When Ummy Amin arrived in New Zealand six years ago from Somalia, she was subject to the usual taunts and ridicules that many refugees experience in their life’s journey.
But thanks to the encouragement that she received from many of her teachers at the Victoria University and more importantly, the Wellington based Multicultural Learning and Support Services Centre (McLass), she is today a double major in Education and Sociology.
She was justifiably proud of her achievements at a gathering of Victoria University students in the Capital last month.
Ummy attributed her scholastic success to the coaching, understanding and goodwill extended by the McLass staff, especially ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Specialist Judi McCallum.
The young refugee met her soon after leaving Wellington High School.
“It was a critical juncture in my life. Ms McCallum tested my knowledge of English and suggested that I should enrol at the English Proficiency and Foundation Studies Programme of Victoria University as the first step towards obtaining a graduate degree,” she said.
The eight-month programme, aiming to provide students English language, academic and research skills prepared her to pursue higher education.
“It was amazing but hard. Many students drop out of the programme but I would encourage everyone to meet the challenge and move ahead,” Ummy said.
She said the University was an eye-opener.
“There is no one to babysit. You are given assignments and it is up to you to complete them. Sometimes the situation can be daunting because you are on your own, with no support from your own community,” she said.
Ummy said the foundation course was useful and that she was confident of handling assignments at the University.
“I knew where to source information, how to conduct research and the difference between a report and an essay.
Ummy hopes that she has set an example for other girls in the Somali community.
“I’m passionate about girls getting educated. I am happy to see a lot of them going to the University, because they do not get any emotional encouragement from their community, where boys are treated on priority.”
Ummy said University education has taught her the art of listening with extended limits of tolerance, something that was not prevalent in her native country.
She hopes to become an ESOL specialist and build a bridge between refugees and the system.
“There is a gap and a misunderstanding. My dream is to see refugees settle in this society and take ownership of what is around them. They should not live as guests but as members of the society and contribute to the progress of the country. They should treat New Zealand as their home,” Ummy said.
Source: McLass Newsletter