This publication was compiled by: Mila Josifovska With the support of Elena Ceban Michael George Broad This publication was compiled as part of the project YOU ARE WELCOME: European network for integration of refugees at local level and combating hate speech Graphics: Freepik.com Pngtree.com
This publication reflects the views of the creators of this product. The European Commission cannot be held responsible for any of the information contained in the publication. 1
We are very happy that this little collection of stories has reached you and we hope that by reading them, you will start reflecting on your own life and your background. We understand that this topic can become very emotional for some, but these brave people decided to share their stories with us so that we learn from their experience and the mistakes (not) made. Read carefully through their fortunate or not so fortunate â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;adventuresâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and pay close attention to their advice. They might come in handy to you in the future.
Enjoy the reading. Center for Intercultural Dialogue
About the project………………………………………………………………….………..4 Executive summary…………………………………………………………………………6 Stories of migration………………………………………………………………….……10 “Shegs in Netherlands”…………………………………………………………..10 “Take a chance on it”..…………………………………………….……………..11 “Little girl (no more)” ……………………………………………………………12 “The restless wanda(rer)” ……………………………………………….………14 “Do the pro’s outweigh the con’s?” ……………….……………………..…15 “Rupi” …………………………………………………………………………………16 “The orange wallet” ………………………………………………………………18 “A (different) love triangle”……………………………………….……………21 “Happiness depends on us” ……………………………………………………22 “A better life?” ……………………………………………………….……………..23 “Job opportunity gone wrong” ………………………………….…….………24 “Teaching English” ………………………………………………………….……25 “One day” ……………………………………………………………………………26 “The wanderer” …….…………………………………………………………..…27 “Migration – It was all worth it!” ………………………………………...…28 “Alice’s ups and downs” …………………………………………..……………29 “Maggie in Netherlands” …………………………………………………….…30 “Status quo” ……………………………………………………….…………..……32 “A Seoul adventure” ……………………………………………………….….…34 3
YOU ARE WELCOME: European network for integration of refugees at local level and combating hate speech : European Commission, Europe for Citizens programme
: 01.01.2017 – 31.12.2018 : Jugend-& Kulturprojekt e.V. (Germany), Landeshauptstadt (Germany), Memorare Pacem (Germany), Glaser Jakab Emlekalapitvany (Hungary), Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council (UK), AddArt (Greece), Otherness project (Denmark), Center for Intercultural Dialogue (F.Y.R. Macedonia), Institut pro regionaini rozvoj, o.p.s. (Czech Republic), Aristotle University (Greece) and A.D.E.L. (Slovakia)
: WELCOME arose from identification of the dangers of xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination arising in Europe, and brings together 10 countries and 13 partners committed to support migrant and refugee integration, community development and promoting evidence– based policy making around migration. The aim of WELCOME is to deconstruct the process of migrants’ stigmatization, help communities involved overcome stereotypes and develop counter narratives for more accurate perceptions of migrants and refugees stemming in participating countries, especially in the UK, Central Europe and countries along the Balkan-route.
Through project activities, in the “How we view each other” research phase, the project assessed how hate speech and propaganda arose on fertile ground of economic and security fears in selected communities, and how they contribute to radicalized behaviors both from the indigenous communities and new arrivals. Then, working with representatives of the most affected communities (including third-country nationals legally residing in the EU) during the “Otherness dialogue” workshop, we adapted the workshop content and give them skills to record educational videos and conduct “You and I - we are not so different” workshops, and encourage dissemination of learning through social action. Finally, at the final conference, we will strengthen the foundations for continued intercultural dialogue and increase of mutual understanding. The legacy of WELCOME will be a European transnational network of young activists, emerging leaders in their organizations, communities, municipalities, with ambitions to actively combat stigmatization of ´immigrants´ and build counter narratives to hatespeech. It will provide tools like the educational videos and a guidebook to foster intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and civic participation of third-country nationals, to continue beyond the life of the project, and to connect a wider European community. Website: https://youarewelcomeproject.wordpress.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/You.Are.Welcome.EU
The collection of stories is compiled out of 19 unique segments of people’s lives. The stories were shared with us anonymously through the online campaign Stories of migration and they are all written under a pseudonym, accompanied by the real age of the confessor. For esthetic reasons and editing, these stories were minimally altered so that it is easier for the reader to experience them. This document has compiled, synthesized and analyzed stories of migrants, inflowing and outflowing from F.Y.R. Macedonia, into key themes. The purpose of this is to give an overview of the data and the emerging trends for future research, project writing and policy analysis. Key themes discovered include:
Migration for better opportunity Return to home country for security and culture Difficulty in gaining residency due to migrant country complex immigration system War and leaving for safety
Almost all respondents noted that migration’s main purpose was for better opportunity: either for economic or cultural gain. These motives drive people to seek either a short-term experience in another country, or a long-term experience to seek a permanent, as one respondent notes, ‘better life’ from a society that differs from their own. Although this is a common theme, there are different reasons which intersect across the discussed themes, including war, discrimination in home country, educational experience. There are diverse barriers in achieving this; including high fees to emigrate and cultural obstacles, such as language. Some respondents noted that a main difficulty in their journey was getting access to public services; with societies varying dependent on private provision of healthcare, or public provision but exclusion based on citizenship. The latter is difficult to overcome, due to access to services necessitating paying taxes, but immigration systems, in some countries being more bureaucratic than others, preventing this. This isn’t included to just West – East migration, but one respondent, a Westerner, noted this barrier when attempting to migrate to an ‘Eastern “developing” country’.
Although a large part of respondents left their own country to gain a wider cultural perspective, missing one’s home culture, or having obligation ties, such as family, urged some respondents to return to their place of birth. Some respondents expressed regret, noting they left behind a life and had a more ‘rose tinted’ perspective on their home country after leaving – returning to disappointment. Some respondents, one, who did not share their own story but a friend’s, noted that migration also impacted family ties for some generations due to this – particularly salient in war contexts. Financial capacities and the limitations of permanent working in ‘migrant countries’ also necessitated a return to their country of worth; it seems the seeking for ‘financial opportunity’ is time restricted – once nonresident work visas run out, it is difficult for a respondent, coming particularly from an Eastern country and migration to the West, to be able to experience this for the long term. Discrimination may also be a factor in returning home, ‘not playing it safe’ appears to be a time lapsed phenomenon, before a respondent may find comfort in returning to their home country. Language factors also present a barrier to this type of long term, work migration.
Many respondents, particularly migrating to countries outside the European Union, tended to experience more complex immigration systems. This, due to either bureaucracy, discrimination based on their home country or a lack of host company support, made it infeasible or time restrictive to obtain a residency, long term work permit in the country that they had migrated to. Many people also migrated for the purposes of expanding their educational horizons outside their home country. In terms of work, this presents challenges as countries vary in their difficulty to obtain work permits after study. Similarly, respondents, after experiencing this education, may not desire to work in a foreign country post-graduation.
This theme, typically, due to the respondent base, emerging from those who emigrated due to Yugoslavia wars, tends to be a key push factor for the older generations (our data lacks participants from current crises) to migrate. This is not typically for economic gain, but for safety. This type of migration comes with a sense of survivorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s guilt â&#x20AC;&#x201C; with respondents leaving behind parts of their life in the country where conflict pushed them to leave. These participants had to balance the cultural, linguistic and economic barriers of migrating to a new country, alongside experiencing traumatic mental health episodes over the long term, due to the conflict experienced. 9
I am a 30 year-old Macedonian guy, living in Skopje. The main reason behind my migration was the financial capacity and the opportunity for building myself on a personal and professional level. The decision to make this big step in my life was very easy since the country where I was going offered much better opportunities than where I was coming from. In the beginning I was very lonely since I went there all by myself and getting around was a bit of an obstacle, but that was only in the first months. My neighbors and new coworkers were very friendly and they were there for me in times of hardship. After two and a half years in Netherlands, I am now back in Macedonia and I believe that in that time the decision I brought was the right one because it helped me build myself as a person. For those who plan to make this step in their life and to move out of their country, I encourage them to do it and try to find themselves in a different setting â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a setting where they feel more comfortable. Moving away is a very good lesson for the future and a very good experience that will help you find yourself.
The country’s poverty was the main reason behind my migration. I brought this decision over night because I couldn’t take it anymore. The financial situation was such that I just had to leave. Here I was very well accepted, probably because of my good spirits and openness. I felt like I’ve been living there since forever. I am now still in Malta and I absolutely think that this was the right decision for me. A message to all those thinking about taking such a step – take a chance on it. Go to the first place where you have the opportunity to go. Anywhere is better than in Macedonia. Sad, but true.
I am just a girl from Macedonia, writing to share with you my story. I have never before lived abroad and besides wanting to escape from the routine that I was stuck in, I really wanted to get a new experience and try something new. This is why I decided to go to America to work and to explore it. People told me that it’s also good for improving your accent since I was an English language and literature major, but it turned out that I completely adapted my mindset and lost my British accent. At least I sound less arrogant now (or so I’ve been told). This was my first work experience and the first time boarding a plane. I embarked on this journey without much thought in it and up until the day I got on the plane, I did not have the feeling that I am going on a different continent. My parents were confused to see that their ‘little’ girl who always played it safe, suddenly decided to fly across the ocean and leave home for 4 months. My mom tried the emotional ‘blackmail’, but I stood firmly behind my decision.
When I went there, the obstacles, or the barriers that I had were mostly in my mindset and the prejudice I had towards the mentality there, which turned out to be just a lot of TV watching. People there saw me as exotic since I came from Europe, and were very intrigued by what I had to say. They were very friendly and it was very easy for me to communicate with them, unlike the person I came with, with whom we ended up not communicating anymore because of unsupported jealousy from their side. I felt accepted, except by some individuals who have mistaken me for one of them saying ‘Oh, dear. The foreigners are going to leave soon and there will be more work for you, my dear’, or just simply ‘Bloody foreigners’. I am now back at home with a bucketful of memories and experiences, more mature than ever, planning to move to another country very soon. For those who are planning to try living abroad, I’d say do it. Even a bad experience is a life lesson, so embrace the new adventures and get out of your comfort zones.
I am a Moldovan girl who lives in Macedonia, coming here with the sole purpose of volunteering and discovering the world. I was 18 when I made the decision to study abroad in the first place; even then I knew I would not go back. As for obstacles I encountered in Macedonia... Oh, there are many. Starting from a lot of paperwork, to visas needed, to being discriminated at the border for being a citizen of another country/being a non-EU citizen, not having proper access to healthcare, etc. Yet, on the other hand I felt very accepted here, which is the reason why I stayed for about 4 years. People here are curious about foreigners, maybe because we are so few, so I feel like a welcomed guest. I am still in Macedonia now but I will probably migrate again soon. Life is too short to live it in one country only. ď &#x160; A small note for those who are planning to go for this kind of adventure soon is - Go for it, and be open to new beginnings.
This is the story of one of my friends. The situation at the time with the country (politics and stuff), plus knowing the actual paycheck they could get with moving abroad was the real reason behind their migration. From what I know, it took them a while to decide to do this, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s usually one event whether it be a personal one or something to do with the country, to make a person start applying for new jobs abroad. Coming from a non EU country, getting a visa is a bit harder, and of course separating from the loved ones was one of the things that were the downsides in this whole process. As they have told me, people there were all friendly and welcoming for the extra brain/hands to help the business. They are still there and I think that for them, this was the right step. I mean, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s never too late to risk it. I would maybe do the same, some day. But what you always need to make is the big pro/cons list. At the moment, for me there are more pros of me staying in the country, but I am revisiting it every once in a while.
Read very carefully the story that I’m about to tell you. I am a 50 year-old Macedonian, still living in my country, but this is not my story. Or at least, it’s not me who experienced the migration. She was stuck in between borders, coming back from vacation, when war started in her country. She had to stay in the country she found herself in because she could not get into the neighbouring country because that country was in war with hers. This was around the time when Yugoslavia took some time to fall apart. In a way, this big step was not her choice to begin with. Since she didn't really move but was hosted by a family which was nothing illegal, and luckily the language was quite similar, the only obstacle that she found was her disturbed state of mind. She was disturbed, sad, not knowing what would happen to her if she tried to cross the border and enter the war zone so she had no choice but stay where she was, and the fact that there was nothing she could do was an obstacle on its own. As far as I remember, she felt accepted. She said she was very pleased to have found a family in such a difficult situation. She was really emotionally attached to the little girl of the family that hosted her and she left her the only thing of value she had with her as a memento and a sign of gratitude - a small orange wallet. It was not much, but it was all she had, and as she said – ‘The smile that the bright coloured gift put on the girls’ face was a priceless memory.’
I lost touch with her. We lost touch with her. She managed to go back home and was well at the time. We even received postcards for Christmas, but eventually the postcards stopped and she probably put all of those terrible and lovely memories in the back of her mind. The little girl, which happens to be my daughter, still remembers her although she is not really certain of what exactly she remembers. Migration is a very tricky thing, but it's usually a product of no other way out. Whether you have economic, social or other kinds of obstacles, my advice for you is to always think deep and consider all of your options, but always, and I mean ALWAYS, have a plan B. I myself am aware that things aren't always ideal in our lives and we are all looking for a better future, so if you want people to accept you, wherever you go, you must start by accepting them the way they are.
This is my story. I am a 30 year-old Welshman, currently stuck in a triangle between Wales, Estonia and Macedonia. The main reasons for my migration were love and escape. About my first migration (moving to Macedonia), I did not think, I just wanted to leave. I found a way and I left. The second time I took a look at the life I had built in Macedonia and found it very hard to leave. However there was very little support or want by both my employer, the nation and those around me for me to be anything more than a 'volunteer'. The girl I loved lived in Estonia and the nation held far for prospects for me to develop and be appreciated, hence, the second migration. As a white male I have a certain amount of privilege that removes several obstacles so my main obstacles include language barriers which were hard to overcome as well as cultural norms. Macedonia is a far more conservative country to Wales so our care free attitude pretty much doesn't go down too well. We also don't really respect authority in the workplace which is hard for Balkan cultures to comprehend. Girlfriends were by far the hardest - Macedonian girls are maybe not as open as in Wales about what they are doing with their friends and family, but I still cannot talk about the Albanian girlfriends I have had due to the culture. This kind of culture was impossible for me to accept as where I am from, a girl is free to date whom she wants. I mean the main obstacle in Macedonia was that I wanted official employment, I did my time for 6 years as a volunteer and I wanted to be part of the state, pay my taxes, contribute and be a productive member of society. State laws made this almost impossible and the lack of will from my employer to pursue the option only increased the issue. Other obstacles have been a nightmare too such as bureaucracy and 18
nobody actually truly knowing how the immigration system works. However, after 6 years most of the obstacles became the norm and you get used to them. However, I will always hate Macedonian banks. Those places suck. Estonia has been pretty easy for day to day life, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a very cold country compared to Wales and Macedonia (I mean like emotionally). Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pretty hard to break the ice here and make friends so this is the main obstacle for me. Oh, and the lack of mountains.
I was accepted by many, and disregarded by many. Each citizen is different so it is hard to say, but I integrated with the Macedonian culture much more than the others in the nation, I guess because both cultures enjoy a good party and a drink. A lot of people saw me as a rich Westerner (which would have been nice if true), but ‘Alas’ for them I was just a poor Westerner. Some people accept you as a friend, but would never accept you into their family for example and others would accept you into all aspects of their lives. If you are asking me if I felt Macedonian, not fully, but did I feel like a Welsh-Macedonian, yes. As for Estonia, I still feel like a tourist and I think that it will take a long time for me to feel integrated. I'm in Estonia now. I still rent a place in Macedonia and will be there for the summer to October. After that I will most likely close that chapter for good. After 6.5 years there is still no opportunity to develop there and that was not just due to the state. The nature of my work means it is possible to justify employment, if the enthusiasm for a qualified youth worker is there. I love my time in Macedonia and it is just as important to me as Wales. However, my love is in Estonia and I have committed to build a life here. I can legally be employed here, pay my taxes, contribute and be human. At 30 a man has to settle, build a home and move on, one can't live like a volunteer forever. I have no family to rely on or go back to in Wales. They have their own lives, and I have no security in Macedonia. Macedonia was the right choice at the time, as Estonia is now. I mean each persons’ reasons are different depending on the context of their situation, so it’s almost impossible to give advice in this situation. All I can say is trust your gut, be open and look after yourself.
The story I’m about to tell you is the story of a 26-year-old girl from Macedonia – me. I migrated out of Macedonia because of education mainly and it was rather easy for me to make this decision. I sometimes felt accepted by the community out there, now more than before. The thing that really became an obstacle for me was being in a new country, administrational procedures, living with other people, the multiethnic community… I am now in Macedonia and I advise every person to try and live somewhere else. Life starts at the end of your comfort zone.
Searching for better living conditions, I decided to leave Macedonia and move abroad. I had already lost my mother and a job, the conflict that happened in my country was over but left damages, so I had nothing more to lose. The language was a difficult thing for me that stopped me from interacting properly and integrating, as well as the different perceptions of things that the Americans had. Where I lived, pinching a little girl’s cheek is because we find her very sweet and as people would say ‘She’s so sweet, you could eat her as candy’, whereas in America that is simply seen as sexual harassment. I was accepted by the people there only because I worked extensively to prove myself. I am now back home, and whether coming back is a good decision – only time will tell. I’d say that one has to go abroad and decide for themselves where they will be. Happiness is not the place we choose, but in ourselves. Whether we will be happy or not, that’s a thing that depends on us only.
This is my father’s story. Ever since he left his father, he rented an apartment. My sister was only 1 and it was very difficult to live on one pay check, so he decided that it’s time to go abroad and try his luck. In a way, he migrated because of a better life and for ensuring an existence for his family. There, he had to learn the language, do some requalification for the job position and it was the separation from his family that was the most difficult for him. I think he felt accepted, but he came back from Austria because life in Yugoslavia was better back then. And he also missed his parents, his family… He says that if he knew back then what he knows now, he never would’ve come back, because soon after he came back, he got a second child and his parents died, Yugoslavia was falling apart and he was not used to living with us – his own family. I guess everyone needs to try living abroad, once in their life. What they decide to do after is completely their choice.
I went to Greece to work on a tangerine plantation with my husband, because my sister-in-law told me that her fiend can easily find us jobs there. There were no job opportunities in Macedonia for me and my husband because we did not belong to any political party. We were almost 2 years unemployed and we decided to give it a try. When we got there, instead of the promised job, we were taken to a pimp (a person who controls prostitutes and arranges clients for them, taking a percentage of their earnings in return) and we were advertised by them, thinking that we would not understand what was going on. This was a terrible experience for us and we are happy to be home. My only piece of advice for you is that you need to be precautious because there are many fraudsters. Share your experience so that others donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t fall in the same mess as you.
I decided to become a volunteer in Macedonia to teach English. I taught English in South Korea for one year and I really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to teach in Macedonia because I have never been to Europe before. I had no problem getting into Macedonia because my organization did all the paperwork to make arrangements for a valid visa to live and volunteer in Macedonia. I felt accepted here because (mostly) everyone has been so kind and hospitable towards me during my time in the country. I also feel that ethnicity is an important part of identity in Macedonia so, although I can speak the language and so many people are very kind, I am and will always be seen as an American. I am still currently living and volunteering in Macedonia and I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t regret coming here. I have grown personally and professionally during my time here and I am grateful for my personal experience in Macedonia. I think that migration is a big step, especially if you plan for it to be permanent. It requires a lot of sacrifice and courage and I will always admire those who choose to do so. Leaving oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own country to pursue a (permanent) life in a foreign country is both challenging and rewarding.
This is the story of my friend. She was beaten by her husband and this is why she decided to leave the country. She reported him a couple of times in the police in Macedonia, but nothing happened. One day, she packed all of her things and left. She went to her relatives, my friends, in Netherlands. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ok here. She is learning the language and cleans houses for a living, but at least she can provide for herself. When you live in a country that does not have any mechanisms to provide help for victims such as this one, this is the only way out. She has still not been granted the request for an asylum, but it is in process. From the Immigration Offices they have confirmed that there might be slight problems in processing her request, but we hope that they will understand the position she is in and that they will approve her asylum status. I think that people in the Netherlands are more open and willing to help. They really appreciate it when you start learning their language right in the beginning. My friend still has some difficulties, but still, her situation was much better than before. She did the right thing when she decided to move, and all of us support her fully. I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s very important for people to see where they have relatives and friends, and to prepare well before leaving so that you do not think of going back and integrate better.
This is my personal story. I am a 25year-old wanderer from Macedonia. The reason why I migrated was the lust for adventures and discovering myself. Traveling is a major part of my life, and the lust for new adventures led me towards taking the next step and living in a different place for a month. The adaptation to the new environment and making friends with locals was a bit challenging, because I wanted to breathe the local air and not be the lost tourist on the streets of Lisbon. Everything else was alright, although there were some times when I felt lonely and a little bit neglected, especially because of the language barrier. I am now in my hometown and plan to do the same thing again, but this time on a longer period. I encourage other people to not be afraid from the unknown because that is where the moments that make us develop ourselves hide.
Hi! I’m Marko. I’m 29 years old and the story that you’re about to read is mine. I went abroad because I got a well-paid job there and the wages as well as the opportunities to improve yourself in Macedonia are quite low. I applied for several job positions and I finally got a job offer where for 1 month of working I would receive the same amount as working for 1 year in Macedonia. I waited a long time for a visa and a working permit, and after that I had to wait even longer until I got my ID, but honestly – it was all worth it. I am learning the language and we speak English in my workplace, but I still spend my time mostly with people from ex-Yugoslavia. I am now still in Germany where I live permanently and I see this as the best decision in my life and I have absolutely no regrets. I am telling you – just check the opportunities, apply for a job and discover the world. Being born in one country doesn’t mean that you will have to spend all of your life in it.
My economic situation, the perceived quality of life in my country and the lack of opportunities for career and educational progress were my main motivations for bringing this decision in my life. The opportunity that arose for continuing my studies abroad came as an opportunity for me to build myself on a personal and professional level, out of Macedonia. I was aware that I could not fully fulfil my potential in my homeland or more specifically, that it could not provide me with the support to continue my personal and professional growth. I am still abroad – Netherlands, and I still see this as a good decision. I can’t really say that things went smoothly for me because there were obstacles such as administrational processes with the visa and similar documents, the finances because I had to self-finance my studies, logistics because I had to find accommodation in a country whose system is completely unknown for me and of course, the emotional obstacle of physical detachment from my immediate family and my partner. In a professional context I felt quite accepted as I think that I contribute to achieving the goal of the company by executing my tasks with high quality, and on a private note, I see the Netherlands as a very diverse country whose people value the cultural diversity. I mean, if you’re thinking about moving away, you’re already half way there. Get the courage and try to test it out, to see if living abroad is the right thing for you.
My story as a girl who joined the Work and Travel program for students started as out of personal reasons â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the lack of money for university fees. I was just finishing my first year of acting studies and I wanted to be independent, to pay for my own rent and studies. I knew I would never do it in Skopje as a waitress or something, so I decided to do what was very popular back then - I applied for the Work and Travel program in hope that I would realize my goals. Although this program is designed to be a fun and wonderful experience for the students, for me it was a bit different. I went with a friend and we were the only two students and foreign people in the place where we were working. The locals there have never experienced working with foreign employees before, and the issues started on the very first night. Although we had a contract that included housing, when we arrived there was nobody waiting for us and nobody took us to the place where we were supposed to stay. We didn't know what to do, so we took a taxi and we went to the fast-food restaurant (from our contract). We were lucky that they had 24/7 drive-thru because it was 2:00 AM. From there we were sent to a hotel and we had to pay for our stay despite the fact that we were supposed to have an apartment booked from our agency. We had just arrived in the USA and we were about to become homeless because we didn't have the housing from our contract. Nothing changed the next day. We stayed in the hotel for 2 weeks and we spent all of our money, plus some more that our parents sent. The agency only apologized to us because our housing was canceled in the last minute. They were lucky that we were so young and we didn't realize that we could beat them in the court room. And that was just the first issue we had. 30
We felt like we were accepted from the people that we worked with and lived with. Since USA is the place where a lot of people go, migrate, travel and work, their citizens are not closed and do accept diversities. I even improved my job position because of my skills and I was asked to become the shift manager regardless of the fact that I am not American. To tell you the truth, that would hardly ever happen here. Also, the girl that helped us the most with our housing was an American woman that invited us to share a room in her family house. We were part of that family for almost two months. I am back at home now and I believe that was one of the biggest experiences in my life. I would do it again and I would not change a thing. I think that all of the issues and situations we had to deal with made me the person I am today. It was a huge experience for a 20 yearold girl to be alone at the end of the world without anybody but a single friend and with so many life-changing challenges. I knew I would be a different person after that trip. I think everybody, especially every young person has to travel, to experience new cultures and to try to live alone for a while. It is a lifechanging experience and something that a person has to do in order to grow up and to finish the family-separation process that is a little bit difficult for the young people in the Balkans.
Dear reader, My name is Alexandra and I want to share my story with you. The will to learn something new is the basic thing why people (according to me) migrate. More specifically, in my case, the lust to learn, discover new countries, new traditions, as well as the possibility to develop myself on a personal level, have been the main reasons why I decided to move out. It was much easier for me to bring this decision because I am a youth worker who shares the same vision for a better future of young people, and the mobility that I experienced was at the same level. Of course, there were other reasons for my re-allocation, such as no space for self-development in my country, experiencing the transition period of the country and no opportunities for any kind of prosperity, political intrigues and an abundance of irregularities within the system that just encourages the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;brain drainâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.
In general, I had no obstacles in the way of a cultural shock, just the understanding of a different system in Wales. I, myself have been attending international seminars, youth exchanges and training courses since the age of 11, which one could say that is possibly an additional reason why I am also prone to migration. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve quite had a problem with adapting in my country and re-adjusting to the system of my homeland when I came back.
In Wales, I felt accepted. Generally, I felt accepted regardless of where I travelled although most often the people would not know where my country was, which is where my cultural knowledge came in handy and I was able to explain all the geographical and historic surroundings, the customs and all the little things that make my little country unique, which also brought us with the outcome of them visiting it. ď &#x160; I would say that the right step for you is the one you do in the present. I am back in my country now and am at status quo, but am planning to migrate soon again. I think that everyone should follow the possibilities that are given to them and migration should not be seen as a very scary thing. Just follow your dream, consult with your mind and heart and then bring your decision. Migration does not have to be abroad, but can also be within the country, and that way you can feel closer to home but also can come back home whenever you want.
At the moment I’m in Seoul, South Korea, attending an intensive Korean language course, traveling and writing my next novel. I don’t know exactly when and how I got the desire to come here, but I’ve been planning to visit it for years now. Besides, South Korea is a great place and from here I can afford to discover the part of the world that I have not had the opportunity and always had the desire to visit. I am truly sorry that I will not stay here longer than the end of the summer. I didn’t have any specific expectation except feel wonderful when I get to South Korea, and that is exactly what happened. With time, as I started noticing all of the things that were happening around me, I kept realizing that I am in a completely different surrounding than the one I come from, but still, those were not the things that I needed to adjust to but solely more perspectives that I needed to acknowledge on how this society functions. This is one amazing experience and a true vacation from reality. At the beginning, I had a couple of culture shocks such as waiting in line for all sorts of things (the bus, the metro, the restaurant, or anywhere) where no one is trying to cut in line and it seems as if nobody is ever in a rush. Also – the metro. The Korean metro has seats which are labeled for the elderly, pregnant women and the handicapped, but regardless of how full the metro is, those are always empty. Even if there is no one that belongs to those categories, it’s funny how the Koreans have seriously perceived that division and not only do they not occupy that space, but they also strongly condemn those who sit there. Without any generalization intended, all foreigners have at some point felt the judgmental look on their skin because they did something that was culturally and socially unacceptable (until someone actually tells them what they are doing wrong). 34
And most importantly, I am in an incredibly safe country where there are 10.000.000 citizens, but the crime level is at a minimum level. That was extremely strange to me because I saw people leaving their laptops, phones and wallets unattended and walk around with open purses. Now I got used to it and I’ve nowhere in my life felt any safer than I do here. Although I very much miss the Macedonian cuisine, I am enjoying the Korean cuisine and I really got used to the spicy food and lack of salt, which I had some problems with in the beginning. Oh, and one more shocking thing for me was that here, people eat the potatoes with sugar and honey. And to make things even weirder, kids LOVE tomatoes with sugar sprinkled on top. For those who plan on migrating or living abroad for some time, I’d say: Think things through, and then bring the decision that you see as the right one.
This collection of stories is compiled out of 19 unique segments of people’s lives. The stories were shared with us anonymously through the online campaign ´Stories of migration´ and they are all written under a pseudonym, accompanied by the real age of the author. For esthetic reasons and editing, these stories were minimally altered so that it is easier for the reader to experience them. The collection is part of the project YOU ARE WELCOME: European network
for integration of refugees at local level and combating hate speech.