Photo Journal: Julie's settlement story

J.K. is a 19-year-old newcomer from Cancun, Mexico. She is interviewed by Nadia Sanchez, a newcomer youth as well.
collage photo de Mexico

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

Well, I come from Mexico, specifically Cancun. Right now I’m 19, almost turning 20 in October of this year. I work as a cleaner in a building, I’ve been doing it since February I think?

What was it like coming to a new country? Can you talk to me about your journey? 

Yeah, it was different from where I come from. Like where we live, Mississauga specifically, is really neat. Everything. Even the transportation. It was a nice change, but you always miss something from where you come from. Like family, friends. What you’re used to, it completely changes so it takes time to adapt. 

What do you miss about Mexico? 

Mostly I think my family, specifically my grandparents because I grew up with them in the same house. Also the culture because it’s totally different from here. The food is totally different also.

When you first came to Canada, what were your hopes for your new life here? 

I think mainly I was focused on being able to study here but couldn’t. So that was kind of like a downer. But after that I got the opportunity to start working, which I think was so much better because it helped me to grow as a person. I started going to church more, which is really great because I actually realized that turned my life around.

You were talking about how when you came here, you wanted to study but couldn’t. What were some other things that were different from what you expected, compared to what it was actually like living here? 

I knew stuff wasn't going to be easy. Of course it wasn’t going to be like that. But I thought we were going to be given the opportunity to at least…I don't know how to express…like given the opportunity to be able to do stuff. But there were a lot of steps that didn’t let us. They said, ‘no you need this’ or ‘you need this other thing’ which was kind of like a rock in the path. So yeah, I actually thought that we were going to receive more help in that way.

How was it like coming to a country where the most spoken language is English? How was the language barrier? 

I’ve always been in a bilingual school so thanks to that, I can understand and talk “English.” Not exactly fluently, I feel like I misspell some stuff. It was different because I was from a country where you only speak Spanish, and you only need English in specific areas like for example when you work or at school. Coming to a country where the whole speech is like English is different. Sometimes there’s different words for the same thing. Or there’s slangs! I had to ask my cousins or my family, ‘what does that mean?’ or ‘what is that?’ because I’ve never heard of it. 

Can you tell me a bit more about your difficulties in continuing your studies? 

The difficulty was because we needed more documents, something specifically that we didn’t have. They sent us to different places and told us, ‘you have to live in this area so you can study in this school’ because we were living in other areas. Then it was impossible to move because we just got there. I think we needed more specific stuff like a seal in a document we had that we didn’t get when we came. That made me feel so sad because all my life I’ve been like ‘I’m going to do this in my studies, work this’ and I was going to work like tourism because Cancun is like a very touristic place. But here it’s kind of different, it’s not that touristic, so that actually changed the opportunities. So that made me feel so sad. I won’t say ‘frustrated’ because I accepted it, like ‘okay, it’s not going to be possible so I have to search for something else to do’. At that time I was so, so sad that I couldn’t actually complete the goal I had.

Do you think that by the act of studying, the student is automatically learning? What do you think defines learning? Because you previously mentioned that you were still learning, just not necessarily in a classroom. 

Yeah, if someone is able to study, they are learning what school teaches. But that also depends on the student. If they actually want that opportunity and take advantage of it, because there’s different parts of learning. Like I couldn’t study at school, but after that I started working. It doesn’t mean you stopped learning. I started learning other stuff, like money-related stuff; economy, how you have to start saving money and spending money.

What is something that you learned throughout the time you arrived in Canada until now? How do you think the act of immigrating changed you? 

I think I learned to be more independent in a way because back in Cancun I used to put all my attention in school and I didn’t work. Then I got here, and instead of studying at school I was working so that actually let me open up. And I started to be more independent because my family always overprotected me in a way. Also, I’m improving and learning more English here. Because one thing is stuff they teach you at school and how you say it, but another thing is when you actually put it in practice. Because in school… okay you write, you listen, you speak but only with the teachers and students. But over here it’s for everything. You use it for everything. So that kind of like…let's say…forces you? It forces you to actually start learning more, improving more, in your speech, in the way you speak it. 

During times you found yourself facing difficult situations and felt lonely, where did you find the strength to keep moving forward? 

I would say because thankfully I have family here when we first came, they were the ones to help us in everything. Like when we were moving, I think the support of my family from here was the thing that helped me keep moving forward. If we didn’t have them here, it would have been more difficult. Not impossible, but way more difficult than we had it. 

How did you adjust to a new environment? 

My family helped me alot, and thankfully I have cousins around my age. So that’s also helped me not feel alone. We have different backgrounds but we kind of understand each other because I show them stuff from there, they show me stuff from here. Back in Cancun, I wasn’t that into church but my whole family went to church. So that actually changed my life, my perspective in life, because now I’m actually more into church stuff and thankfully now I am serving. When I felt despair of not being able to reach my goal, I found peace in God’s word. 

What advice would you give to other youth who may be in similar situations as you? 

Not to be in despair. Yes, things are going to be difficult because, well, things are obviously going to be totally different from the places where we come from, to the place where we are going to be. And I think we have to keep that in mind, we can’t expect it to be the same. The culture, the speech, the people. It also depends on how they receive you. Maybe you may not have family or friends here, but to know that you are not alone, because many people go through similar situations. That does not mean that you should give up. If they have goals in mind and everything changes, then what are they expecting from their goals? In my case, I went to church too, and that helped me a lot because it helped me see things in a different way. It brought peace to my heart. When I truly looked for the Lord, when I said ‘I accept him, and everything happens for a reason.’ By the will of God, the Lord has plans for everyone.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future? 

To keep moving forward, and to never give up. Maybe stuff is going to be difficult on the way, but I want to keep pushing forward. Maybe not stay at the job I’m currently working in, but maybe to try to improve. Not staying in my comfort zone. Like… try to push myself to achieve more.