I moved to Canada three years ago from India on a study permit. It wasn’t my first choice, but due to Covid-19, my plans had to shift. I was unhappy with the options for post-secondary school in my home country, so I took a gap year to consider my options and focus on my mental health.
After some research, McGill University seemed the most affordable and inclusive choice for me. I feel that large urban centres are generally more inclusive, especially the university campuses. I studied at an American Boarding School where everyone had a unique story and background. In making my decision to move halfway across the world, ensuring the culture was diverse and welcome was important to me.
Moving here has given me more independence, but lacks the luxuries I enjoyed back home. Despite the change in environment, I am still the same person as I was, doing what I want. I’ve traveled extensively, however, living here requires getting used to certain shifts in culture. It is an intimidating feeling at first as an outsider but after you move past that initial point, lifestyle and support is accessible and welcoming.
I was taken out of the Indian school system at a young age in order to attend boarding school. This school prepared me well for university and as a result, I found the Canadian education system was not overly difficult to adapt to. My only weakness in school were topics related to Canada itself since I do not have extensive knowledge of the country, but I was happy and excited to learn.
My family was supportive of my decision to immigrate, especially my grandfather who worked in Montreal during the Olympics. I feel fortunate that I was able to take time off and decide on a university that would make me the most happy. Montreal will charm anyone with its old architecture, greenery, and the laid back environment along with the modern touch to the city.
The few times I’ve felt uncomfortable or unwelcome were the result of ignorance instead of hatred. Despite speaking English my entire life, I occasionally struggled with the slang in this new environment. In Montreal, I often feel “othered” as a result of the linguistic divide. I’m fortunate to have friends here who have helped me adapt to Canadian slang and lifestyle.
Despite the challenges of moving during a pandemic and adjusting to an entirely different set of customs, the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is my mental health. A few months into university, I started to really struggle with it. However, I’ve been fortunate to have accessible health care and support systems throughout this journey.
Though it often also brings struggle, one of the greatest joys is being comfortable in my identity as a gay person. Although India is progressing, I had never been treated like anybody else. I always knew I was different, and was treated accordingly. As a LGBTQ person from a big city, I enjoyed more freedom than I would have been allowed in many different parts of the country. I also am fortunate enough to come from a supportive family.
I’ve wondered for many years now: where is home? Home is where my family is but I haven’t been with them since I was thirteen years old. A significant portion of my life has taken place away from where I was raised. However, I feel comfortable in Montreal and can possibly see myself living here more long-term. I dearly miss the familiar chaos of back home. Montreal has a great chaos to it as well, with a similar energy to New York. My advice to anyone looking to immigrate is that no one cares more than you will, so do what you truly want.
I was craving independence and I feel that I have finally achieved it. I am able to experience freedom while also learning from the people around me and making memories. I am actively working towards achieving my goals and if I could give my younger self a piece of advice, I would remind myself to be patient and to trust yourself. This is a decision you’ve made wisely and it will lead you well.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity This story is a collaborative effort between Nandini Agarwal and Nakul Mistry