A 17-year-old Polish Icelander eloquently describes his experience of confronting prejudice for the first time, and his struggle against it.
A new study conducted in Iceland has shown that children of foreign origin are three times more likely to be bullied as their ethnically Icelandic counterparts. This does not surprise Piotr Adam, a student at Fjölbrautaskóla Vesturlands in Akranes.
Piotr and his mother moved to Akranes from Poland when he was nine years old. At first, he was excited to be coming to a new country, meeting new people, and learning a new language.
Things went well, he said, until the seventh grade (when most kids are 12 or 13 years old). Here, he was confronted with prejudice for the first time. Given his first few years of relative peace, he had no idea where this came from. These kids had never met a foreigner before, he realised, and therefore must have learned prejudice at home. Being called names and being shunned was a hurtful experience, and one he struggled with for some time.
Fortunately, the intervention of the school principal put a stop to that. Since then, Piotr believes he has integrated well into Icelandic society. He is especially grateful to his teachers, who spoke to him exclusively in Icelandic, which he says helped him a great deal to learn the language.
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