migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Marta Aparicio - Changing Lenses

Marta Aparicio - Changing Lenses

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Marta Aparicio - Changing Lenses

Aplicar

Immigrants from the same place like to congregate together. That can be seen as a threat by hosting countries but in many cases migrant communities from the same place act as a catalyst to integration. When I first moved to the UK, compatriots were the first ones that embraced me and made me feel part of a community, a community of people from the same country that had already been through the same journey/experience. It can sound naïve but to learn from a fellow citizen about cultural differences, values, traditions or simply how to use the public transport or ask politely for a pint in a pub makes things much easier.

“Aplicar” is the most memorable word from that initial stage of my integration process. It would be the translation to Spanish of the verb to apply – if that word existed in Spanish. I learnt how to “aplicar” for jobs or volunteering roles whilst having a chat in a pub.

 

marta aparicio  changing lenses

Language is the first barrier to overcome and work on for migrants. Living in a place where your first language is not the official one makes things hard. You want to understand everybody and make sure that your message arrives to others but that requires a big effort and it’s hard. It is a learning process where new vocabulary, use of the language and your confidence grow together. I don’t remember how I learn my first language but I can picture in most cases how, where and when I learnt English words or expressions.
Scorchio - apparently invented in the 90’s at The Fast Show- is one of them. It’s not an indispensable one –in fact you can’t even find it in the Oxford dictionary- but I remember the feeling, I knew it wouldn’t save my life but it makes me laugh and I felt a bit more part of this new place being able to enjoy and share non vital words.  I’m still learning and I don’t think I will stop but it wouldn’t have been able without access to English classes. It is an enriching and powerful process and host countries need to support migrants to learn the language and need to know that it is essential for a successful integration.

 

marta aparicio  changing lenses

Volunteering facilitates social integration among other positive qualities. I started volunteering doing brokerage in my local volunteer centre. Brokerage, another word that I had never heard of. Suddenly I was interacting with a lot of new people and intermediating between potential volunteers and volunteering roles in my local community. It was a bit scary at the beginning but volunteering and supporting others makes you feel part of the new place and makes you feel stronger. I’m grateful to all the volunteers that I work with and all the people I met in the sector. Society and government need to know about the crucial role of the voluntary sector to migrants’ integration.  


marta aparicio  changing lenses

Work. Once you start working you feel like a part of the system. You pay your taxes, you contribute to the society, and you feel more connected to the place that you started calling home. Being paid for your skills it is an acknowledgement and acceptance by your host country. My memorable word in my work environment is away day (a day that you don’t work, different than holiday –word that I already knew). For me it represents freedom, fun, getting to know my colleagues better. I was able to get a job after going through my first stages of the integration journey and, of course, because of my legal status as an EU citizen entitled me to.       

 

marta aparicio  changing lenses

Poroto
Poroto is a word in Spanish, my first language, which I wasn’t aware of because it comes from a different Spanish speaking country. The translation of this word – bean (like the food) — is irrelevant. The importance lies in what it means for me. I learnt it in London. It reminds me of my long conversations with my Chilean friend Armando about politics, about society, about understanding other people’s views and of course about his own journey of integration. His experience and that of all the people from different nationalities that I met here who shared their experiences with me influenced and helped to shape who I am now.

Society shouldn’t be afraid of diversity. Diversity and experiencing people from different backgrounds is enriching and helps us to overtake fear of the unknown
 

marta aparicio  changing lenses

The people in my photos represent everyone that helped me to integrate in to the UK, English and from lots of different nationalities. “Aplicar”, Scorchio, Brokerage, Away day and “Poroto” became part of my journey. All these words and people are a portrait of my personal integration path. All those stages: hanging out with migrant communities from my same country, volunteering, learning the language, working and enjoying diversity helped me to feel part of a something, a community and developed a strong sense of belonging. It hasn’t been an easy journey but I think integration is a two-way path and both migrants and the host country need to make a big effort in order to enhance this process.


 
marta aparicio  changing lenses

Guy Fawkes
Traditions come from the past but they are also a social construction that change and evolve with time. Living in London allowed me to take part in and learn about traditions that are new to me, for example, Guy Fawkes night surrounded by thousands of people from all over the world! In a way feeling that I help shape the values of the tradition, enjoy the moment and feel part of something, is making me feel a bit more integrated. It feels like home.

These photos and accompanying writing were made as part of the Changing Lenses; London stories of Integration project. You can listen to my podcast for the project here: https://soundcloud.com/migrant-voice/marta-anne-pure