My hometown is Kazan, which is the capital of Tatarstan Republic. Sometimes it is very hard to explain to people that Russia has different republics inside. And there’s not only Christians, like Russian- Russian people, there are a lot of different nationalities. So I’m originally from the republic of Tatarstan and my nationality is Tatar.
What made you decide to move?
It was both the decision of my parents and mine. My dad always encouraged me study abroad. And it was my decision as well, but at that time, I just didn’t know, what it’s going to be like.
Was it a difficult decision? What was the most difficult part about leaving?
I guess at the moment the decision was not difficult because I did not realized what it is actually like moving to another country. I think it was just very exciting for me. I had a certain image of how the place will look and I had certain expectations. I imagined it being like in a movie, going abroad, studying with students from different countries. I thought it was going to be fun, but it wasn’t in reality, it was actually really bad.
The most challenging part about moving was my boyfriend, because at that moment we were dating for eight or nine months, so by the time when I was moving to another country it was one year together.
What was it like when you first arrived?
It was horrible because the image in my head was so good. So I did not really worry about picking the place where I would live. I didn’t even google the area where my campus is going be at or certain places where I will have to spend most of my time at.
I came to study at Sheridan College, it has three campuses and obviously I checked how Sheridan College looked like but I didn’t realize I would be going to the campus in Brampton, which is very empty, just nothing around. I remember there wasn’t even a proper ground to carry the luggage, I was carrying it all by myself. I entered the room, locked the door, my roommate wasn’t there, I didn’t even unpack the luggage and I realized that it was a big mistake.
The only thing that I was thinking about is that I had money on my visa that my dad gave me. I thought I was going to buy tickets to go back right now. That’s the only thought that was in my mind. I was calling them, yelling and crying and saying that this was a mistake. You don’t know how it is. I’m coming back. My mom kept saying to wait a bit. But, it was very difficult for them because I know that my dad was very worried. I never really saw his feelings but he wrote me a long text and later I learned that he was crying every evening. Because I didn’t realize that what I’m feeling is hard for them too. I was just thinking about myself, how bad it is for me. Later I realized that I should stop doing this. I should just calm down and try to get through the first semester.
What have been your biggest challenges?
The biggest difficulty that I had was with my roommate after we moved in together, signing contracts together, all the documents, stuff like that. After that situation, I can tell you that I grew up in a second.
The part time job that I had was difficult. I held crazy shifts. Opening the coffee shop at 6:00 a.m. in the winter. Everything is dark. Your shift is till 2:00 p.m. Then you go directly to college to do homework or go to the lectures.
At the beginning it was so hard to understand the technical material for my program because I studied at the architectural technologist program. I spent enormous amount of time reading books, translating and memorizing everything.
Then I ended the relationship with my roommate. And was working crazy hours because I just needed the money. I knew that my parents couldn’t help after a few semesters and I was paying out the rest of my tuition. I planned that the money I collect from my internship will pay out the tuition but I didn’t have anything for the living. So my part time job was just the money that fed me basically.
Can you think of times when you have felt un-welcomed as an immigrant?
I did. The first time I was trying to find a part-time job I barely got an answer from anyone. It’s not like people talk to you differently. It’s just the emotions within the work flow, for example when you’re getting your paychecks, etc. My boss knew that I don’t have any other way of making money, so he can find a way to not pay what I deserved and lie to me, like he paid taxes for this and that. He treated me like I was stupid and didn’t know how things should be, but you have to know these things. There is a lot of people, who try to take advantage of you because you don’t know certain things.
What is the thing you are proudest of so far and why?
I am just proud that I survived that first year. But seriously, in the long run I understand why I stayed. If I was in Russia, it would be very hard to build a career. The economy isn’t great there, projects are not financed and young and talented people are not being treated fairly.
I am also hoping to make a good career for myself so I can support my family and my little brother.
But generally I am just proud that I am a 22 years old with a great full-time job in the industry I am passionate about. The people around me are great too. If I convert my salary to rubles, it makes me feel great about myself, but who does that, in here it is not that much.
What are some of the things about home that bring you the feeling of nostalgia?
It’s pretty typical but I brought a lot of photos with me, photos of my friends, family and my boyfriend. But even they didn’t bring me that much nostalgia, as photos on my phone.
Are there any traditions/ rituals you still maintain? (holidays, foods, habits)
I don’t know how to translate this, but it’s a cake that my mum does. It’s a honey cake called medovik. It’s the best cake ever, she does it in a certain way, so that everyone who tries it, craves it after that.
I also feel nostalgic when I hear or meet Tatar people, not just Russians. There is an Instagram page for the Tatar community in here, when I look at them and their activities I think about home.
Is there something that you wish people knew more about immigrants?
I wish people knew that not all immigrants are coming from rich families. So people don’t make assumptions about you and do not judge.
Right now it doesn’t matter that much, but back in shool I had to go to a college and get a technological degree because I couldn’t afford design theory program from a university. And there is a stigma in my industry where professionals descriminate if you went to college, but some people just can’t afford to go to university.