Si Na came to Sweden after a long journey that took him from Afghanistan to Sweden. The journey was difficult. Travelling as a 15 years-old in precarious conditions, having to deal with uncertainty on a daily basis, forged his character. All the hurdles and hard experiences that greeted him and his travel companion along the way taught him a lot about life, hardship, and the value of friendship.
He got used to make quick decisions, and his observations of the societies that he and his friend travelled through gave him an unequalled point of view on the unfairness of life, and made him reflect over the luck that comes with where one is born in the world.
Since arriving in Sweden, he has dedicated all his efforts in powering his way forward into Swedish society. Getting into a football team was a big help for him to get to know Swedes and other newcomers that could share their learnings with him.
After studying “like a horse” on the Swedish school preparation program for newcomers (FBK, Förberedelseklassen), he got admitted into one of the best high schools in Uppsala within just 1 year (while most people take 2 years to finish the FBK program). Now into his last semester of high school studying Social Sciences (samhällsvetenskap), he looks forward to starting university next year. Will it be in Uppsala, Stockholm, Jönköping or Örebro? Time will tell.
Yet the immediate future places him in Western Kenya, on the shore of Lake Victoria where he and his classmates are doing research for their final high school project. He is also the contact person for 2 children, a 7 and a 16 years-old that came alone from Afghanistan, on a similar journey to his.
When did you arrive in Sweden?
I arrived in Sweden towards the end of 2011. I was able to start school right away. So, I have been in Sweden for 4 years and 3 months. Every month counts! I make checks with myself all the time, and review if I have reached my goals. It is important to make every day count.
What is your story and how did you end up in Sweden?
The decision to settle in Sweden came to be almost as a coincidence. Me and my friend had travelled through different countries in Europe without a clear destination in mind. As we arrived in Denmark, fellow Afghans advised us at the train station to go to Sweden. We followed their advice and moved on.
The first night we came to Sweden, in Malmö, we decided that this would be the final stop, that we would only continue as far as Stockholm, because we wanted to see the capital, and that we would stay here. After we arrived in Stockholm, he got his residence permit faster than me in 2 months, and was placed in Östersund.
I had to stay behind, waiting for my permit to be processed. It was hard to be separated from him, as we had grown very close after enduring the long journey together. I was given a place to stay in Uppsala, so we have been living apart since then. But we still visit each other.
What was the hardest to adjust to in Sweden?
There are so many differences between this society and the society I grew up in. There was differences in how people hang out together, how they behave together. At first, I thought that getting in contact with the swedes was a bit difficult. But everything changed when I got into a football team, and then got many opportunities to make new friends: Friends like me who had gone through the same journey and could me give me advices, and Swedes who were very friendly.
The first 3-4 months of high school were hard, because I was fresh out of the FBK preparation program. High school was such a different experience to the FBK preparation program. I was already good in Swedish, but I did not understand all the slang words, and difficult expressions, so I felt a bit lost.
What do you like the best about Sweden and the Swedes?
Everything…. I’m grateful to have come in contact with a lot of friendly people. I met some Swedish people that have helped me in my choices. The manager of the social housing where I lived advised me to choose my path for high school (social science).
I’m grateful for the opportunities for education, and to get new friends here. My high school friends have helped me a lot to make quick progress. There is good atmosphere in the class. And I love football. Football is my life.
What Swedish word is your favorite?
Sällskap (Companionship/Company). I learnt through my journey to Sweden that it is very important to have someone to trust and to be able to rely on. Me and my friend, we did not know each other well when we started the journey, but gradually we got very close. We had to for our own success.
To have company is very important for mental resilience when you have to go through many difficult situations.
What do you miss the most from Afghanistan?
My parents and my brother and sister have finally been reunited with me last year (almost exactly one year ago). It is so important to have them close to me. I have missed them so much. I was in Sweden for over 3 years alone when they got the authorisation to come to Sweden. That day was a relief. They are doing well now, and my brother and sister are studying hard to get into Swedish school. I help them. My parents are also studying Swedish.
There are still things I miss. My childhood, the friends I had when I was a child that I have lost contact with. It was not easy to grow up in a country at war or with unrest, but it was my childhood, and it is important to me.
I also miss my hometown where I was born (Helmand in western Afghanistan). I simply miss Afghanistan. Even it if is not in a good situation right now, and even if I love everything about Sweden, I have an inner-longing for my home country.
Do you have an anecdote about something confusing that happened during your first time here?
In the first days I arrived in Uppsala, I went to catch a bus. As I arrived at the bus stop, there was on old man waiting for the bus. I sat on the bench next to him, and asked him “hur mår du? How are you” trying to engage a conversation… He looked at me strangely, and did not seem pleased at all. He asked me why I was talking to him. I just reply that he looked lonely, and I was also on my own. He muttered some not really nice things about foreigners. I just left him to his anger. It is hard to face the prejudices of certain people.