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Crossing borders, knocking down barriers

Alina Pradzhapati

Alina Pradzhapati

The day I left Russia to study in Canada, I managed to catch a bad cold.

It’s not the best thing that can happen to me on the eve of the three days journey that included transit through four countries with six suitcases.

By the time I was crossing the Canadian border three days later, I could barely restrain my cough and was seriously scared to be sent back to Russia without even sticking my nose out of the airport.

Thoughts were hitting my sore head: What would happen if they find out about my cold? Would they separate me from my husband who’d come with me? What about the luggage?

When a border officer finally put a stamp in my passport and said “Welcome to Canada”, I couldn’t believe my ears. My excitement level went off the scale and I was thrilled to finally meet the people, see beautiful Canadian nature and start a new path in life as a journalism student.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve known that one day I would experience living on a different continent.

Raised in post-Soviet Russia, I’ve been exposed to North American culture through books and TV and was aware of the strong Canadian education system.

And like many of my peers, I’ve been eager to know what it is like to live on the other side.

So when the opportunity to study in Canada arrived, it was a no brainer.

I was sure I was well equipped. By the time I had to leave, I had already earned my Bachelor’s degree, turned 24 and got married. But little did I really know what I was about to throw myself into.

Being a complete homebody, who’d never left the city for more than a month, I was almost immediately seized with the strongest feeling of homesickness. And the 7,000 kilometres separating me from family and friends didn’t help.

On top of that, I started noticing the notorious language barrier.

Despite the fact that I’ve been learning English for as long as I can remember and easily passed the language test required for my program, I was feeling insecure and limited for not being able to fully express myself.

I wasn’t familiar with slang or those juicy expressions that my fellow classmates used in their stories. I wasn’t satisfied with my writing that seemed plain and simple at that time and I spent hours on assignments that should have been done in minutes.

For someone who considers herself a perfectionist, it may turn into a tragedy.

So, after months of struggles and feelings of despair, I started questioning myself. Was it the right decision to leave? Will I be able to cope with all that pressure?

Every time I was able to put my emotions aside, the answer was “yes.” After long Skype sessions with relatives and friends, I realized that I was doing pretty well: my marks were above average, my communication skills were getting better and I started spending significantly less time on my assignments. But the most rewarding part for me was the realization that I’ve learned more during my time in Canada, than I did in the last years of my “grown up life” at home.

Now, seven months from the day I left my home, I would readily confirm that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and no matter how old you are, you’ll never really grow and know yourself, until you have the guts to step beyond the threshold of your house and head towards the unknown.

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