Interviewer: Sarah Al Naqeeb
Location: Mississauga (Virtual Zoom Interview)
Length of Interview: 12:40
Description: A 23 year old woman residing in Mississauga describes the benefits of obtaining a degree in Canada, meeting new friends while settling, and her family’s efforts to maintain Egyptian culture in daily life.
Interviewee: My name is (retracted). My date of birth is 12 August 1997, and my region of birth is Egypt.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: What city, province, or village do you come from?
Interviewee: I was born in Alexandria, but never lived there. So my whole life I lived in Cairo.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: When did you immigrate?
Sarah Al Naqeeb: What was the reason for immigration?
Interviewee: For university – me, and my sister.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: Did only you and your sister leave?
Interviewee: Well, my mom and dad left with us too, so the whole family. But the main reason was university.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: What was the contemplation behind it? I would like to know more about why you chose to get an education in Canada rather than Egypt, and why that was your reason for immigration.
Interviewee: The quality of education itself can be similar in some ways. But the bachelor’s degree you obtain in Canada, you can work anywhere, in the UK or the US, and back home. Anywhere you want, you can get better salaries. So I feel it is just the bachelor’s degree itself, or whatever education you are getting. Not the education quality if that makes sense.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: Yes, that makes perfect sense, I know and can understand. However, why Canada?
Interviewee: My options were Canada. I am not a US fan. I went there a couple of times and I was not a fan, and I didn’t think of going to university there. I applied both to the UK and Canada and got accepted in a better university in Canada and went for it.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: From my understanding, you are an international student right now?
Interviewee: I am a permanent resident. I want to be a citizen but that is on hold because of COVID.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: And did you initially plan to come to Toronto? Was that your first location in Canada?
Interviewee: My plan was Toronto, but because at the time, I was below 18 and my mom was doing all the paperwork, she first applied to Montreal in Quebec. But we got accepted in Toronto first.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: What was it like for you to settle into a new city? Did you have family here? How did you find your experiences with social circles and friends?
Interviewee: So, for me, what helped me the most was getting to meet new people and meeting a lot of Arabs and Egyptian communities. Clubs at school that help me meet more people. So that was the thing that made me get more comfortable by time. And I got a job at Domino’s Pizza. I met some new people. To settle in a place, it is all about the people and not being alone.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: You mentioned Egyptian communities. Can you give me an example?
Interviewee: The Egyptian Student Association at York. I joined them for two years out of four years. I volunteered there as a VP Finance. It was fun.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: Did you face any struggles or challenges following arrival?
Interviewee: For sure. At first, I was very homesick. My plan initially was to finish university and go right back to Egypt. But now my plan has changed. I made plans, I found more than one job, and my plans have completely changed.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: Do you maintain connections with Egypt? Do you have family there?
Interviewee: Yes, I maintain connections with family and friends from high school in Egypt.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: So, you must go back often?
Interviewee: Yes, that is right.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: What do you keep of your home country? And do you still know the language?
Interviewee: I still know the language. I speak it at my house everyday and speak it with my friends everyday. I kept food with me, religious holidays, and songs.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: Do you know any good artists?
Interviewee: Amr Diab is a good artist. Worldwide, most popular Egyptian singer.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: Any specific foods or religious holidays you want to specify?
Interviewee: My favourite Egyptian food would be pasta with bechamel sauce. Religious holiday…I celebrate Ramadan and it is a special month to me and my family. We fast, we eat a lot of food, we watch a lot of TV series, and it’s nice.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: How is your life now compared to when you first arrived?
Interviewee: So, I arrived when I was 17. Living here, it makes you more independent. So, when I compare my life now with a person who lives back home – same age, same social class and everything – I feel more independent. So back home, even if they are working, they do not really pay for themselves. They still must depend on someone. Here, it is kind of different. You can even pay for rent, or car, or gas. It is not the same back home. I feel like, there is this sense of independence in Canada that I got from living here.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: What is an example of a situation with less dependency in Egypt? I know Canada is a free country and we here enjoy many benefits. What kind of situation do you mean between dependency in Egypt and here?
Interviewee: It is more like the whole culture. In Egypt, when you graduate and get a job, they will not be able to get their own place. They will not be able to pay for their own car, because, for a new graduate job, the pay is just so little. They still would have to depend on their parents. But here, if you are a new graduate and you get a first grad job, you can get your own place and be independent. It is the economy… Only if you work in a multi-national company in Egypt is when you can afford to be independent.
Sarah Al Naqeeb: So what does Egypt mean to you now? And have your feelings changed over time?
Interviewee: It is still my home. I am still considering going back. I still love it. I cannot miss a year without going there. If not for the people, then for the beach. None of my feelings have changed over it. I still think of it as my home. Canada is my second home country, but Egypt is always my first home country.