Growing up, I never felt that I belonged anywhere or had my own unique sense of identity. I joined a military school at the age of 12, so I spent most of my childhood and teenage years with strangers and away from my family. After I left the military, I decided to move to Bangladesh and settle down with a steady job at a commercial bank. This was my parents’ dream come true: a successful banker son who they could brag about at dinner parties. However, much to my parents’ chagrin, that was not the life I wanted. I grudgingly completed my training, hoping that I might soon feel the sense of fulfillment that I so longed for; it did not come.
It seemed I would not find the sense of belonging I sought in Bangladesh; I set my sights on Canada. I was looking for a country that had a strong sense of multicultural diversity that would welcome me and all that I have to offer. It was also important to me that my individual rights and freedoms would be protected to a higher degree than where I was from. This goal in mind, I collected all of my important documents and applied for a work Visa, hopes running high.
Immigrating to Canada was far more difficult than I initially anticipated. My friends and family suggested I contact an immigration agency, but I knew this was a challenge I wanted to take on myself. It took many months of paperwork and a great level of patience, but before I knew it, I held my Visa-stamped passport in my hands. I felt excitement and terror in equal measure as I packed up all of my belongings and headed to the airport, knowing that a wholly new life awaited me once the plane touched down.
Before actually moving to Canada, I applied to a number of different universities in the country. I was most excited for my acceptance to one of the best research universities in all of North America: the University of Calgary. I accepted a role as a research assistant in the department of Geoscience. It was a huge shift from what I had previously been trained in, but I was looking for any opportunity to expand my base of knowledge and branch out.
There are pros and cons of living in Canada, just like any other place in the world. It is a diverse country, which means you will often find someone with a similar cultural background you can relate to. On the other hand, it is also frigidly cold in the winter. Coming from a warm country, I had never experienced -30° weather in my life before; it is not exactly my favourite aspect of Canadian life. However, I have great friends to keep me company during both the long winter nights and the gorgeous summer weather: they help me feel safe and at home.
I can now say I have accomplished most of my goals in coming here, and continue to work towards the rest. I continue to study something I am passionate about, and I am still trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. However, I am happy with where I am right now.
Lastly, some advice I would give to anyone who is planning on leaving their home country to go on a journey of self-discovery: do it. It is worth it, and it is never too late to start over. No matter how hard it may seem at first, I promise you that it gets better. Just do what seems right to you, follow your heart, and be honest with yourself and others, and it will pay off in the end.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Nada Aouni and Sharmin Rahman