Being a teenager can be tough enough. But starting life over in a new country, where you don’t have any networks or know where to turn for advice is even tougher. When Galia was matched with a mentor, everything became easier.
Like most teenagers, Galia just wanted to hang out with her friends.
But at seventeen years old, she and her family left their home in Syria, in search of a safer future.
“Our life was great there. My dad was a principal in a college and I had my friends and I had big plans for my future to be a lawyer or a politician.”
“Everything was great for me, and my family as well. I finished Grade 11, but then the war started.”
“And then everything changed for us.”
At first Galia was excited when she heard that she and her family were moving to Australia.
“I always wanted my parents to send me overseas to study and continue my education. They always encouraged me to study to be a doctor so they could send me overseas.”
“When I came to Australia I found that my dream came true, to study overseas.”
But starting a new life in a new country wasn’t easy. Galia missed her friends back home and found it tough making new ones.
“The most difficult thing for me was that I felt really homesick. I missed my friends, because at that age people often hang out together and go and have fun. Whereas I felt like I missed all this when I moved to Australia.”
“English was okay, I knew a little bit of English when I first came here. But missing my friends, I think it affected me more.”
“I felt tired communicating with people. For the first two years I couldn’t feel comfortable with people, like I used to go back home and cry and ask my mum ‘I want to go back to Syria.’”
But her friends back in Syria reminded Galia how lucky she was.
“I used to contact my friends and talk to them. And they used to say ‘No Galia, Australia’s a much better life and Syria is much different to before. You can’t really stay here if you see what is happening around us.’”
Galia sought help where she could find it. Despite believing strongly that she could succeed in her studies, she also recognised that without much local knowledge she needed a helping hand.
“It was challenging for me because I didn’t have anyone, any local friends or someone to help me.”
Her teachers helped by linking her with a student advisor, and she also discovered that her university was involved in a mentoring program with Red Cross.
“I applied to have a mentor who could help me in how to apply for jobs, to look at my resume, how to talk, how to answer interview questions.”
“It’s a great program because it links mentees with mentors who have experience in the same area that we are interested in.”
“My mentor is Steve, and he suggested to me how to plan my subjects, how to plan for my future. Like we had raised some ideas, how to really put the things that I really wanted to study, want to be.”
As a result of the networks and connections she made in the mentoring program, Galia found a paid role at Red Cross. She’s now helping link new migrants with the support and services they need as they establish their new lives. She also volunteers with asylum seekers. Last year she received the Tasmanian Human Rights Youth Award for this work.
“I’m actually proud that I received it because I realised that there are people around me that are aware of the work that I am doing.”
As for the future, Galia is following her dreams.
“Just knowing, and believing in myself that yes I will go to uni, yes I’ll continue my education, I will have had to be patient, I will have to look for work.”
“Actually I would like to be an international human rights lawyer. In my studies, studying law is really important for me to understand how I can support people by using the law and pay attention to it.”
If you’d like to help a new arrival like Galia by becoming a mentor visit www.redcross.org.au/InWork