Alena Katkova, 29 year old from Siberia, Russia who works as a call center operator in New Zealand converts to Islam
I was born in Russia, actually the USSR where there was no religion and I came to NZ in 2008, a country with many cultures, nationalities and religion.
When I started studying at AUT (New Zealand) I met several students who were Muslims, and I got curious and started asking questions and that's how I got to Islam. It changed my life a lot, to be honest, especially personality wise.
Before I converted, I used to go out with friends partying and clubbing, but all that has stopped. Since I started wearing the hijab, how people treat me has changed and I think I now get more respect. In Islam we are not supposed to shake hands with men, or hug and kiss anyone who is not your relative, so I don't do it. If I greet men I will just say "nice to meet you, but I'm sorry my religion does not allow me to shake hands with you" but with a smile they understand, and New Zealand is a very accepting country. However, there are challenges with my family, and even my younger sister still cannot understand or accept the fact that I am now a Muslim.
"In Russia, people still think of Muslims as terrorists because of what they see and hear in the media. I feel comfortable wearing the hijab, but when I'm thinking about changing jobs, because my qualification is in teaching, I am always thinking if they will actually accept me as a teacher here."