In the 1990s, Afghanistan endured intense political instability, a multitude of humanitarian crises, and far more implications resulting from war. These critical situations threatened the security of the people of Afghanistan; in response, Canada began more actively approving immigrants at the time. Over 20 years ago, I immigrated alone to Canada to be reunited alongside my two brothers who had already fled. My brother had already secured his citizenship, and was therefore able to sponsor my immigration to Canada. The gravity of the situation in Afghanistan coupled with my brother’s sponsorship made my approval for immigration simple and quick.
The immigration process would have been a lot more difficult if I didn’t have the support system I did. Without a sponsor and the assistance provided to me by the Canadian government, it would have been nearly impossible to get to where I am today. The decision to come to Canada was largely based on the opportunities available to me as well as family ties; going to Canada was the golden route for me. I was thankful to realize that the people in Canada were nothing but welcoming and helpful; this surprised me the most about the entire process because I anticipated the adjustment would be more difficult and jarring than it turned out to be.
The greatest joy about my immigration to Canada was being reunited with family. Although I had to leave my parents and many friends behind, it was invigorating to meet family members who had already immigrated before I was even born. However, the greatest challenge was to leave, knowing it might be the last time I would see my parents, siblings, and friends. Relinquishing that sense of familiarity was challenging. It was a difficult decision to make, but I do not regret it in the least.
There were a considerable number of cultural shifts that I had to grow accustomed to. In Canada, drinking tap water is safe, there are paved roads, marked lanes, and road signs. In Afghanistan, I could get a loaf of bread and pay the owner later in the day (I soon learned this is not the custom here). You can always learn a new language, but it is far more difficult to adjust to habits you’ve established over the course of twenty years.
I always spoke in Arabic with my family. However, working in a restaurant required the ability to speak English in order to effectively communicate with customers. I had to pick up on words slowly and make connections to my mother tongue. It was through these connections with customers and coworkers where I really learned the English language. Adapting to a different language took time, however it was not too difficult an adjustment.
The central goal of my immigration was to find stability in Canada. The economic and political environment in Afghanistan could not provide the support and security that Canada does. Although I miss the regularity and sense of comfort of my small village in Afghanistan, I do not think it is possible to return. Looking back, I do not see myself choosing a different country to immigrate to. I sought stability, safety, and security, and Canada has provided me with that and more. Canada is very inclusive and has provided me with countless opportunities and experiences. As time goes on, the connections I have made with people in Canada have only become more deep-rooted. For these reasons, I do not regret my decision to immigrate and I am glad I created a home in Canada.
This story is a collaborative effort between Raelynn Tkachuk and Yousef Wali
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity