I remember the excitement I was feeling the day my family and I got on a plane to come to Canada. After spending 18 months in a safe house, isolated from society and with little to no communication with the outside world, we were finally here.
We made it, we thought.
I was particularly confident I would fit right in. I already spoke the language, I was well versed on North American pop culture and I had bought a winter jacket in advance.
Nothing could stop me. I was more than ready to start my magnificent new life in a great country full of polite people. And I did. Eventually.
But it took years between the moment I landed here for the very first time and the moment I was able to start my new life – a life that had stopped in time when I was 17.
I only got my first job after being here for a full year and getting a student loan from the government was almost impossible when I started.
The incorporation process was slow and difficult, but it was great. And it was only possible because of the amazing people who were there to help along the way, months after I had arrived.
I hope those same people – or people like them – will help the more than 14,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada to date.
We are still far from the 25,000 goal set by the government and we should push for that goal to be reached soon. However, our job doesn’t end with them landing on Canadian soil.
As I found out personally, language, culture, weather, currency and technology are some of the areas our new neighbours need to get familiar with in order to start feeling at home.
The successful incorporation of newcomers is a long and tedious process but is also very rewarding; not only for refugees, but for everyone in our society.