Photo Journal: Rayhan's Settlement Story

Rayhan is an 18-year-old newcomer from Solo, Indonesia. He was interviewed by Nur Elmasri.
Rayhan's Settlement Story


What’s your name?

My name is Muhammad Rayhan, but I normally just go by Rayhan. I don’t like to go by my first name.

Why don’t you like to go by your first name?

Well, two reasons. Firstly, there are way too many Muhammad’s out there. Secondly, you know how Muhammad was a prophet. Well, it shows he was like a perfect guy, and I guess my parents’ intention was sincere because they want me to be perfect, but I feel way too much pressure on me when I get called by that name. I feel as if I don’t deserve to bear the name Muhammad.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Yes, I just turned 18 this year. I'm a student and I’m planning to go to Germany for my studies after my gap year. I used to do a lot of sports like wrestling, rugby, and volleyball but this past year I injured myself way too many times so I’m kind of taking it easy.

Where did you grow up and what was that experience like? 

I grew up in a small city called Solo in Indonesia in the central Java. Not many people have heard of my city so sometimes I just say close to Jakarta. 

In my opinion Solo is amazing. It is right in the middle of the country, and it has a mix of urban and country life. You can go to a farm and a mall not too far from each other. Everything is within biking range and there are always things going on. 

What was the population of your town? 

I'm not sure, but definitely a lot, because traffic was always very crazy. It was definitely more than 1 million people.

Why did you move here? 

Well, my family has always thought about leaving Indo so that I can continue my education somewhere else and when my mom got a scholarship to study at the University of Waterloo, we just followed her. 

University in Indo is crazy expensive even by Canadian standards so they had to make sure I could do my high school in another country because not being Canadian makes university here even more expensive. So, we had to make sure we could get our PR quickly, but the whole process has been so rough. 

Recently, I’ve been thinking about going to university in Germany because it is free for residents. I have some family there and I can speak the language a little bit which is nice, but I guess the only problem is how competitive it is.

Before coming to Canada did you have any expectations about what it would be like living here?

I thought it was going to be very cold and busy, and I thought there was going to be trees and mountains everywhere. 

I also thought it wouldn’t be that hard to learn the language and make friends

What surprised you when you moved here?

Summers here are surprisingly hotter than in Indo and winters are so much colder than I thought. 

Who did you leave behind? 

A lot of people, a lot of my family and all my friends. My first couple of years being here were so hard and I missed my friends so much.

In grade 7 [, a couple days before I left] my classmates held a departure event for me. 

They made me a photo album filled with memories. It was a sweet gift to bring with me to Canada. 

What do you miss the most from being in Indonesia?

Aside from my friends and family, I think the thing I miss the most is the food. In Indo you can find different restaurants or cuisines on every street from all types of cultures. Here, there is so little food options but the best part about that is that it encouraged me to become a better cook.

What was the most difficult part of settling in Canada?

Honestly, there wasn’t much we struggled with because we had some family friends in the area. The only thing that was really challenging was being financially stable. We are not broke here but like in Indonesia everything is cheap so it's hard trying to make a living when our costs are significantly higher. As I’ve gotten older, I have realized that my parents have hid a lot of struggles that they had because they didn’t want us to be worried.

The more I think about this I am starting to realize there were a lot of things that were hard. Learning English and making friends outside the Indonesian community has been very difficult. For a while the Victoria Hills Community Centre and the Hazelglen church had some ESL classes for years but during covid when everything shut down it became very hard on us.

What did you do to overcome these challenges?

Like I mentioned earlier I played a whole bunch of sports and got really involved in my school.

What would you want someone from Indonesia to know if they were going to move here?

Spend a lot of time learning how to cook and learning the language. And to learn the language having conversations, watching movies, listening to songs is essential. Everything they teach about English in schools back home doesn’t help practically.

It took me almost a year to be able to build up the confidence to order a coffee from Tim Hortons because I was not comfortable with the language.

Would you say it's been challenging being an immigrant?

It has been very difficult because there is not a lot of support for immigrants, my teachers didn’t help me, my guidance counsellor didn’t help me and there were not many programs here that helped me overcome my challenges. 

Is there anything I didn't ask or didn't share that you want to talk about? 

Being in Canada, it’s important to get out of your comfort zone. Get a hobby or a passion, otherwise if you are only working or only in school you are going to stress a lot. Make a list of things you want to do and want to see and make sure to get out. Being an immigrant is hard in this country but being an immigrant while being alone is even harder. Make sure you make friends and interact with people who are outside your network.