Having moved to Canada three years ago I never thought I would would have lasted the year, it seemed impossible to think that I wouldn’t see my nieces and nephews daily or drink cups of tea with my ma at 3 o’clock after stumbling in from a night out. I put all these thoughts in a little corner of mind and repeated daily…..”I’ll give it a year”.
Three years on, I have my Permanent residencey and I look back and realize that although I miss home and all it encompasses on a daily basis, I have made a home in Canada.
I am one of thousands of Irish who travelled here on a Canadian Experience visa and at the time it felt like I had won a golden ticket to the chocolate factory. One week later I was booked and ready to start a new life. I was in the very fortunate position to travel with my boyfriend and to be greeted at the other side by my super supportive uncle and his family who welcomed us in and made our first three months a breeze, housing us and ensuring we sorted out all the essentials. This made all the difference and still manages to cure the homesick pangs when I drop in for Sunday dinners. If you are a new arrival or are thinking of coming, contact people you know in the city, they have all been in your position and are only too willing to help out. You may also be exactly what they need, your a bit of home for them bringing back memories, stories shared upbringings and common friends and of course it helps if you’ve a box of Barry’s.
Making friends here was the biggest challenge, you are forced to bond with new friends at lightning speed only to be told in a few months that they’re heading home (ahem you know who you are!!). My best piece of advice came in the form of Jeff at a party, after listening to me whine about another expat returning home, he advised “you just get over it” and actually you do and you come to realise that although they move home, the real friendships will last. The friends you have are also friends you’ve chosen, we all have a friend we’ve had from the first day of primary school, the only common bond we have being position in the alphabet, forcing us to sit together for the next seven years.
I have also been fortunate in that I found a job in my field of Speech Therapy, don’t get me wrong I’m still not exactly where I want to be, but I’m closer than I ever got at home. It wasn’t easy though and I slogged it out for the first year in a tiny bar with no air conditioning. My best advice, network! I talked to everyone in that bar and eventually met a Speech therapist who put me in contact with the company with whom I now work. The established community here are also a great source of employment information and they area apply to share contacts.
Get involved; I know it’s difficult in your first year when you want to explore/party/get settled, but it’s the best thing I ever done. I tried a few organizations and they didn’t fit, eventually I got involved with Darkness into Light and it has afforded me so many opportunities to meet and get involved with the community of established Irish here in the city.
As an Irish person in Toronto, I will always feel the tug of home but for now, Toronto is home and I’m looking forward to the next few years of adventure.