What is it like to migrate to a different country? Why would anyone want to run away from their “home”, leaving everything behind just to go into the unknown?
by Alice Alcaras
What is it like to migrate in the 21st century?
When I hear about people who migrate to another country, I always believe that they are forced or imposed- that it’s not their choice. Why would anyone want to run away from their “home”, leaving everything behind just to go into the unknown?
In the most extreme cases -which unfortunately are the majority of cases - immigrants have to risk their life, travelling for days with no secure destination. We hear so much about migration on the news nowadays, mostly about refugees who have to escape their countries because of war, political or religious reasons. However, that is not all there is to it.
Migration, in my perspective, is about opportunity. It’s about leaving your country for a better place to live, life styles, and economic opportunities. Migration can be a choice and it is not always bad - it can give a positive turn to someone’s life.
My experience of migrating to another country is only a very simple example compared to what people from war countries have gone through. People who had to run away and took a lot of risks living in conditions that we cannot even imagine. My migration experience compared to them was a dream, and this is why migration does not have only one meaning.
Especially in the 21st century, there are many types of migration taking place. My grandmother used to tell me that her family had to migrate from Italy to Argentina in the 1950s in search of a better life. Like I stated before, every story is different, including mine.
I will never forget 7 years ago when my parents told me that we were going to move to Scotland. My mother was offered a better job there and after discussing more about the potential move, we decided that moving to Scotland was best for the family so we migrated there. It was a choice taken as a family and we luckily had a lot of time to discuss the advantages and disadvantages this change of life was going to bring us.
It was not an easy choice. It can never be an easy choice to have to migrate to another country, especially for a teenager. When my parents first gave me the news of our potential move, I was not happy at all. I burst into tears for hours. Having to migrate meant leaving behind everything I had built until that point and to start all over again in a new country. It scared me.
It is not a simple task to ask a girl in the middle of her teenage years to leave all her friends and stability to start a new life with a different culture and language. Migration itself is hard, not only from the personal and emotional side, but also practically. Just the moving part consumes a lot of time and energy.
A big family having to move all at once, find a new house, and get used to the new legislation was all very stressful for everyone. During the moving part of our migration process, there was tension all around the house. My parents had to organise everything in a short amount of time for the Scotland move, which was very chaotic and added more stress.
In addition, all my fears started to kick in. What if I do not understand what they say? Will I be able to follow the programme like all the other students at my new school? Will I fit in? Are the other students going to be nice?
To get used to a new life was not easy at all! And what about the consequences it brings? Personally, reflecting back on my adolescence I think there is a gap which has formed during the first years of living in Scotland. A gap mainly in my social life. Language can be a huge social barrier. Not speaking the same language and coming from a warm culture going into a colder country where the conceptions of relationships are very different stopped us from leading a normal teenage life.
But then there are the positives. If I went back in time, would I make the same decision again? Of course I would! I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity - an opportunity to open my eyes and explore the world we live in.
Studying and living abroad is just something which has no price, it gives you such good life experience. It opened my mind towards new religions and cultures. It made me realise how diverse the world is and how to distinguish what is good and bad, and what I like and dislike. For the social part of migrating to a different area, luckily, time does its course. I grew up, learnt the language and started making new friends. In addition, we were still in contact with our friends in Italy, and what I think is most important during migration, especially for a teenager, is that we had a solid family behind us which supported us all the way.
Migration to do or not to do?
I had the fortune to have an amazing migration experience. Even then, however, it had its disadvantages, which brought me some problems along the way and some of which still reside inside me.
As I said, to migrate is never easy, even if it is by choice. We need time to get used to a foreign environment and new ways of living. Although imposed migration tends to be disruptive and inconvenient, I think it will always bring opportunity.
Even in the worst case scenarios, migrating gives us an opportunity to change, grow and discover ourselves. It is an occasion to a better life, to meet new people and mix with other cultures. At the end of my journey, I would describe migration as a challenge. A challenge that can be given by choice to us, or that can be thrown at us. In any case, it gives us a chance to improve ourselves and start a new life. To migrate needs courage, but it pays off.