I met my husband at the airport in Dubai while I was travelling for work. We stayed in touch, and soon our friendship developed into a long-distance relationship. Three months later, he came from Australia to visit me in Morocco. And after two years, we got married!
I had a good life in Morocco, with great friends, a close family, and a job I loved as a marketing manager with Lavazza. It was a bit tough to leave all that, so I agreed to try living in Australia on a trial basis for one year only.
When I arrived, I could only speak very basic English which I had learned from a British teacher on YouTube and, because the Australian accent was so different, I really struggled to understand. Luckily, one day I saw a sign for free English classes run at the local church by Mission Australia, and I started to go there every Monday for a few hours.
Then my mother-in-law found out about the Adult Migrant English Program at Navitas, which I hadn’t known I was eligible for. I made a lot of good friends there from all over the world, and when I met other Arabic speakers, I asked them to speak to me only in English! That really helped me to improve more quickly.
About a year later, I heard about the Home Tutor Program, where volunteers go to help new migrants in their home. And I was the first to put my hand up, because I really wanted to give back to the program that had helped me so much.
At the same time, I enrolled in a Pathways to Work course at Navitas and they found me a great work placement at an events company in Balmain. At first, I just went there to help with the events, but after a week, they offered me a casual job as a marketing researcher, my first job in Australia!
I also started to volunteer as coordinator assistant at the head office of the Home Tutor Program. And while I was there, a job vacancy for a part-time position came up, and I got that job as well. In that role, I was sometimes sent to the Navitas campus where I had studied, and that made me feel really proud – to think that I was working at a place where just two years before I had been a student.
My one-year trial period in Australia came and went without me really noticing. One day, I realised that rather than just being a part of my husband’s world, I now had my own friends, my own networks and my own life, just like I had had in Morocco. That was a good moment.
After two years, I took on a new role as a Marketing and Communication Coordinator at the Western Sydney Migrant Resource Centre. I loved my job, but over time, I found myself feeling more and more passionate about helping others in the community, rather than doing office work. So I eventually applied for a role as a Community Development Officer, and that’s what I do now! It’s very rewarding, especially when you put a smile on someone’s face.
Recently, I’ve received three appreciation awards from different community organisations for my work, which I’m really happy about.
For other new migrants, I’d recommend getting involved with the local community through volunteering rather than staying in your bubble. I believe that if I want people to treat me well, to respect me and understand my culture and my religion, then I have to understand their religion and culture too.
That way we can all live in harmony.
This story was brought to you by Navitas Skilled Futures. Since 1988, NSF has supported over 300,000 people to live their best lives in Australia, through the delivery of the Adult Migrant English Program and other programs. To find out more, enrol, or recommend to a friend, visit: https://bit.ly/3hA0MlF
Photographer: Rana El-Adib