Posted by Nicoletta ()
My name is Keti and I am 22 years old.
I live in Malta for 9 years now, I was only 13 when we moved here. My teenage years, my schooling years, all those were spent in Malta, so I grew up here.
When I first arrived, I fell in love with the country. As a child, to see the sea, the sun shining all the time, it is fascinating; but after some time, I started feeling claustrophobic, trapped in a small place. I think to enjoy living in Malta you need to go on many many travels abroad, you need a change once in a while.
Georgia on the other hand is so wide, full of mountains, it is completely different! For me this lack of space was a bit of a shock, it was difficult to adapt to the lifestyle here. Eventually, though, I got so used to it that now going back to Georgia is hard as well, because I am not used to the lifestyle there anymore.
When I go to Georgia I do miss Malta. I miss the people of Malta, their open mindedness, their living their own lives and not interfering with yours. In Georgia people are lovely but they get into everyone’s business. Here in Malta you feel freer to be whomever you are. But when I am in Malta I miss Georgia’s fresh air, the green, the mountains! And, of course, my friends and family.
It was not my decision to move here, as I was very young. My mother, my father, my brother, my aunt, my uncle, my cousins, they all live here. First my aunt came and then she asked my mom if I could come join her. She was really like my second mother and she thought I could have a better future here. Indeed, my parents decided to move to Malta with us, my brother and I, because they wanted us to have access to better education. They wanted us to learn English.
We did not expect to stay here for so long. But Malta provided us with many study opportunities, right now even for free, hence I decided to stay. Once you live in Malta for more than 5 years you can apply for an exemption of fees from school, which is a very good opportunity we migrant students are given.
Studying here helps a lot in integration. Local people instantly look at you differently if you mention that you are studying at the University of Malta, for example. They feel more at ease if they know you are living the same lifestyle as they are.
However, after all this time living here, I do not speak Maltese. I always had more international friends and I attended an international high school. My brother studied in a governmental school and speaks perfect Maltese, he is more integrated than I am. It makes a big difference if you speak to people in their own language because they feel more confident and can listen more.
I do have Maltese friends, they are quite friendly and fun people, but somehow, I never managed to make long term friendships with locals. Maybe it is because I am a foreigner and they are not, I do not know. We have different cultures so, whether you like it or not, we will always clash somewhere and not agree. But I think that is the richness of living all together, evolving by getting to know different perspectives.
It is not easy for non-E.U. nationals to come to reside and work in Malta, nor to integrate into Maltese society. They look at us as if by default we are undocumented. Even to get a job, we apply and since our permit takes so much effort to prepare, to fight for, employers rather choose an E.U. national over us, even when we are more qualified for the job. Also, people have the pre-conceived idea that those coming from outside the E.U. are more likely to steal and commit all sorts of crimes, they do not always look at us for what we are, human beings. There is this reputation attached to all of us.
Right now, I have a work permit. I work at Intercontinental Malta for three years now, I started my internship there while I was still a student at the Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS) and I stayed.
I wanted to further my knowledge and grow professionally, and I believe that you can only achieve that through education. So, after finishing my first degree at the ITS, I decided to continue with my studies at the University of Malta, where I am taking my Bachelor of Arts in Tourism. I learnt a lot at ITS, particularly from a practical side, which also made me overcome my shyness and lack of confidence. At the University of Malta, I gain a more consistent theoretical framework, which is also important to understand the bigger picture of the industry. I think this is the perfect combination.
The biggest challenge I face is, I believe, quite common to all third country nationals. Every year I need to apply again for my permit and face the bureaucratic and financial hassle all over again. And it takes a very long time until you finally get your permit. My biggest criticism of Malta is the lack of proper organisation of its public administration.
I want to apply for long term residency, a lawyer told me I have that right, but I am not even sure if I can. My cousins, for instance, were born here and have been living here for as long they live and still they do not have the citizenship, they must wait until they turn 18.
I like living in Malta, but I do not really feel like I am a part of it. I still want to go back to Georgia. Home is always home. No matter how long I will stay here, nothing and nowhere will ever replace it.
Interview by Ana Ferreira