A Teen’s Reflections on Moving From Dubai to Melbourne

As a fairly recent transplant to Australia myself, I love meeting teens who have moved from other countries because their parents believed they would have more opportunities or a better future here. Moving during the teen years, let alone to another country, develops a certain type of adaptability that living in the same hometown your entire childhood just cannot replicate. For sure, there are tremendous obstacles to being uprooted at such a pivotal time in your life. Add a pandemic on top of that and you have a recipe for an even tougher transition. I’ve seen this with my own kids. However, those who have been through it have the chance to be develop a resilience and a global perspective that you can’t teach from a book. It’s the school of “real life” and I admire teens who have had to make such shifts at such an early age. 

This is why I really enjoyed getting to know Amira. We went out to celebrate her 14th birthday with a photoshoot at the local park and playground. Amira moved to Melbourne from Dubai just before the pandemic. Because of work, her father stays in Dubai but comes to visit the family every few months. This is the reality of a lot of families who make such a big move. Often one goes ahead to help the kids get established while another stays behind to finish “closing shop” or stays to continue work until a new opportunity emerges in the new country. 

I not only enjoyed getting to know Amira but I loved so much about this photoshoot with her. We celebrated her love for the violin, did some fun poses with her bestie who came along for moral support, and enjoyed a fantastic fall sunset. Here are her thoughts on middle school, moving, and the differences between Australia and living in the Middle East.

What kind of things do you like to do when you’re not in school? When I’m not in school I like to swim. I find that sports helps me de-stress. I love being active and enjoy playing basketball and table tennis as well. I also like exploring new places to eat out with my family!

melbourne teen girl walking on bridge towards camea with hands folded in oversized white button down collared shirt

Tell me about your middle school experience so far. What’s been the hardest thing? My favourite subject in school is probably art, it’s a subject I’m confident in and drawing/sketching is one of my favourite hobbies. I think the hardest thing would be the work load but then also thinking about how we’re in our last year of middle school, soon to be entering senior school. Sometimes it can surely get pretty stressful but with amazing friends and opportunities I’ve learnt to be grateful for what I have and excited for what’s to come.  

What are your hopes and dreams for high school and beyond? In the future I would love to become an architect. It’s always been an interest as it’s somewhat close to art. I would love to pursue it.

What was it like for you to transition to this new country? I was 9 years old when we moved to Australia. I grew up in Dubai which is one of the seven emirates of the UAE. It was quite a challenge as I was leaving my friends and extended family behind but I was also excited for this new experience and excited to make new friends and explore this new country.

Melbourne teen girl leans back from fence with red leaves in foreground.

What is something different about living in Australia and where you used to live? Well one of the main differences was that, and as my mum keeps saying, Dubai is a city that never sleeps and everything is open till really late as opposed to when we came here we found the majority of the shops here close in the evening. But I loved the fact that I didn’t have as much homework  in primary school as I did in Dubai!

Melbourne teen girl sits on step and leans back on bean at playground.

What would you want Australians to know about Dubai? I think something I would like Australians to know about Dubai is that it really is a wonderful place to live in as it continues to develop more and more with so many people from all over the world, it’s truly multicultural! It will always have a special place in my heart.

How did you feel before going on the photo shoot? Were you nervous, excited, scared? I was definitely nervous because I’ve never really done a photoshoot before but during the session I felt more and more comfortable and really excited to see how the results were going to look!

Teen Melbourne girl looks through a green coloured circular web structure at a playground.

What was your favourite photo from the photo shoot? I think my favourite photo would be the one where I was leaning against the monkey bars. I loved everything about it, the way the camera was angled so it was a full body camera shot and the way I posed!


What is one piece of advice you would want to give to your younger self like if you were entering middle school all over again. To be open to making new friends and taking part in school events. I was really fixed on sticking with the friends I had in primary school but as I was put into a totally different class I found amazing people who I could really connect with and as my social circle got bigger and bigger the more people I got to know personally!

Two Melbourne teen  girls standing on one leg with the other bend looking at each other and making a heart with their hands.

Based in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, particularly in the communities of Ashwood, Ashburton, Blackburn, Burwood, Chadstone, Clayton, Forest Hill, Glen Iris, Glen Waverley, Hawthorn, Malvern, Mount Waverley, Nunawading, Ringwood, Wantirna, Wheelers Hill, and surrounding communities. She regularly travels to the US where she serves families especially in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, and NYC.

Christine is a portrait photographer based in Melbourne, Australia with a gift for working with tween and teens. As a mother of three teens and a tween, she serves parents by providing natural, authentic and timeless portraits of their teens - an alternative to the fun but filtered selfies our teens are accustomed to on social media. Photoshoots are relaxed where Christine quickly builds a rapport with the teens and works with them to capture natural, posed, and un-posed candid shots that reflect who they are at this time in their life. Contact Christine to book your teen portrait experience. See more of her work on her website and her most current work on Instagram or Facebook.  

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