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Dejwana: “Switzerland? It’s better than Lebanon, where we struggled to be accepted”


“When I arrived in Switzerland with my family, we didn’t speak French at all. In Geneva, I was placed in a reception class, but I was eventually able to join the normal 11th year of the orientation cycle (the last year of compulsory education). It’s tough, because I’m with pupils who were born here and I don’t have the same level as them, except in English, where I’m doing well.

My plan for next year was to go to the Ecole de commerce (business school), but it turns out that because of my level of maths, I’ll go to the Ecole de culture générale (general school) instead. Then, I’ll go on to be a social worker. Later, what I’d like in fact is to open my own business, something where I manage a team. I’ll do that in Dubai, as I like the city and speak Arabic, so it will work well there. At one point I thought about joining the police, but you need a Swiss passport to do that, and I’m not very sporty anyway.

Switzerland? It’s better than Lebanon, where we struggled to be accepted. In my everyday life, I like to write. It’s what I do when I don’t feel good. I prefer that to talking. Sometimes I write in French. In my spare time, I go out with my friends. We go for a walk along the lake and eat a pizza, for example. At home, my mum prepares specialties from our country, but I know fondue! I ate some once at my dad’s friend’s house. It was tasty, but after two or three pieces, I’d had enough. There are some very beautiful places in Switzerland. I went with my class to Ticino, for example, and I loved it. It was like being in Italy. Voting at 16? Personally, I wouldn’t be ready to do that, but I support the idea. Some people already have ideas and can help to change things.”

Interview by Stéphane Herzog

Dejwana Alo

*2005, arrived in Switzerland in October 2017, from Lebanon. She is Kurdish and grew up in Syria. She lives in Geneva with her parents, an older brother and two younger sisters. The family has been granted asylum.

The portraits of all 16 young people interviewed