How learning English changes lives: Deniz’s story

A refugee learns English
Deniz (back row, second from the right) with his IELTS classmates

We have all read the news stories and seen the images of people becoming displaced and seeking refuge across the world. The Refugee Council reported that “just 1% of the world’s refugees will ever be resettled anywhere, which means many refugees face a long, uncertain wait to hear if they will ever be able to rebuild their lives in safety.”[1]

LSI/IH Portsmouth’s work with refugees

Here at LSI/IH Portsmouth, alongside RefuAid, we have been able to help refugees living in Portsmouth and have provided language tuition to those who would have otherwise not been able to afford it. Learning English is arguably the biggest obstacle faced by refugees in this country, and so we are incredibly pleased that we have been able to help a number of students tackle this hurdle over the past few years.

Deniz’s story

Today, we would like to introduce you to one of our current students, Deniz, who has been at LSI/IH Portsmouth since August last year. Deniz is a fantastic student who has achieved so much in so little time. He always has a smile on his face and you can usually find him playing table tennis at break times! Read our interview below:

Catherine: Please could you tell me a little about yourself.

Deniz: My name is Deniz and I’m 32 years old. I live in a shared house in Portsmouth and I work in a restaurant at weekends. During the week, I study on an IELTS course at LSI/IH Portsmouth.

Catherine: So, how long have you been in the UK and what brought you to Portsmouth?

Deniz: I have some friends that live in the city – we know each other from my home country and we studied together at the same University. I’ve been living here for around 3 years now!

Catherine: What were your impressions when you first came to the UK? What difficulties did you face?

Deniz: I can say that I’ve had many difficulties due to my situation of being a refugee. The first thing of course is language. It’s difficult because you have to learn a new language and learn how to express yourself. You also have to get used to a different culture. Everything is made difficult.

Catherine: Did you speak any English before you came here?

Deniz: No, when I came to the UK, I didn’t speak any English.

Refugee practicing English with friend

Catherine: Ah, it must have been difficult.

Deniz: Yes, especially in daily life. When going shopping, buying tickets, when I had to go somewhere, I would sometimes get lost.

Catherine: Of course. Did you find that people were quite patient or..?

Deniz: Most people were patient. They were helpful and would try to explain things when I made mistakes, but some people would insist that I spoke the same language. This was hard as when I didn’t understand them, they wouldn’t try to change their way to be more understandable.

Catherine: Ah I see. That’s great that some people were helpful though. So, what did you think of Portsmouth when you first arrived?

Deniz: At first, it was a little bit difficult to get used to the weather. Now I think it’s better than many countries, especially my city. Portsmouth has a nice temperature and climate and it is changeable even in the same season – sometimes sunny sometimes rainy on the same day!

Catherine: You always need to carry an umbrella! So Deniz, what did you do in your country?

Deniz: After studying Pharmacy and graduating from University, I opened my own pharmacy in my city. I ran the pharmacy for around 3 years, but then everything started getting bad. I had to close my pharmacy and move to a different country.

Catherine: Did you go to another country before England or did you come straight here?

Deniz: Yeh, I was in the Czech Republic, and after that in Italy and in Germany.

Catherine: Ok, many places then. How long have you been learning English now?

Deniz: I can say I have been studying seriously for 5 months in LSI/IH Portsmouth. Before that I took some lessons from voluntary organisations and teachers in local churches and also some free ESOL courses in the city. In total, I can say maybe 1 year.

Catherine: That’s it? Your English is so good! You’ve improved so quickly if it has only been one year.

Deniz: Yes! Thank you.

Catherine: So you’ve spoken a little about the classes you’ve been to in Portsmouth. How did you find those classes? Was it through the help of organisations or did you find them yourself?

Deniz: Um, honestly it’s been by chance. For a long time I looked for a professional, serious English course because the other courses weren’t enough to achieve the high score I needed. One day, when I was passing in front of LSI/IH Portsmouth, I just wanted to try my chance and so I stepped into the school, told them “I’m a refugee and I want to study English but I cannot afford it, do you have any options for refugees?”.

Then I was fortunate enough to meet Lewis and he was very helpful. He recommended some alternative classes before coming to LSI/IH Portsmouth. So I joined an English course with Anita at the community centre one day a week and continued to study two days a week at the church. After that, I could then move to LSI/IH Portsmouth.

Briefly I can say, LSI/IH Portsmouth changed my life. Before studying here, I was really depressed and desperate because I couldn’t find my way.

Deniz – IELTS student

Catherine: That’s great! So could you tell me a little more about what you need to do in order to become a Pharmacist in the UK?

Deniz: Yeah, as far as I know from the programme I looked at, they have some regulations for foreign pharmacists. First, I need to pass an IELTS exam, in which I need to achieve 7 points for each part, which is really tough. But I’m trying to study hard and I feel closer to this goal than I was in the past.

Catherine: Exactly, well you’re in the right place.

Deniz: Yes! Then, after passing the exam, I need to study for one year at University. It’s a kind of training course for foreign pharmacists to adapt to the systems in the UK.

Catherine: So, how has LSI/IH Portsmouth played a part in you reaching your goals?

Deniz: Briefly I can say, LSI/IH Portsmouth changed my life. Before studying here, I was really depressed and desperate because I couldn’t find my way. I applied for some courses but they told me that I needed to wait until I had refugee status, which is when you are recognised by the government officially. While I was waiting for this, I couldn’t start any course. But then after that, I started in LSI/IH Portsmouth with good teachers and I can say I’m so grateful for this chance.

Catherine: That’s really great to hear, I’m really happy for you. What has been your overall impression of the school?

Deniz: I think it’s the most enjoyable time I’ve had, especially while being in the UK. I met lots of nice friends from different countries and learned all about their cultures and different traditions.

Catherine: That’s lovely to hear. Where do you see yourself after University? Do you think you’ll stay in the UK?

Deniz: Firstly, I want to do the course. My plan is to study at University, and I would love to study in Brighton. There are only a few Universities that offer the specific course I want, so my top choice is Brighton. So, I hope I will then get a job and work in a pharmacy or maybe in a company. In the future, I’d like to work with international companies and have the chance to travel to different places.

Catherine: Amazing! Your English will certainly help you with that. So, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Deniz: Yes, I want to thank all the teachers who have helped me. They made a real effort to help me with my goals. I’d also like to thank some organisations like The Red Cross and RefuAid – they have really made a huge effort to achieve my goal.

A huge thank you to Deniz for giving me his time and for talking about everything so openly. We wish Deniz all the best and cannot wait to see what he does in the future.

Who wrote this blog?

Catherine – Social Programme Organiser

Catt is our social programme organiser

Catt is now responsible for organising our social programme! This means that she gets to go on all sorts of weekend trips with our students to place like London, Winchester, Durdle door and many many more!

English students watching romantic movies

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English language teacher helps vietnamese student