As a high-powered and active lawyer in Hungary, it was quite a shock when upon my arrival in Canada, for a whole year I was not permitted to do much more than stay at home in order to comply with both immigration regulations and Covid-19 restrictions.
I never imagined I would leave the country I had called home all my life; I was happy working as a lawyer and loved the life I had established. This all changed when my husband (Daniel) gained permanent residence in Canada. I was presented with a seemingly impossible decision, but unlike in my work life, this was a verdict I had to reach myself.
With family in Canada, Daniel applied for permanent residence during his university years and thereafter spent a few months in Quebec. I joined him in Montreal, but we eventually decided that life in the French province was not for us, and we returned to Hungary. Married soon after, we settled into a comfortably familiar life: one we created together. We shared the triumphs and defeats of a profession in law; we always had the other for support and never needed to explain ourselves.
However, there soon came a time when Daniel had to return to Canada in order to maintain the requirements of his permanent residency and I had another choice to make. There was a brief period of wishing my husband’s relatives were from Milan or Paris, but I soon realized that a new chapter might be just what I needed. Hoping for the best, I guarded faith that Canada would present greater challenges and opportunities.
Alberta welcomed me in December 2019. Applications for both an open work permit and a spousal visa were sent off within a few days of my reunion with Daniel. I was afforded a few months of normalcy until March 2020, when the whole world was flipped on its head as a global pandemic was declared.
A tourist with nowhere to go, a workaholic unable to do what I love, a newcomer in unfamiliar land: I really struggled. It was a difficult time. My friends and family could not understand why I had made this jump, calling me crazy; at times, even I could not fully remember why I was there. I’m no stranger to challenge: I have completed two bachelor’s degrees, a masters degree from London, a law degree in Hungary, published several legal research papers, and more. But this was a new kind of obstacle: one that was solved with patience rather than persistence.
Never one to be idle, I used that time to improve my spoken English skills and begin the hunt for a suitable job when the time came. I was told that I would be more likely to get a job at Superstore than anything close to what I had before. Unfazed, I scoured newspapers, bulletins, and signed up for community organizations in the hope of finding something more. A few months later, I came across a program offering work placements and readily signed up. There, I joined an environmental law firm who hired me as a paralegal: a great joy to finally return to the law. It is my ambition to become a full-time lawyer in Canada, despite the obstacles. It is a long and expensive process to be recertified as a lawyer in Canada, but one that I have already begun with high hopes and determination.
If I had to give a piece of advice to my past self, I would say that immigration is hard, but it’s a good process. It gives you a purpose as long as you remember why you’re there. For me, this was not always clear, but hindsight recognizes that Canada offered me a new challenge, a new chapter, a new outlook that I would have otherwise gone without.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Skye Baxter and Daria Hajdu