Dunedin people ‘friendly and kind’

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Nour Akkam will never forget the day in 2012 when she first heard the sound of a bomb.

When the 21-year-old woke in her bed in Aleppo, Syria, she looked out her window to see people in the grounds of the school she attended carrying bombs and guns.

“We knew they were terrorists and we all hid in one room in my house,” she said.

Miss Akkam and her family hid in their family home of 14 years for one week without water or electricity and with minimal food.

“The bombs were always going off around us. It was dangerous to stay but at that time it was more dangerous to leave.”

Miss Akkam, her mother and two sisters then risked a two-day bus ride to Lebanon.

“We stayed in Lebanon for four years. My father did not want to leave Syria and one year after we left he was killed.

“My uncle said he was walking with my father and a bomb was dropped. My uncle started running but he could not see where my father went.”

After four years in Lebanon, Miss Akkam and her family were given refuge in New Zealand.

“When I first came to New Zealand in June, 2016, every little thing was surprising.

“I did not know people wore the same shoes outside and inside.

“I did not know people ate dinner when we eat lunch.”

She is pursuing a higher education at Otago Polytechnic.

Last week she graduated with a Level 3 certificate in English Language.

She received the high achievement award, scoring the highest grade in her class of 19.

Miss Akkam wants to study IT and have her own family in New Zealand one day.

“Syria will always be my home but I like it here.

“The people are friendly and kind.”

At the moment she is enjoying seeing the Christmas preparations around the city.

“I like the big tree in the Octagon and the decorations.

“It means there is a celebration and a good thing happening.”