Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Stories of Belonging,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: London, United Kingdom
Production Team:
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My name is Loujean and I currently reside in London, UK. I come from Syria, specifically Damascus. What made me emigrate was the war and lack of safety in Syria. Just like most Syrians, I decided to travel. I arrived in the UK in 2014, then a family hosted me in 2016 and now I have been here for 6 years.

For sure, being in a new country was a shock for me; it wasn’t what I had seen on T.V. I experienced a case of culture shock. New language, new country, and a new atmosphere. It was the first time that I had been completely alone with no family nor friends or anyone around me. It was a very special experience and hard at the same time. The first two years were quite rough because I was still that same old girl from Damascus and I behaved like it. That was until I met an English family, who wanted to help me get into college. I lived with this family for 6 months; they helped me with my studies during my stay and strengthened my sense of belonging to the country. We did many things, they affected me the same way I affected them. From them, I learned new English words I had never heard before. These words became familiar and I started using them. I liked the food they ate, such as “chicken potatoes”, and loved the English dessert apple crumble. I loved their lifestyle, how they organised their food, and recycled it, as they did with rubbish, plastic and glass. These traditions of theirs became a lifestyle for me. Everything became more practical due to knowing this family, and I felt like I belonged more and started imitating their ways, even in my dress sense. I used to wear jeans but started to wear dresses more because the lady I lived with wore dresses. I felt closer to nature and did not want to continue living only to satisfy people . Being comfortable was the most important thing, not to wear things the world wanted me to wear. During my stay with the family, I realised that I must live that way, free of the constraints society imposed on me, because that was how everyone lived in the UK. I learned that it was nice to have a pet at home, and it was very nice to relax and work each weekend. I felt like my life could go on that way if I wanted to stay.

My story with this lady was published in the ‘Guardian’; everyone talked about it and then we became like sisters, each from a different country. It was a beautiful experience, and I am proud I met them. I taught them about food from back home and cooked a few Syrian meals, which they liked.

The experience of living with English nationals made me belong more, after living independently and alone. I started looking for a room in an English house because I felt I was a part of the new culture. I started watching the news daily, and that was a key part of my life. I lived freely and free of restraint in order to build a future that was not based on satisfying other people.

I am now a second-year student majoring in Journalism and International Affairs at the University of London. It has been such a nice experience so far and everyone helped me adapt.   That was my story. I conclude that whoever wants to live in another country should try their best to adapt and start a new life from scratch by taking baby steps.