I have lived abroad longer than I have lived in Bangladesh, the country where I was born. Growing up, I always treated Bangladesh as my home, but could I really call it that? That was the question I pondered over as I boarded the plane to Canada.

My move to Canada really didn’t excite me. After living in 7 different countries, I saw immigration as an annual tradition instead of a life changing event. Despite constantly jumping from one country to another, I had always known where home was: Bangladesh. It was the one place I was sure I could return to. This time, however, the move to Canada would be permanent and I knew I would not go back. For the first time in my life, the length of my trip was unknown.  

immigrant-story-hanlin-cheng

Illustration: Hanlin Cheng

After conquering half of the world, I was finally invading North America.

During my move, I was concerned about how high school in Canada would be like. In Bangladesh, schools followed the British curriculum, which was undoubtedly rigorous. Although it made you work hard, there was a very limited selection of  courses outside the core sciences or business. I wondered if Canada would be the same, owing to its British roots. To my surprise—and disappointment—school in Ontario was actually a lot easier: the topics taught here in Grade 10 or 11 were taught to me in Grade 8. However, I was pleased that there were more courses to choose from and that students had the freedom to study whatever they wanted to. This was especially significant to me, because I moved to Canada for a higher quality post-secondary education.

Socially, my life in Canada was also very different from my life in Bangladesh. Both my parents were army officers and our family had ruled the country from the shadows since its birth. I grew up in a family that had substantial influence and power. We lived in the best houses and had every sort of luxury imaginable, and our presence was undoubtedly imposing. I was well known in my city, Chittagong, as a national youth advisor on foreign policy. To leave all that for an apartment and an insignificant social status was life-changing, to say the least.

And don’t get me started on the drastic cultural change! What do you mean you play football by hand? Who is this guy “Drake” that everyone keeps talking about? How do people not know who Pantera, Alter Bridge or Slipknot are? “Closer” is certainly not the best song ever. Blue Jays? I’d rather watch the Yankees, thank you very much.

But living in Canada has its upsides too. There is a lot more freedom, safety, and simplicity here. I no longer have to run to stand in an assembly every single day, wear a school uniform, suffer through traffic which could last anywhere between two to twenty four hours, and complain to friends about being forced to study accounting. My parents don’t have to worry that I’ve been kidnapped when I go on spontaneous downtown adventures. I have the freedom to procrastinate until the wake of dawn, and I also have the privilege of joining the Waterloo versus U of T debate.

It is believed that after a phoenix’s death, the creature rises from its own ashes, mightier and more majestic than before. Moving to Canada was the death of my life in Bangladesh. I hope I can be a phoenix and rise from the ashes here in Canada.

The story above was written by an immigrant who attends Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute. The submission was part of The Reckoner’s Coming to Canada Column: a column featuring the diverse and unique backgrounds of immigrants at MGCI. If you are interested in sharing your immigration experiences with The Reckoner, please contact the paper at editorinchief@thereckoner.ca. Guest submissions are encouraged, and will be made anonymous on request.