I moved from Turkey to Canada in December 2017 with my mother and brothers. Although I migrated from Turkey, I am originally from Syria and was forced to flee because of the war. Looking back at my journey, I realize that it was the kind of life that I lived that pushed me to where I am today. After escaping the war in Syria, our life in Turkey was very tough. We didn’t have many of the bare necessities, we faced racism and social isolation of all kinds. We lived with half the rights that Turkish citizens enjoyed. Being refugees with temporary protection, we did not have the right to become citizens or residents of Turkey, and neither did we have the legal right to work. As a result, I was paid a third of what most employees earned.
Then there was the language barrier, which was a reason for concern for me and my family. The unfortunate reality is that learning their language didn’t even prove that beneficial. Due to the language barrier, I was kicked out of a factory where I used to work without any notice or apology. I couldn’t even enroll myself as a student because the school didn’t accept my refugee status. I had to start working at the age of 15 to support the household; my education was stopped at grade 9 and I was forced into work. It was only after coming to Canada that I got the opportunity to resume my education.
Without any refugee housing in Turkey, I had to work 12 hours a day in a textile factory to make ends meet. With my co-workers isolating me completely, I didn’t feel fulfilled at work. When my mom was choosing which country to migrate to, it was Canada that caught her eye. I still remember the time we first landed here, it was as if my dreams were coming true. We couldn’t believe we had made it.
Living in Canada has been like stepping into a dream. I realised I can be someone, do something that matters, and be recognized for it. My life here is completely different from what my life was back in Syria and Turkey. I could never imagine having the rights and freedom that I enjoy here. I realised I can be a student, even though I had passed the conventional age. As far as academics were concerned, I did not face any significant challenges in catching up with the Canadian educational system. I threw myself into school life, got involved in the university environment, took advantage of the resources, read, re-read, and worked hard.
Coming from a country which primarily had a single culture, one of the largest challenges was living in a multicultural environment. With time, I learnt and interacted with people from diverse cultures, races and perspectives. This made me socially active and open-minded. One of the things that stood out for me was feeling welcomed by Canadians.
I never experienced a single situation where I had to question my identity as an immigrant. I was also welcomed and accepted wherever I went. I put effort into pushing myself into situations where I would have to meet people from diverse backgrounds. Throughout this journey, I helped myself in adjusting to everything and transforming myself to fit into a new and better environment. Despite all of this, I still miss my traditions, holy events, gathering with friends and family, and my country’s air.
Looking back, I believe that my goal of getting a good education has been fulfilled and through this process, I have discovered my hidden talents. Through my Bachelor of Social Work degree, I want to help people who are in a place I was once in. In the end, the advice that I would like to give to my younger self is: be patient because from severity, mercy is born.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Dinky Tandon and Farah Darwish