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  • dharashah2907

The experience of Migration!

Like millions of South Asians who aspire to migrate to western countries, I too dreamt the

same. When the first thought about moving abroad comes up, most Indians dream about UK. When I was in college, I explored some options to get into a college in London but coming from a middle class family, the dream didn't turn into a reality as my family wasn't able to afford the tuition. My gender was also one big factor that contributed to me not being able to go out of my city or my country to pursue higher education. Indian cities are still not safe when it comes to a woman living by herself and so this idea of me going out of my city and living abroad didn't fly.

Eventually when I decided to get married, my desire to go out of the country seemed to take shape as my partner was also keen to migrate. We chose Canada as at the time it had opened immigrant intake based on professional skills. And so we applied and eventually got accepted after 2 and half years. I took this major decision of moving to a new country with absolutely no family or friends living there, I hadn't put much thought into it. Living in India, this decision just looked very exciting at that time. I was aware and prepared

for the cold weather and simple life struggles that were involved when migrating. Little did I know that migrating to a new country would bring such extreme challenges and shift in my perspective towards my culture.

It has been a little over 5 years since we first migrated to Canada with approximately $5000. I came to Hamilton as one of my sister's friend was kind enough to provide us accommodation at his apartment which he shared with 5 other people. After about 4 months before we moved into our own rented unit. It was extremely hard to find a place that would rent newcomers. I hadn't known about these struggles when in India. Also, most Indian families are joint families and as a teenager or young adult from India, you do not have to think or have to worry about finding your own apartment. We applied to a few landlords but were not accepted as we didn't have enough credit. I hadn't heard about this credit system when planning to come to Canada. You hear and read these stories that show you the CN Tower and Niagara Falls and you decide to migrate. But here I was facing the harsh realities of migration. We also needed a guarantor. How am I supposed to find

a guarantor who was to take my responsibility with the Landlord when I have just arrived in the country? Despite these struggles, eventually we ended up finding a decent unit in downtown Hamilton. Today, I own my house and it has been over 2 years since we moved into our home.

Due to my work experience in India and being connected with the Immigrant Working Centre in Hamilton, I bagged a contract position with Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. It is one of the many funded legal clinics by Legal Aid Ontario to help the low to no income individuals. I didn't have any specific legal knowledge and so my position at the Legal Clinic brought its own challenges. I not only had to work among racially diverse staff which I had never done before but also had to learn the way the legal system worked here to do my job. I suddenly became very aware of the fact that I didn't belong here and that I migrated from a different country. A country that I left behind but will be a part of what I am and who I am. I am proud that today I have a permanent position at the same place and I have made some life-long relations.

One of the biggest realization that migrating to Canada has brought is my association to my mother tongue. Living in India, you take pride in being fluent in English. There seems to be a race about who knows better English, in India! English was always my first language when it came to studies and I never regretted that until now. Living in Canada, I have learnt to embrace my accent and my language. This idea that it's okay to not speak fluent English was foreign to me growing up in India. I have worked with such amazing colleagues who

have brought this realization in me. Now I regret not learning my first language as fluently as I learnt English. I am upset with myself when I see how limited I am in writing skills or in my vocabulary in Gujarati.

My parents always instilled the importance of education in me. Hence, I have been passionate about having education. After working at the Legal clinic, I decided to go to school and completed my study to become a Licensed Paralegal in Ontario. I attended a college in Toronto while working full time in Hamilton. The commute and hectic hours had its own toll but after 2 years of school, when I cleared my Law Society Ontario licensing examination, my hard work paid off. Today, I work as a Licensed Paralegal and it brings me great satisfaction that I am able to help people who need; I am able play a small part

in being the voice for the voiceless.

It all seems easy and straightforward when I write about my journey but it really wasn't! The biggest hurdle when you migrate is the lack of equivalency for your education and experience from your country of origin. No matter how many years of education you put, if you are not holding a degree from a Canadian Institute, you may as well end up getting

minimum wage jobs.

I continue to dream and explore my potentials. Canada has given me the stability and freedom that I feel confident to pursue or initiate any new ventures. I aspire to become an entrepreneur, artist and the list is endless.

Most importantly, I want to break the stereotypes around being a South-Asian woman. I write blogs to talk about such stereotypes. I am extremely passionate about photography and telling stories through my art. I use my art to write about the various taboos around being a South-Asian woman. I inherit this art and this spirit of bringing change, no matter how small, from both my grandfathers. Each one of them taught me to value 'Change' and I think that

has been my key to being successful against my own standards.

I realize how my life has changed, from a difficult start to owning a home, a

degree and a job that gives me immense satisfaction.


Dhara Shah

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