FMP/ Migrant Integration — 06. Directed Storytelling with Pedro and Samuel
In the last blog, social integration and its impacts on migrants’ lives was discussed along with exploring the role of design in leading social innovation. The fundamentals of ‘social design’, an emerging discipline merging sociology + service design, were also looked into. This helped me to narrow down my research enquiry into a specific facet of the life of migrants. For this reason, I contacted another set of people to learn about their impression of the quality of social life constructed after immigrating into the UK.
Meeting Pedro and Samuel
This time, I got acquainted with two people from London through my husband, working with him at the NHS headquarter. I conducted detailed interviews with them on Zoom which was both a good and a bad thing. Participants sitting in their homes comfortably in causals with undivided focus on their screens with me — good. I had less opportunity to observe non-verbal messages — bad. Nevertheless, they contributed vital insights from their individual journey which helped me to discern similarities and differences. I employed the technique of storytelling in this phase of narrative enquiry in order to extract the essence of experiences lived by the migrants. That meant, I only occasionally interrupted with prompts to make them feel comfortable otherwise these two participants dictated the flow of conversation — Pedro (name changed) from Venezuela and Samuel (name changed) from Uganda.
Story of Pedro from Venezuela
Pedro came to the London in 2019 for finding a job because of lack of opportunities in his home country which had been for long in a state of political and economic disruption. He ascribed the reason for coming to London being the existence of a support group of fellows from Latin America. Pedro in detail described about his large circle of friends of whom only one was a British. He hesitated at first before commenting that he felt his growth was being curtailed because of remaining contained in his own community. But at the same time, he confronted that speaking in English inhibited him to express freely therefore he preferred to talk to people who conversed with him in his mother tongue, Spanish.
Besides this, Pedro pointed out to the reserved social etiquettes prevalent in public communication, resonating the feelings of the Iraqi couple. He also mentioned the difference in culture based on dressing, climate, natural environment (interesting addition), display of modesty and dynamics of family relations. On the whole, Pedro came across as a chatty person who communicated many aspects from his story elaborately in a conversation that lasted for about 2 hours! The overarching theme from his narrative was about associating self esteem with the level of proficiency in English. So much so that, speaking different languages pulled out different personalities from the same person, he asserted.
Story of Samuel from Uganda
Samuel, originally from Uganda, added a different perspective to the life of an immigrant, being a long-standing member in the host society. He emigrated 17 years ago to the UK to initially study and then work. He spoke succinctly on those challenges he considered to be predominantly significant during his early years of arrival, such as visa renewals and the associated fees; and working on double shift while studying to bear affordability of living in London. Samuel continued on to say that the effort was worth it as he managed to sustain a good life with his qualification. On digging deeper about his life as perceived in the current moment, he told that the toughest part was living apart from family (parents and siblings). However, unlike Pedro, he didn’t face any language problems because he had been schooled in English yet maintained that it was hard to reach out to people. This was an interesting revelation because the use of language had not so much effect on social interaction as the cultural influence had. Samuel knew that people were seemingly distant in this country as compared to where he came from so he formed a community with people at the church. He considered this as a primary factor in his integration as he said that “church represents relationship to me” because “you need something to give you purpose because otherwise you can get easily depressed”. All things considered, Samuel came across to be an immigrant matured by resilience over time. Even though he was mainly concerned with structural aspects of integration in the time close to immigration, Samuel had eventually established himself with a good job and family in London. However, in this journey, church played a big role because faith kept him from straying and the community gained there became his strength. “It takes a village to raise a child I was told”, he concluded and I conclude.
Them restocking their nests
In the end, each participant was prompted with a metaphorical situation: “Imagine you are a bird migrating to a new land and building your nest anew. What necessary ingredients would you fetch to make your home a comfortable place?”. Interesting answers came along.
For Pedro — it was El Ávila, the mountain surrounding the city of Caracas.
For Samuel — it was the Bible and a television set.
In the next blog, central ideas emerging from these two stories will be clustered using specific research methods and consistent patterns across experiences will be identified. Narrative psychology is another tool to use in exploring how coherent life stories are in relation to psychological well-being.
Benish-Weisman, M. (2009) ‘Between Trauma and Redemption: Story Form Differences in Immigrant Narratives of Successful and Nonsuccessful Immigration’, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 40(6), pp. 953–968. doi:10.1177/0022022109346956.
De Fina, A. and Tseng, A. (2017) ‘Narrative in the study of migrants’, in, pp. 381–396.