Aya on... My Journey as a Refugee in Scotland

Aya, age 16 from West Dunbartonshire, and from the Young Scot Content Collaborators Panel, shares her journey as a refugee in Scotland. She speaks about her experience at school, going against stereotypes and finding acceptance in her community. 

I’ve always considered myself one of the lucky ones. The ones who had enough money to escape safely and legally. The one who had people supporting them with each step they took. And finally, one of the lucky ones who were given an opportunity to contribute in life. 

Coming to Scotland

When I first arrived in Scotland, it was night time and I was so exhausted. Everything felt like a dream and I couldn't help but feel so giddy that I would finally be able to see snow for the first time, have my own school locker like the movies, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the queen herself! I was so young, I didn’t even know the name of the country I was in but only knew one thing - I can now finally rest. 

It was always so frustrating to hear all the horrible things said to refugees arriving in their host countries. It really bothered me how insensitive some people would be.

I wished I could tell them that most of us didn’t even want to leave our homes, our culture, our family and settle in an unfamiliar place to then be subjected to continuous humiliation and discrimination.

It was just unfair. 

My School Experience

My school experience was full of hurdles, at the start I could only hold a simple conversation in English with my teachers and classmates leading to me always being alone. I would come home crying and plead with my parents to send me back to my country.

As I grew up though, I finally found a couple of friends and now I laugh at all the English spelling mistakes, the awfully broken accent and the jumbled up words - it was a miracle they even understood me! However, our differences eventually separated us.

I started high school and tried to fit in with all the other people.

It was hard to just be accepted.

I remember all the teasing and the stares and it didn’t help that I also changed what I wore - opting to wear my hijab and dress more modestly. But I was too westernised for the other refugees like me in school and too ‘Muslim’ or different from my other schoolmates. So once again, I was isolated and yearning to go back home where I would be accepted with open arms and be around my family whom I missed dearly. 

Finding My Passions

Being easily labelled as a mere refugee, and nothing more, by everyone, has always led me to view myself as unworthy and excluded from the world.

I felt it looming over me like barrier that stopped me exploring my interests and aspirations. So in school I would try hard to let my grades and hard work speak for themselves and break the stereotypes people had of us. It was and is still something I’m passionate about highlighting to the whole world - that we, refugees, can also become anything we want. As a result of that, over the last couple of months, I have joined clubs and participated in projects that really helped build up my confidence and self worth. I even found a group of friends who were so understanding and open minded of the differences within us. 

Now, in my moments of reflection, pride seeps within me at the fact that I truly worked hard into becoming the person I am today.

There’s no denying that I still have a long way to go until I can finally appreciate who I am without all the meaningless labels and harsh beliefs people have of us.

But, I trust myself that I will work hard to go against the stereotypes and encourage other refugees to accept who they are and follow their dreams.

Because even if we’re not in our hometown, with our family and friends, we can still be accepted into a community that will let us flourish and forget our troublesome past.

More information

Information and support for refugees arriving and living in Scotland can be found at:

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Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.