My name is Grace Lin and I am a 14 year old girl from South Vietnam. I grew up in a small village with my parents and 2 sisters while my country was under attack. We tried to escape the war in our country several times but we were never successful until finally we got onto a small boat headed for Malaysia. There were 34 of us 'asylum seekers' on board and after only two days we ran out of fresh water and had to depend on fruit to keep us hydrated. We were crammed and I had a constant fear that I was going to drown. After eight days we were picked up by the Malaysian Navy and taken to a refugee camp where after only four days we found out we were on our way to start our new life in Australia. We didn't have much money and even though I had to leave most of my things back in Vietnam I was so excited to be getting a fresh start in a new country, free from the wars I had to experience in Vietnam.
When we arrived in Australia I felt isolated, I started at a new school and it was hard to make friends. There were not many Vietnamese people living in my area and the kids at school teased my 'squinty eyes' and my bad english. I remember crying myself to sleep every night and having nightmares of my classmates screaming at me to go back to where I came from. I was lonely, I didn't fit in, I didn't belong. Until we got a new classmate, another refugee like me. Whitney was from India and as soon as the two of us met, I knew she would be my first friend here in Australia. We were a constant support for each other and helped one another settle in and slowly be accepted by others.
Today I am proud to call myself an Australian. Whitney and I remain very good friends and even though at times I really miss living in Vietnam, I would never go back to live there. Australia is my home.