“Our” Education, vs. “Theirs”

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I have been debating recently with my friends about what it means to integrate into Canada, what helps and what doesn’t. I strongly believe that in order to succeed in Canada (or in any other place, for that matter) and to feel professionally fulfilled, we need to go back to school.

I have been told that I’m way too optimistic, and that I don’t accurately portray the reality of being an immigrant in this country. My friends would like to see me write about how unfair the immigrant system is in Canada, how we “all” come with international degrees and only some of us have the “chance” of working in our designated field, and how we all have to take survival jobs in order to manage and adapt to Canadian society.

Their opinions made me want to dig deeper in my subconscious to find out why I see things differently from the way they do.

I’ve certainly had my share of struggle and my share of failure in Canada, so what makes me disagree with their opinions? I thought about it, and then I started writing down my questions:

Would the position of an immigrant be different in another country?
Would we be accepted more easily in another country’s workforce than we are here, in Canada?
Would our degrees be recognized and our credentials appreciated?
Would other countries receive us with open arms just because of “Our” education, in our country?
Would other people be friendlier, more accepting, less judgemental?
Does being Romanian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Italian, European make us a “special” kind of workforce, and a better educated population?

I doubt if the answer to any of these questions is “Yes”.

Adapting to Canada, or to any other country, means adapting to its educational system. We cannot know it all, or know it better, just because we have earned a university degree or worked in a particular field in our native country. This previous experience helps, but it’s not enough. To be successful in a new country we need to adapt, compare, contrast and change our views to what’s required in the new country, and I believe this cannot be done without going back to school. We need to recognize that, as immigrants, we start a bit behind when it comes to education and job opportunities, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the power to catch up.

We have the tendency to blame others when we feel incapable of achieving our goals, and that seems to help us in a short run. Yes, it suited me to be in denial for a while, to find fault with the “system” – but that’s a crooked and dangerous road. I have walked on it, and my friends have too, but at the end of the day I realized, as others have, that it’s we who feel unsuited to the new society, and it’s we who need to change.

No foreign country would find us highly educated just on our say-so. Why would Canadians be any different? Why would they be so trusting in our previous education or degrees? They need results, and it’s in our power to show them what we can do. Yes, it can be hard, and yes, it may be unfair sometimes, but aren’t we strong enough for that? I believe we are.

Going back to school and taking courses offered me the opportunity to realize how different everything is here, and how unprepared I was for the Canadian workforce. How else would I have found out that being quiet and respectful is not the way to go about competing for a better job in Canada, that having good references can open doors for me here, or that volunteering in my desired field can demonstrate to potential Canadian employers that I am capable and trustworthy?

In the end, it’s our own journey; and succeeding in a new environment is a battle that we all want to win. But we cannot achieve our goals without education – “Their” education.

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