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Don't Lose Hope: Sumaya's Story

Immigration is not just a bunch of papers. It is a prolonged and expensive process that challenges your patience and optimism. After being denied immigration to the United States, and losing thousands of dollars in the process, my family applied for immigration to Canada. I assumed it would be an easy process – not one that afforded prolonged financial troubles, job instability, and barriers in living a comfortable life.

My parents’ degrees did not translate into the equivalent qualifications offered in Canada. My mom’s degree in education did not permit her to be a teacher in Canada, as it did in Pakistan; this was something we did not expect. All of the money, time, and effort spent in attaining her degree all went to waste upon moving to Canada. My mom has now taken up a Montessori course and has been working in a daycare for about 14 years. My dad struggled to find a job due to the harsh economic climate upon coming to Canada, however, he has recently found a job that caters well to his degree.

We thought there would be a surplus of job opportunities in Canada, but for my family, this was not the case. We did not envision such difficulty in transitioning to the new job market. One of the main reasons why it was so difficult was because of the language barrier. My parents were unfamiliar with the English language, which made the interview process very difficult. This language barrier limited their job choices and delayed potential employment opportunities. Although we expected the language barrier, we underestimated the extent to which it would impact our situation.

The resulting lack of income led to some financial troubles. We did not expect our financial situation after immigrating to become so stagnant. We were in the same state of affairs as we were prior to immigrating, and this was demoralizing. Knowing that we gave up everything to immigrate and we still could not live a comfortable life left us concerned for the future. It was struggle after struggle.

When you immigrate, you do not know if you will retain your culture or if you will assimilate into this new society. We were fearful of forgetting our traditions, culture, and values upon coming to Canada. My culture is my identity. It plays a big role in making me the person I am today, and if I were to lose that part of me, I would no longer recognize myself. At first, it was hard finding people that belonged in our same community, but over time we connected with people through social gatherings. In terms of our traditions, culture, and religion, people in Canada were happy to be part of it and we felt comfortable embracing it.

During Eid, we dressed up in our cultural attire and people were complimenting how beautiful our culture’s clothes are. They were also very supportive of our religion and we found people here to celebrate our traditions with. So, if you were to ask me if coming to Canada was a welcoming and open environment, I would say both yes and no. It was initially hard finding anyone from the same community. However, the people in Canada soon made us feel comfortable, welcome, and we felt that we belonged.

The largest adjustment I had to make was learning to be okay with being alone. I had to learn to be okay with just the four of us instead of my entire extended family back home. I missed weddings and birthdays for cousins that I was never able to meet. When you immigrate, you have to accept this sense of loneliness, but you also have to remember that you will make connections in Canada that won’t make you feel so alone. Over the years, I made lifelong friends who made me feel at home and helped the most with adjusting to Canada.

If I could go back in time and give myself advice, I would tell myself not to lose hope. Immigration is not something you can rush; it will happen when the time is right. The process is stressful, but the long-term rewards are worthwhile. There were many unexpected obstacles upon coming to Canada, but reflecting on the years we have spent here, Canada is a good country to build a good life.

Be patient, stay optimistic, and don’t lose hope in the process.

This story is a collaborative effort between Raelynn Tkachuk and Sumaya Irfan

Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity

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