What about the kids?
Every immigrant to Canada has his/her own story. For some, their greatest struggle is finding a place to stay; which school the kids are going to go to; or which of the winter paraphernalia they have to buy to keep warm for the harsh weather; and the list goes on. Usually, the parents worry about these things, but what about their children? What are the children left to worry about?
I, myself, had a difficult time to cope (honestly, I am still trying to) with the biggest move our family has ever made. Looking back, when I was nine, I always thought that the move we made from our two-bedroom apartment to our suburban house in the Philippines would be the first and last move that we would ever make as a family. Before we moved here to Canada, I was in my second year of University at a very good institution and I loved it there. When I got here, our family had to make huge adjustments. We were met with new worries and for me one of those worries would be how I could adjust into a completely new life. I returned to high school for one year because we all thought that this would be a better transition than heading straight into University (not to mention also that this decision is one that immigrants usually face with financial difficulty).
The year I spent in high school was really a good thing because my transition into Canadian culture was made easier. Also, as much as I may have disliked it at the time, the year had been worthwhile because of the awesome people I met. From teachers to students to friends, they have all shaped me into this person who can now better adapt into my new Canadian “home.” Thinking back, I felt like giving up for the most part, but good thing I did not. Although at times I still feel lonely, I know that there are people half-way across the globe who love me even though I am far away; and I have made friends here in Winnipeg as well, who help me through the rough patches. If I can share some advice from my experiences, I would have to say that these are the things that helped me get through:
1. Be open to learning the language. As newcomers from the Philippines, we pretty much have some degree of English language background. But, if you are put into an ESL/EAL class, take it as an opportunity to develop your verbal skills. Do not feel shy if you have to practice your English! Learning English does not mean that you have to forget Filipino. You are just merely adding onto what you already know.
2. Volunteering is another good way of coping. Having something to do other than staying at home and moping around is an effective way to take one’s mind off of the loneliness and depression of being away from everything familiar. With constant company around you, you develop your language skills while earning free experience and practising goodwill. Volunteering can be a way for you to find lifelong friendships and make professional connections. I, personally, have found my closest friends here through volunteering.
3. If you think you can manage your time, working part-time is another way to cope. Usually, immigrants face financial issues for the first two years of their stay here and often, as a result, the children may learn to live with less things than they are used to. By working, you can afford to help ease your family’s financial burden and you can also earn a little money for yourself (maybe to stay connected with your friends back home in the Philippines).
4. And for a little more extra, joining a group with others that share the same interests as you will help ease the loneliness and the emotional pain of immigrating. Join a dance troupe or a band. Learn how to play a new sport. Write for your school’s paper. It may take time, but it will all make sense in the end. You just might have fun in the process!
This new culture that we are privileged or compelled to live in may feel harsh at times and we may not want the underworld-like coldness of the prairie weather (I have never heard a Filipino immigrant say that Winter is his/her favourite season), but we are here for a reason. Our parents did not take us away from home to torture us. We, as children of immigrants and immigrants ourselves, just have to draw the things that make us happy regardless of the snow-covered streets. It is hard, nobody said that it was going to be easy, but if there is a will there is a way.
Kezia Malabanan came to Winnipeg in September 2006 from Muntinlupa City. She is currently attending the University of Winnipeg and is taking courses in English and Anthropology. She is a recent member of ANAK and volunteer mentor for the Kapatid Mentorship program at DMCI. Contact the author at email@example.com