Afghanistan refugee Hamid: “I’m a Londoner now”

Every week we run our famous Letter To My Younger Self where a famous face looks back on their life and career. For Refugee Week 2019, Hamid, aged 26, has written his own letter, reflecting on his experiences of coming to the UK from Afghanistan

Dear Hamid,

I know that things are a bit difficult now. You feel in limbo and a bit lost. Everything is different – the city is much bigger than your home town and you don’t know the culture or community. Here is some advice from me to you to help you in your first few months in this country.

Learn the Language

The most important thing is to learn the language because you cannot do anything without it. Right now you can’t explain yourself and can’t get anywhere to do activities or make friends or even communicate with people when you go to the shop.

Through school, your foster family, watching TV, reading the newspaper and speaking with classmates you will pick up the language fast. When you first arrive all you can say is “hello”, “thank you” and “how are you”. In six months you will be able to speak fluently.

Once you have learnt the language it will open lots of doors for you – you will learn about the culture and find a way to find a new community in the UK.

Get involved in activities

Have the confidence to try new things. Do lots of activities in the community. You will get involved in cycling, volunteering and arts and music activities. You’ll learn about different celebrations, religions and cultures.

You will coordinate a Refugee Week event where you’ll meet Muhammad Ali and you’ll shake his hand. You’ll tell him “Your hand is very big”, he’ll say “I’m a boxer, and I’ve never seen a brave man like you”.

Don’t give up hope

It will take a year to get refugee status. Even though you don’t know what will happen to you right now, don’t give up hope. You still have the opportunity to build your life while you’re here.

Community is your family

Don’t give up on your community – try to get to know them and the culture and understand what’s happening around you.

At first it will be difficult but after a while you’ll get to know your classmates and hang out with them after school. Your foster mum will have a young boy your age and you’ll become good friends – you’ll play games and talk after school.

Get to know the country and be willing to get to know people – you’ll travel all around the UK and get to know lots of people from different backgrounds.

Hamid today

I have been in the UK over half my life. I’m a Londoner now.

Everyone’s situation is different but I do my best to share what I know to make things easier for other people who are in a similar situation to me when I first arrived.

From what I have learnt in life, you never know what might happen to you. You never know when you might find yourself in another place, so it’s best not to plan too far ahead. Be open-minded about your future and be positive and motivated to do the things you want to do in your life.

Hamid is part of Coram’s Young Citizens programme, a voluntary programme for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. They have released videos with advice for other young people on starting life in the UK. They share their experiences and top tips on getting into college, learning the language, getting a bank account and more.