To new beginnings
Photo by Anwar Ghoubari

To new beginnings: My first time in school in Greece

An end is nothing but a new beginning. I welcomed autumn and the new school year vigorously. Now is the time to go shopping with friends for schoolbags, uniforms and stationery. The first day of school is the most fun because all you do is meet the new students, see one another after a long time and talk about our summer vacations. After that, we begin to work and study hard to keep our good grades. The wars back in our countries meant that our education suffered and as the situation got worse, we became desperate, as there was no future for us.

It was time to move on to a better life. The right decision was made for me. I didn’t have a life there and the most appropriate option was to leave Syria and complete my education somewhere else, preferably in Europe. My family supported me so here I am, in Greece.

I had to start a new life, with lots of challenges, the most important of which was to be included in society, something that by nature I don’t find difficult. I am a sociable person, so it wasn’t hard. My life is now starting to get back on track.

Greek schools reopened in the autumn, but this time I did not feel the same enthusiasm that I used to feel amongst my friends at my school back home. Nevertheless, I have this positive energy that is pushing me to go to school with a smile on my face, despite the sadness. Also, in Syria, I had graduated from high school, but here I have to go back and start again. And although I do not speak Greek adequately, the challenge of being in school will help me learn it.

I had a lot of questions in my mind on the first day of school. What would it be like? Would I face racism from my classmates because I am a refugee with a different religion? Would I be able to communicate with them? Despite my knowing English, would there still be an obstacle between me and my classmates, perhaps because they don’t all speak the language?

The older students gave me strange looks when I entered the school as a new boy, but it did not take long for us to start to get to know each other in the classroom and during the breaks.

Everything was fine. I did not face any racism and they were very kind to me. In general, Greek people are very loving and open-minded. (“Πού είσαι, ρε μεγάλε” meaning “Where are you bro?” is one of the most usual ways to say hi to your classmates.). My main problem is that I don’t speak Greek and this makes it difficult for me to understand my teachers and do my work. Some friends help me by translating the main sentences, but this is not enough. I know that I need to take my time, but until then, I will face many challenges.

In this new school, there is a shortage of teaching staff and some of the furniture is very worn. I did not expect such problems. I thought that you only face these kinds of problems in Syria, because of the war. In addition, the students want to study certain lessons such as science, chemistry etc but unfortunately, they do not have the opportunity due to staff shortages. This provoked their anger and frustration and prompted them to take over the school for a whole day (in Greek it is called “κατάληψη”) in order to have their demands met by the school administration. The problem is now solved since the administration promised to put pressure on hiring more teaching staff and improving the school.

Everywhere I look, in every corner of this school, I see happy eyes, laughter and hugs, and I realize that they are exactly the same in Greece, in Syria, and probably in every country in the world.

But it is people who make all the difference, and I miss my friends in Syria. I would like to be with them, but I know that right now I cannot. Learning together is always easier… Now I have to learn everything on my own. And this is the first time lessons seem complicated to me. But I think this experience is going to make me stronger and, of course, more mature. Life is like school; the lessons never end. And I can’t stop, so I keep on learning, or in other words, living.

Anwar Ghoubari