Leaving my country, family and friends was really challenging. At that time, I had no idea what the asylum process was and how long it would take.
Today, hundreds of thousands of Iranians are protesting around the world, which reminds us of how many social and political asylum seekers have to risk their lives to escape the theocracy's brutality. Just like me, they have to undertake an unknown journey to seek refuge in a foreign land.
But leaving your country is just the beginning of this terrifying journey. Taking risks on a dangerous journey is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the difficulties of finding safety and starting a new life.
Entering a new country without understanding its language and culture pushed me toward isolation. However, I found communities very useful in starting the integration process. Christian, linguistic, sports and philosophy communities helped me to develop my English and gave me enough confidence to start my new life.
I highly believe the host communities play a crucial role in the integration process of those who are new.
They can offer their open hearts as well as their open arms and support newcomers to find their feet and become productive members of that community.
When I first came to Scotland, I would join gatherings at my church, college, and neighbourhood in the hope of improving my English, as well as my knowledge of this new country. The place that I would soon call my ‘new home’ .
When I began to join some meetings, I gained a better understanding of the political system in Scotland and this really helped me to pursue my career in journalism. The sense of belonging came from different communities that I had joined. They helped me to feel more at home and made my integration process much easier.
Communication is a key in every relationship, and my relationship with my host communities benefited from it hugely. Our communication strategy not only consisted of language but love, support, guidance, perseverance and hope.