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Refugee Week 2024: We can’t undo our past, but, with the support of our friends, a bright future is yet to come!

By Sanja Nikolic | June 25, 2024

Every June, NSF celebrates Refugee Week, along with our settlement support community. Official student reporter Sanja shares the experiences of her peers who’ve started a new life in Australia, after facing life-altering challenges.  

World Refugee Day is celebrated every year on the 20th of June, and Refugee Week is celebrated this year from 16th to 22nd June. It is a week when we acknowledge people with refugee background who have gone through numerous difficulties and struggles. Many of them fought to come to the country which gives them the opportunity to live lives we consider to be normal and ordinary, they fought to have basic human rights and essential living conditions. This is the week when we recognise all the people trying to rebuild their lives, settling their roots in the land they see for the first time. We recognise their efforts, their resilience, hope and motivation. We recognise their love, passion and sacrifices. This is the week dedicated to all the people who knew that they couldn’t turn the clock back, so they decided to get on with their lives and make the most of every day. 

Three people walking on sidewalk, out the front of a store. Street signs and people in background.

Sometimes we take everything for granted and forget that somewhere in this big world there are people who can’t walk and speak freely, their fundamental needs can’t be met, they can’t gather with their beloved friends and family members, and their dreams are falling apart. We usually complain about the weather: it’s either scorching or freezing, our food is too sweet or too salty, our home is too small and uncomfortable. But as long as we have a roof over our heads, we have food to feed our family and grenades are not flying above our heads, we should consider ourselves, to say the least, happy.  

Being far away from home, leaving family thousands of miles away, abandoning your friends is indescribably hard for everyone, but especially for young people. Youth itself is already so challenging, it’s like being at a crossroads: you must figure out what you want to do in life, what your main profession will be, which school or uni to apply for, and, of course, there are always some butterflies in the stomach that make every situation even tougher. Now imagine a young life ready to thrive and flourish, full of hope, ideas and aspirations, on one side, and on the other side unsecure future and problems in every field: government, politics, education, health system… All ambitions and goals are cut off because of war and everything it brings – destruction, uncertainty, anxiety, pain, suffering, fear, separation… 

I have had the chance to meet a lot of people at Navitas who have gone through all of this, but what always fascinates me is the enthusiastic and sincere smile on their faces. They are like diamonds which were exposed to the big pressure to become brighter and stronger. They say it’s the same boiling water that softens potato but hardens the egg. It’s also said that the ship doesn’t sink because of the water around but instead of it. The message is the same: circumstances should not be what determines us, our personalities should remain the same even if we encounter some hardships.  

This article is about acknowledging that strength and unwavering personalities that I could see in many of my classmates. Here are short stories about touching and heartwarming experiences of some of my friends. They are five extraordinary young ladies who came to Australia lately. I am very grateful to them for opening their hearts and speaking up about their first impressions and feelings they have now. They are Zahra, Sonya, Anna, Tanya and Haidi


Zahra came from Iran, but her nationality is Afghani. She joined Navitas last term, and that made her very happy because she could find new friends there. “When I came to Australia, I was scared of everything, it was just really hard for me, I came with my family and had no friends in here.” To make the situation even harder, she couldn’t speak English because she didn’t know it, but slowly she started speaking and joining conversations, so she learnt it by simply trying and trying. And let me tell you, she is one of the most communicative and sociable people I have met, she is an energetic young woman with strong opinion, and, with that attitude, I think her future will be perspective and successful.  

About her plans, studying and working opportunities she says: “Back in the past I couldn’t study and work because I am Afghani, it was so hard for me, but here it’s not, everyone is the same. I wanna live here in the future, all my family is here.” 

Speaking of her active and optimistic personality, I must tell that she took part in Refugee Week celebration at Campbellltown Council Civic Hall where she showed up in traditional clothes and proudly performed traditional dance from Afghanistan. Everyone was amazed with her performance and awarded her with a great round of applause. She was thrilled to participate in such an event, because events like this enable her to find more new friends, understand more about Australia, another people and another nationalities. 


Sonya is a 24-year-old woman, and even though she might seem shy on the first sight, she is truly very kind and polite person who gives everyone opportunity to speak and express their opinion. She is respectful and well mannered. She is unobtrusive, yet her smile is so powerful, because she smiles frankly and from the heart, and you can tell that because her eyes smile as well. When she came to Australia 5 months ago, she liked everything, she  liked the City, and she liked the freedom. Just like Zahra, she contacts her friends online, using apps such as Imo and WhatsApp. On the other hand, she found new friends in Navitas. She is indeed really satisfied with her teacher, and the part of the class she likes a lot is when the teacher teaches them through acting. 

Comparing to Australia, her country is very different: “no money, no jobs, not simple”. 

“With God’s help, I hope I will live here; I like it here. I am enjoying Refugee Week a lot, there are a lot of different people that I met.” 


“I felt so good when I came to Australia, I liked everything, people are so nice and respect each other, they are helpful, they care for us.” says Anna, another exceptional young woman, who recently joined Youth Class. She is 22, and she came here 4 months ago. Attending English course at Navitas is so helpful to her, because she can  meet  people and enjoy. Her favorite part is Youth Class, she thinks it is very good because she can meet other young people.  

“I keep in touch with my friends online, but in my country, there is no internet, e.g. in Egypt you can easily access the Internet, but not in my country. I can use normal calls, but it is expensive.” 

Even though the situation in her homeland is not bright as her smile, I can tell that she is not the person who will complain about everything. On the contrary, she sees the best in everyone; she is noble, diligent, kind and respectful. It really feels good to spend time in her presence.   

When it comes to political environment and regulations and job market she says: “Here you can continue your studies, get a good job, make money, but in my country, there are no studies, and the government is not free for everything, you can’t talk when you want to talk.”  

She doesn’t know what will happen in the future, but she can see herself here, she would love to live here.  


Five months ago, Tanya arrived in Australia and Youth Class became richer for another cheerful and optimistic student. She says that this class is a good class, and by the look on her face you can tell that she is genuinely enjoying it. I look forward to seeing her and I am so grateful to have her as a friend, because she always welcomes me with a big hug and a warm smile. She is such a pleasant and friendly lady. 

She likes the City and walking by the ocean, as well the people, who are very good here.  

She follows her friends on social media, they don’t hear from each other every day, but sometimes. Learning English in Navitas is of a great importance and help to her, and because of it she got to know new friends. Since our school is a splendid combination of students from all parts of the world, the only way we can understand each other is by speaking in English, just like Tanya says: “In our class, we don’t use another language except for English, so we must communicate with our classmates in English, which helps us make new friends.” 

Life here differs a lot from life in her state. In her country there was no freedom, she says, but you can tell that now she is content, her past wasn’t joyful, but I am sure her future will be. “My family is here and all of them are so happy here, I would love to stay here in the future as well.”  


And last but not the least is Haidi, from Syria. She used to study English at Navitas, but she left the school when she found the job. As a previous NSF student and a participant of Youth Class, she was more than happy to share her experience about the school and her journey. Haidi is a multitalented woman, always merry and hard-working. She was a brilliant student with exceptional answers, and we enjoyed the time spent with her. 

“First 2 weeks I was excited to explore then I started to get down: “Oh, everything is new, everything is scary, how will I start?” I was lost. Then I started going to Navitas, to improve English, to socialise and I got to know more people my age. I learnt where to go if I need this thing, or where to go if I need that thing, or where to go if I need work experience. Then I started to feel more settled.”  

Joining Navitas and Youth Class meant a lot to her for many reasons. Her English improved considerably – she knew English, but she had never used it in everyday life or never talked in English; after she started using it, she said she struggled a little bit at first, but then it started to improve more and more and she became confident to buy things alone, to go shopping alone, talk to people. She also made friends – she explains that she socialised more with our aged people, which improved her communication and speaking skills even more. And she enjoyed going to excursions as a group and exploring Australia, because we’re all new here.  

With her old friends she keeps up on social media, and they make video calls from time to time. Even though she works now, she finds time after her job to meet with people she met at school. We talk about nice memories and trips we had with Youth Class, it was the part of the school she enjoyed the most, as she points out: “There were many activities, and we had fun while still learning English but in another way – interactive way.”  

Having spent some time here, she concludes that it’s a big difference between the future in her country and the future here, and she puts emphasis on the independence she feels in Australia: “Here you must work to rely on yourself and do everything by yourself so it’s nice, you don’t have to depend on other people.”  

About Refugee Week, she tells: “It’s really nice to gather refugees, because they have all gone through the same experience, they all face same struggles here in Australia and if they meet, they can benefit from each other’s experiences and it’s really nice to hear advice from people.”  

Maybe we don’t realise how strong we can be, until being strong is the only option we have. Even when we are forced to uproot our lives, set off and cross many countries on this globe to find our safe haven, we should dare to dream, courageously embrace new opportunities and always know that the best is about to come!

Happy Refugee Week! 

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