By Alanud Salah and Latifa Salah
This is our experience with immigration and how we managed to immigrate twice – emigrating from one of the world’s poorest countries, where poverty is rampant and the severity of the war forced the migration of about 1 million Eritreans, to one of the world’s safest countries to live in – Norway.
This is our story.
We were 4 years of age with only our mother to rely on. No plans. No expectations – only hope for a safer more secure future.
We emigrated from a small town in northeast Africa: Eritrea on the Red Sea coast which shares borders with Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti. The capital of Eritrea is Asmara – known for its Italian colonial architecture such as St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Our journey from Eritrea to Norway is a story that we have only been told and cannot remember.
Emigrating from an African country to a European country was my mother’s biggest accomplishment and scariest. We went to the Nordic country part of the Scandinavian region which is known as one of the most mountainous country in Europe – a unique and scary experience.
Our first day at primary school was unforgettable. The stares, the comments and the different treatment by others made us nervous and unsure.
We attended a Norwegian class for beginners to strengthen our language and communications skills. This class supported us through our first five years at primary school until we developed our independence and the courage to interact with our classmates who we formed long lasting friendships with. This changed our view on Norway completely and improved our experience.
At the time, English was not a part of our studies – rather a subject that we avoided. We never participated in English lessons because we did not understand the value it held. This resulted in an increase of stress with friendships and the continued struggle of learning Norwegian as a second language. The English language was our worst nightmare; we were never supported with it. English lessons were based on watching English movies and shows – we had a love-hate relationship with the language as the lessons were relaxing and did not require a lot of effort, but we felt the teachers did not even put any effort into our classes.
As we grew up and transferred from primary to secondary school, English became more of a challenge that we no longer could avoid. We had mini mocks and inconsistent tests which we had little to no support in preparing for. Our only choice was to rely on dictionaries and translating apps which became even more challenging and stressful as we grew.
Let’s fast forward to year nine: most of our mini mocks started and the English content only increased. Our grades were average – not to our satisfaction. Our parents were not happy and believed we could have done better. As a result of this, they prepared us a holiday to London with the hope that listening and challenging ourselves to interact with real English speakers would improve our English language skills.
However, the holiday went very well – actually, too well… we decided to stay and move to Birmingham! We did not think of this decision too much; we just hoped for the best!
Our biggest challenge at the time was to be accepted by different schools for us to be able to stay in the English system. Moreover, because of age differences, we were not allowed to attend year ten but had to jump to year eleven (this was because of the difference between the English school systems and the Norwegian school system).
Due to our ages and our language difficulties, we got rejected from every school we applied for. Until one day, after searching and applying for different schools, we got a call from Moseley School and Sixth Form and we were accepted.
Moseley School and Sixth Form provided us with necessary support: EAL and extra lesson during break time. This was done to push us to our classmate’s level. As our English improved, we were able to communicate more effectively and to build friendships within our small EAL group. This boosted our confidence and increased our feeling of safety and belonging because of the different ethnic groups we were introduced to and the equality we experienced in Moseley School.
We took advantage of all the support we were lucky to receive and passed our GCSEs! This accomplishment encouraged us to stay at Moseley School to complete our further education in their Sixth form. We are now studying A-Level Sociology, A-Level Business and Health and Social Care.
Alanud Salah and Latifa Salah