Thom

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6,838 kmfrom home
#iamamigrant
"Integration is too often seen as a one-way street where all the responsibility or blame falls on migrants."
Thom
Occupation: 
Head of Durham Law School & Professor of Law & Government - Author of "Becoming British"
Current Country: 
United Kingdom
Country of Origin: 
United States

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“I left my home country of the United States to become an international student in Dublin, Ireland in 1999. I was 25 years old. I thought it would be an exciting experience and deepen my studies. I moved to Britain in 2001 completing my PhD by 2004. I have worked full-time in the UK since. I had a wonderful time as a student and thoroughly enjoy my work in the UK.

I miss three things in no particular order: Philly cheesesteaks, French vanilla coffee and Dunkin Donuts' cinnamon rolls. I miss family and friends even more.

Integration is too often seen as a one-way street where all the responsibility or blame falls on migrants. I want to see a shift in opinion that accepts that it takes two to integrate - with responsibilities on new members and their communities alike.

I've made numerous errors getting wrong what things are called in Britain. When asked to buy some tomato sauce, I brought home a bottle of, well, tomato sauce like Ragu. I found out that in the North East of England 'tomato sauce' means 'ketchup' (and sauce for pasta dishes is called 'pasta sauce'). I persuaded no one when I pointed out that ketchup says ketchup and the jar of Ragu in my hands did say 'tomato sauce'. Strange!

At first, I didn't think the leap would too great from the US to Ireland and from Ireland to the UK. An easy mistake for someone to make who hadn't done it. Now that I've lived in all three countries I better appreciate their differences. They can be hard to anticipate - even where there is a common language, similar common law tradition, etc.

My original plan was to succeed as an academic following a traditional academic pathway. This changed because of my first-hand experiences as a migrant. Navigating my way through visa applications was a mess. Few seemed to have any clear understanding of the rules. While everyone in the media seems to think there are few regulations, the truth is there is a tsunami of rules that seemed designed to keep people out by tricking them on some technicality. It's no way to run an immigration system fit for purpose.

I'm strongly committed to becoming a visible voice for migrants, as someone who made it through to becoming a British citizen, to counter misinformation and expose myths, but also to drive necessary and long overdue changes that will make the system work much better.

I think I bring skills and experiences from my field that enrich and develop my workplaces and communities. Knowing how things can work elsewhere is useful for showing new possibilities that may not be apparent to others.

 I worry about what the current president-elect will do. America is not the open society and land of opportunity it once was. I see the UK as much more of that kind of place. My home is here in Britain, not in the USA.”

Previous Country of Residence: 
Ireland

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s):

 

https://together.un.org            http://usaim.org/            https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

 

https://www.jcwi.org.uk/