23 July 2015 was the day my life flipped upside down. Fourteen and as naïve as they come, I left everyone and everything I knew in Dhaka to travel 12 000 kilometres to a foreign and unknown country: Canada. Though I had my mom, dad and brother with me, I did not have any plans for the future.
The first days felt surreal, like I was in a trance. Immigration was a bittersweet experience—after all, leaving everything you know behind and venturing off to a foreign land is, unsurprisingly, not all unicorns and sunshine. Just months after we left, my grandmother passed away. And we couldn’t really go back, at least not for the next 3 years, owing to difficulties associated with acquiring citizenship.
However, I had it easier than most people. I went to an English Medium school, so I was already quite proficient in English. Most people couldn’t even tell I had immigrated the previous year. This wasn’t always pain-free, because I’d still miss an alarming number of the cultural references which came my way: I remember asking if the Raptors were a baseball team in Science class. But for the most part, I fit in pretty well. Probably because of the Torontonian environment: no two people are the same, and everyone is okay with it.
My life in Canada is so different from my life in Bangladesh. My dad used to be the CEO of a civil engineering firm there. I used to go to a private school. Dhaka was a city where a car would take 30 minutes to travel 2 km, where pollution of every sort exceeded safety regulations, where ground brick was a regular substitute for chilli powder. You’d see a luxury sports car once a year, if you were lucky. Here in Toronto, I saw a Porsche every other day on the highway. It all felt very new, but also strangely natural.
Every immigrant seeks something new. Some seek safety. Some seek wealth. Some seek adventure. I had sought nothing. But I ended up finding a very alien land, where the water looked like water, not like the greenish muck infesting the lakes of Dhaka, where accidentally shoving someone led to them apologizing to you, where strangers would smile at me as I walked by. I ended up finding a land that felt like home.
Maybe life wasn’t so upside down after all.
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 [email protected]. Guest submissions are encouraged, and will be made anonymous on request.