‘Sign language can make body language positive and effective’


What is your ethnicity? Where did you come from?

I am Sana Alyaseri from Basra, in the south of Iraq – the city of oil and water.


What brought you to NZ?

From 1990 to 2003, Iraq suffered from the UN sanction which affected our lives. Therefore, we decided to leave Iraq in 2000, moving to Jordan and then back to Iraq in 2004. We left again in 2007 for Oman, where we had a good job and lived in a good environment for seven years. But we also realised that we were there on a work visa which will come to an end some day. Our children were growing up and we needed to think about their future. Going back to Iraq was not an option as the situation had gone worse. So, we started searching for a country where we could settle down. New Zealand was our option after we checked the points system in terms of skilled migrants programme. It was actually the only option available to us.


How do you feel about your decision to come to NZ? Why?

I feel happy and I appreciate living in NZ. I believe this is the best decision we took. NZ has a good education system. I see my younger children are growing up in a good environment and are developing good character skills which they learned from school. 

We focus on how to live in this beautiful country, express our opinion freely, treat others well without considering their colour, religion and culture, and respect and accept everyone. We did not learn that in the country we come from. 

NZ has a rainbow culture which has taught us a lot and over the years, we understood a lot of things we used to do but did not know why. I have met and worked with different cultures and asked them a lot of questions about their experiences. This has really helped me develop myself and enjoy this life.   


What was the best thing that has happened since you moved to NZ?

To be honest, a lot of good things happened to me. The list is countless – working in different schools, meeting different people and traveling to amazing places in NZ. But let me tell you something: I may consider starting my PhD, which has been my dream for a long time! 

I have also started my business which is now doing very well and helps make others’ dreams come true.


Any experience you had since you moved to NZ that could have been avoided?

Let me interpret this in another way – we cannot avoid some experiences. All through life we face situations that we call a ‘challenge’. Without these challenges and experiences we will not develop ourselves and move to a better stage in life. Every challenge and experience looks bad, but if we look at it from all angles, we will find some good things there. I loved every experience and challenge that came my way – they were gifts.

During the recent lockdown, I used the opportunity to complete 2 levels of NZ Sign Language, because I feel it taught me how to use my body language positively and effectively. It is an important skill to have when you’re working with international students.


What would be your golden advice to a new migrant to NZ?

I would ask them to firstly, clean their minds off all the bad experiences they have received from migrants who arrived before them. These are their experiences, their stories. They just tell us what they believe. They never tell us the full story. 

Look at the successful migrants who made an impact in this country, who lived and told their stories in a wonderful narrative. A lot of migrants will tell you there is racism here and they have experienced it. Believe me, racism is everywhere in the world, even in your home country and sometimes you will find it within your own community. You can not avoid them, but you can ignore them. 

We need to label these experiences as something else and not racism. Maybe just think of those incidents as other people having a bad day and tell yourself that you are not going to let that affect you. 

One more thing you have to remember. All the people in NZ are migrants but the difference is some arrived before you – one year or two years or ten years ago. So they are more confident than you. Be patient and enjoy. Everything will be ok. It’s just a matter of time.  


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