I am constantly amazed at the resilience and courage that I see demonstrated by immigrant teenagers that I teach. It seems to be the nature of young people to have strength like a willow tree; the ability to be flexible, to bend but not break.
I took the opportunity in writing this article to have a chat to a few senior students from King's Christian College about their feelings and experiences on immigrating. I was really impressed at their response. All of them admitted to being really nervous about coming to Australia, but excited at the same time. There is something in the young that revels in adventure, and this is a great asset when facing changes. The students unanimously agreed that immigrating has had its ups and downs, but that they are all so happy that they have come, and wouldn't want to go back. Nicole found that, “at first it was hard to understand the Australians, so it was harder to make friends, but now it's easier.” Joshua, who has only been here for fourteen months, commented that he is “loving it and having great times with all his new friends.” He even has an Aussie girlfriend, Hannah! She loves South Africans, saying that all the South African boys she's met are polite and “real gentlemen.” When I asked her how she coped with the accents, she laughed and said, “half of the time I don't understand what they're saying so I just nod and say YA.” Cute! Hannah's opinion was that the SAussie kids integrated really well and were popular among their peers. She loves the way they talk and has started to pick up some of the South Africanisms. The South African kids in turn found the Aussies “friendly and welcoming”, “out there and easily entertained” and “fun and loving.”
There's no doubt that despite the similar weather, there are a lot of differences between South Africa and Australia. There's a lot of adjusting, adapting and accommodating that has to happen in order for kids to settle into their new lives, but all the students I spoke to agreed that they feel safe and happy here, and are so glad they came. Josh put it best when he responded enthusiastically to the question of whether he'd go back, “NO WAY! I love it here.”
Loren Nel is an enthusiastic and inspired teacher at King's Christian College