Kenyan-born Zac Ekandi has vivid memories of the day he walked into Nairobi’s British Council office 17 years ago tasked with making the biggest decision of his teenage life.
Mr Ekandi, then 18, was researching options to study abroad. After telling his parents of his desire to study overseas, the family met with a British Council agent to discuss his options.
Kenyan Zac Ekandi became a new citizen today after 17 years in Newcastle
“I remember when I went to see the British Council agent I said I don’t want to go to a big city - big cities are always full of traffic and I wanted somewhere quiet,” he said.
“The agent gave me information about studying in Manchester UK and Newcastle Australia and I applied to both universities to study Computer Science.”
When offers soon followed for places at both universities, it was the promise of a ‘quiet, coastal lifestyle at Newcastle where I’d be happy most’ that stole Mr Ekandi’s heart.
“The agent told me that I’d be most happy here, and I am.”
Today, more than 17 years after trading in Nairobi for Newcastle, the 39-year-old and 249 other people from more than 41 different countries became Newcastle’s newest citizens when they took their oaths and affirmations at City Hall.
"It's always a great honour to welcome new citizens from all corners of the globe," said City of Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes.
"Newcastle is a welcoming city for people of all cultures and religious backgrounds. We are proud to be a culturally diverse, inclusive community."
Aboriginal elder Aunty Phyllis Darcey gave a Welcome to Country and entertainment was be provided by indigenous dance group, Wakakulang.
Mr Ekandi, of Jesmond, said becoming an Australian Citizen was a long-held goal and something that he is very proud to be achieving today.
“I am extremely excited as it was something that I wanted to do and the last part of the process that I wanted to complete,” he said.
“I think one of the things I like so much about Newcastle is the community. I’ve made a lot of friends here, and they’ve been very helpful.
“That’s the kind of community Newcastle is. It’s great.”