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The Search for Freedom: Julie’s Story

Living in China, the idea of freedom was strange to me until I was old enough to realize my life was not truly my own. It was at that point that I started looking to other countries and found a new understanding of what freedom meant: it meant not living in fear and insecurity, and not being denied even the most basic rights on account of your political beliefs. My dream was to live in a democratic country where I would have the fundamental freedoms of thought, belief, opinion and expression.

In China, I worked as a public relations officer for an energy company after studying linguistics in university. I wrote a weekly newsletter, handled the marketing of the company, and composed financial reports for the company. It was a robotic life in a busy city.

In 2021, my life took a drastic turn: a new program was launched for Hong Kong citizens. Whoever had graduated from university in the past 5 years could apply for a work permit abroad. I applied immediately and was pleasantly surprised when my visa was quickly approved. Moving to Canada in September 2021 was my chance to start a new life for myself; this program gave me the opportunity to start over. Although it was challenging at first to live on my own and not know anyone here, looking back it was also rewarding. I chose Canada because it’s a multicultural country where people from all over the world with different backgrounds and cultures feel accepted and at home. Canada also has a strong history of respect for political rights and civil liberties. It is a powerful force for progress, protection, and fairness on the global stage.

Starting again meant I had to find a new job and a place to live. I noticed (to my relief) that the job market was not nearly as competitive as it was in Hong Kong and that the opportunities are much more diverse as well. It took me about 6 months to get my current position after many online applications, but it was overall a smooth process.

One of the most challenging parts was overcoming the language barrier. English is not my mother tongue so adjusting to speaking it 24/7 was difficult. I learned to listen attentively and talk slowly so people would better understand me; I also picked up local slang, which helped me get better at communicating and relating to people. Although it was not an easy process, the people here were understanding and didn’t treat me differently because we didn’t speak the same language, which made me more comfortable in initiating conversations and making new friends.

Coming from a region where it doesn’t get below 0 degrees, having to adapt to the freezing weather was jarring. Above even the warm weather, I miss the food of my home country, especially seafood (there’s not many options when it comes to seafood in Alberta). If I could go back in time, my advice to my younger self would be to take as many cooking lessons from my mom as possible. Looking back, the thought of having to cook twice a day for myself did not cross my mind so I wish I had better prepared.

My advice for anyone new to Canada is to ask for help when you need it: people are nice and helpful. Don’t stress about everything because it is all in God's plan.

Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity

This story is a collaborative effort between Nada Aouni and Julie Lam

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