|As a thirteen-year-old, the thought of finally moving to a new country sounded amazing. My parents were also looking forward to leaving, but were more cautious about the challenges ahead. I should have been as well.|
The first day in a new country felt strange. I woke up and went outside. I was surprised by how fast people talked and the way they seemed to take deep breaths while speaking.
It was soon time for school. I was really excited to see my new school. I had this naive idea that I would make lots of friends and have a great time. How wrong I was. Straightaway, I was singled out as the refugee kid and was soon made fun of on a daily basis. It did not help that I did not speak the language but I could still understand when I was being made fun of. You do not need language skills to realise that you are not liked. What made it worse was what was behind the jokes: all the prejudices that go with the stigma of the word "refugee".
I was determined not to let people see my despair, so I had to gather my courage and prove people wrong. However, it was hard to stay strong. Day after day my self-esteem was being eroded little by little. During my time in middle school, which lasted for three years, I always sat alone at the school canteen.
It was not easy for me to understand why all this was happening. My parents knew about my difficulties but I did not want to trouble them as I felt they had enough problems of their own to deal with. There was hardly anyone to talk to or confide in but I believe nothing lasts forever. Unfortunately, at that time, it felt like eternity.
Nowadays, I can look back at my harsh times of growing up in a foreign country and see how it has made me the much stronger person that I am today. I feel that I have overcome all those difficulties of integrating into a new society, with its new language, culture and customs. These difficulties have helped me to believe in myself and to ignore people's prejudices. I can also use my experiences as a refugee to help others understand the truth behind the issues involved and gain an insight into how it feels to be a refugee.
Due to my background, not many people even believed that I would finish high school. Having made It through university and gaining work experience have proven those people wrong. Instead of listening to others telling me how incapable I was because of being a refugee, I decided instead to set my own goals. Today, I have achieved some of them though I still have many more things I want to achieve.
I have proven that it is possible to integrate into a new society, preserve one's ethnic identity and most importantly, remain true to myself.
Adapted from "It Is Tough Growing Up As A Refugee" by Baharak Bashmani
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