I first visited snowy Canada in 2016 to see my mother and siblings. I am originally from Pakistan, but I was living in Australia then. I had difficulty securing a job in Australia despite having certifications in business and community service. I wanted to pursue a career. Instead, I worked in a retail store. Two years later, I visited Canada again, and this time, I decided to apply for a study permit. I was eager to be reunited with my family and continue my studies in social work. Additionally, I knew from visiting previously that I liked the community, Canadian culture, and Canada’s warmth toward other cultures.
When I started on my paperwork to get a Canadian study permit, certifying my education credentials from Australia took so long that I had to try multiple services. I could not continue my bachelor’s degree as planned in Canada because of the length and complexity of the requested documentation. The university did not want to accept my English courses from Pakistan, and I could not complete my English language testing in time. Adjusting my expectations, I stepped back and went to Bow Valley College. While studying full-time, I supported myself by working retail jobs. After my permanent residence is approved, I plan to continue my bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, the international tuition cost is too high for me.
After finishing my diploma, I did my practicum with an immigrant services organization in Calgary and was offered a full-time position. Although I plan to continue working with immigrants after obtaining my bachelor’s degree, my current job isn’t in social work. Instead, I work to raise awareness of the resources our organization provides. Many immigrants I encounter in my day-to-day work tell me that they want to go back home and that they didn’t expect their journey to be this hard. They can’t find the housing and jobs they expected. Because I have been in that position, I know how to help and what resources to connect them with.
Finally, reuniting with my family was immensely helpful in my transition, as were my college advisors. They helped me with everything from my education and future career plans to my immigration process. Because of their patience and support, I could renew my study permit by myself. Even my employers and managers at my retail jobs were friendly and helpful. I left behind many friends and neighbors in Australia, but because of the time difference and the busy life we all lead, it has been difficult to keep in touch. I miss my old friends and extended family back in Pakistan, as well as the culture and celebrations. Celebrations here in Canada are not quite the same.
I advise other newcomers to do exactly what I did: adjust your expectations. Patience is required for every aspect of the immigration process, especially finding a job. Don’t give up on finding something in your field! Instead of expecting that you will be on the same level you were back home, you may have to start from scratch in your career. Be open and be flexible. Finding your dream job is easier once you have Canadian work experience.
During this journey, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork involved every step of the way. The process is time-consuming, and it requires patience. Especially with COVID, the delays were even worse. My husband originally applied to join me on my study permit, but the government rejected his application. Having him live abroad has been difficult, and I’m looking forward to having permanent residence so he can rejoin me. Having a long-distance relationship has been the greatest challenge of this journey. Looking back, I’d advise others to avoid being put in that position because it’s tough on any relationship or marriage.
I’ve never felt that I don’t belong here. Most of us have been immigrants, if not us, than our parents or grandparents. Having those shared personal experiences makes Canadians empathic towards the challenges immigrants face. This empathy and welcomeness has allowed me to achieve my dreams here in Canada, and I am confident that I will also reach my education and career goals here.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Sophia Vitter and Rabia Khan