. The article examines the theoretical and practical relevance of these pre-resettlement educational experiences for post-resettlement education of refugee children.