Photo journal: Jimena's settlement story

Jimena is a 16-year-old newcomer from Colombia who came to Canada in 2019 with her family. She is interviewed by Nadia Sanchez, a newcomer.
Photo collage from Colombia to Canada

To start off, can you give me a self-introduction? 

My name is Jimena. I'm from Colombia, and right now I’m in grade 12 in high school. I came to Canada in January 2019. 

Who did you come to Canada with? 

My mom, my dad, and my younger brother. I have an older half-brother too but I’ve always been the oldest because I’ve never really lived with my older brother. Since I’m here, my responsibilities are mainly because I learned English, but my parents are still learning so I had to do a lot of translations of things that they would usually do. Like, even normal things like going to my brother’s school, I was the one who had to talk to the teachers and sign him up for everything and stuff like that. So yeah, I had a lot of responsibilities since I've been here. 

How did that make you feel? 

At first, I  felt kind of good ‘cause I could help my parents. I was just like thirteen so I was still growing up and I felt good. But then as time passes, I sometimes feel kind of anxious ‘cause there are some things that are big responsibility for me to do. I had to do things right and I had to do my own stuff and my parent’s stuff. My dad knows how to speak English, but my mom kind of has a bit of trouble in that area. 

Do you feel like you had to maybe grow up a bit faster than others? 

Yeah, definitely, also because of my culture I feel that too. I feel like, for example, when we got here my parents had to work a lot. And before in Colombia, my mom didn’t work after my brother turned like three years old. She would cook and clean but then here they would work a lot. And that was the first time I had to cook lunch for my brother and I ‘cause they weren’t there

So it was a really big change for you since you came here. How did you get through all of the things you faced, like through the challenges? 

Well I think definitely trying hard in school ‘cause one of my issues was that I was still learning English and I’m a very anxious person. Sometimes people wouldn’t understand me, or I wouldn’t understand them, so I really focused in school so that I could learn and could understand everything people told me. And I guess just having patience and understanding that we’re new here, so that I had to do different stuff in order to succeed. 

With English, you said you studied really hard at school and you talked about the language barrier. Did you have any other difficulties? What sort of difficulties did immigrating create at school? 

I remember the first school I was in, in my classroom there wasn’t anyone from my country, from Latin America. And the kids here behave really differently of what I’m used to, so I guess socializing was also kind of hard.

What motivated you to keep pushing forward during difficult times? 

I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to move here ‘cause I know there are a lot of things that I can do that I maybe I couldn't have done if I was in Colombia. Like the choices that I have for university or jobs. I’m just trying to do my best.

Can you name any resources or services that helped you settle in Canada? 

Oh yeah, I remember once we went to a social worker. We would go to the food banks and there was also like this place, a furniture bank? So we got our dining table from there, and some other stuff for home.

How do you think the act of immigrating changed your outlook on how you view things? 

I think you kind of start from zero and you start to appreciate a lot of stuff. Like how easy it was to do some stuff that here seems so difficult. So yeah, I think just appreciate a lot of stuff that you had growing up, or before. But then also you kind of have an idea of how other parts of the world work. Like it’s really different, their lifestyle and stuff. 

What is your advice to other newcomers of Canada?

I think that a lot of times it’s going to be really hard to just be here. But there are a lot of resources and people that can actually help you. And that it will get easier and that it’s worth it to work hard. Even though sometimes it’s going to feel really bad and you’re going to feel alone, it’s a really different lifestyle, but that it’s worth it. 

What are your hopes and goals for the future? What do you want to accomplish? 

I want to go to university, I want to get a degree and get a job that I like hopefully. Then live by myself, like be able to afford stuff for myself.