A Volunteer's First Experience at STAR Conversation Club
Last Thursday I went to my first conversation club session. I had always wanted to join in with STAR’s activities, but as a Syrian, and as someone who used to be an asylum seeker, there were many internal hurdles to overcome. To be faced with a room full of people, who not only spoke your mother tongue, but were refugees and migrants from a war-torn country, I was all over the place. But I knew this was something I had to do - I was finally in the right place in my life, and it was unfair for me to leave this labour on other volunteers, both Arabic and non-Arabic speaking ones.
The session itself was very amicable and comfortable, and I felt happy knowing the participants were happy being there. Many were making jokes and laughing. There was one moment where, when we were taking the group photo at the end, the photographer told us to say ‘’cheese’’. Then one of the participants said ‘’jibneh’’ which is the word for cheese in Arabic, instead, and I couldn’t hold my smile properly because I wanted to laugh so badly. That was the kind of humour that was brought into the session by the participants.
There was one woman who had the least knowledge of English, and she was telling me in Arabic, in a very casual manner, how her and her friends husbands had died. She said they took it in turns to baby-sit each other’s kids when one of them had somewhere important to go. She struggled with the English throughout the whole session, and I tried to help as much as I could but constantly thought about the mental and physical effort it took for her to face each day in this foreign country, and probably to be at this session too. I felt humbled to be in the presence of these people.
Ultimately, I have the privilege to decide whether or not I want to attend these sessions, while for participants it is a must they need to work on improving their English to survive in an English speaking country. That alone has driven me to decide that I need to regularly attend. At the end of the session, when the participants were giving their feedback, they all mentioned how grateful they were and how helpful the words and phrases – and even letters – they had learnt were. Thank you to everyone at Warwick STAR for making these sessions happen.
Written by Bushra Kherallah (3rd Year Politics and International Studies Student)