“I’ll see you in 5 months,” I said to my husband as big fat tears rolled down my cheeks…
Our son was hugging both of us, not quite sure what was happening. Life was about to change and he was our beautiful catalyst. The year before, I decided to move from India (Mumbai) to Canada, just me and my son. We were in search of a better quality of life. Life in India was awesome, but we were concerned about the kind of schooling we would be able to provide our son.
“We knew we had to take risks and explore unknown territories to broaden our horizons and give our child the life he deserves.
We decided to get educated in the Western world. We knew we had to take risks and explore unknown territories to broaden our horizons and give our child the life he deserves. The question was: what would this do to our family? My son and I were leaving behind my husband for God knows how long, and life without your spouse is hard. Especially when you have been together for a decade like we have.
Indian families are an emotional lot and ours is no different. Tears, smiles and hugs come naturally to us. However, phrases like, “I love you” and “I miss you” are foreign to our culture. The grandparents cry every time we Skype, but have not learned to tell their grandson that they love and miss him.
Being an international student in Canada is an exciting and challenging position to be in. Add to that the fact that I am a parent, taking a full-time program, and balancing a part-time job for five hours a day, six days a week, and you’ve arrived at the wonderful image of me being lost a lot of the time. But there is no to time to slack, because the Broadcast and Journalism program at BCIT requires all of us to be at the top of our game every day.
“I have zero knowledge of when a full-blown tantrum will hit the food court at Metrotown
What I’ve learned thus far is that being a full-time student and a mom is a chaotic combination. Classes have a set schedule, but parenting never ends. My day starts at 5:30am, even though my first class is at 8:30, because it takes me that long to haggle a three-year-old out of his PJs and into the kitchen for breakfast. Even when I’m supposed to be resting for the next day of classes, I am woken up at least five times by my blessed child who is thirsty, or the complete opposite (it’s not unusual to find a leaked diaper because he drank 200 gallons of water between 12:00 and 12:05 am). At school, my instructors apprise me of upcoming tests and exams, but I have zero knowledge of when a full-blown tantrum will hit the food court at Metrotown because we only got two ketchup sachets instead of three.
I look at my classmates and colleagues and realize that my ‘international’ status allows me to see things from a different perspective. I am one of the many international students that our country welcomes: the Canadian Bureau for International education reports that there were 353,000 international students in Canada in 2015, with 34% of these students coming from China, followed by India at 14%. At BCIT, the number of international students has increased by 200% since 2005 and currently stands at 2,400 students from 85 countries in both full-time and part-time programs. For someone like me, it is sometimes an isolating situation to be in. I know practically nobody here, I have zero geographical knowledge of this place (I rely on Google Maps for everything), I struggle with who the big broadcast industry names are, and I pretty much have a non-existent professional network.
“He couldn’t wrap his head around such a sacrilegious act of a wife leaving her husband to study abroad.
But it’s worth it for me. For the average Indian woman, this is freedom. I am “allowed” to leave my family (read: husband) and travel to a foreign land where women arguably have the same professional standing as men – oh, the liberty! Most of my extended family (and boy, do we have a big one) were flabbergasted that I was even given permission to follow my dreams. When I was in the process of applying for our visas, the police department in India told me that I needed a signed declaration by my husband (that also had to be notarized in front of a judge) stating that he allowed me to leave, and why. When I went to the officer with all the signed documents, he asked me why my husband didn’t write “allow” on the papers. He made us rewrite the document to include the statement: “allow my wife to travel.” I was angry that he couldn’t wrap his head around such a sacrilegious act of a wife leaving her husband to study abroad. Yet here I am.
Five months on, and I’m still here. I made it. I started out at zero and even though I am still at stage one of my new Canadian life, there are miles to go before I reach my goals. A new place and a new life: it’s hard, but it’s worth the struggle. More than anything, I focus on how much my son can gain from this life-changing experience at his tender age.
“To those folks who are contemplating about moving countries or making any other big decision, I say do it and do it now.
The best part about being a parent is that even though you’re doing a lot of mundane stuff, you’re doing it through the eyes of a child and you feel great about it because life is so ‘meh’ and being childish at the age of 34 totally rules. This means riding buses all across the lower mainland because your child wants to “see Canada on a bus.” This also means dealing with my son’s ultra-powerful, battery-charged, testosterone-filled lungs on the weekends when he screams: “Where’s the top of the mountain?!” at SFU. (God forbid the security cameras on campus captured that Oscar moment and bar me from coming back. What would I do on my next free weekend?)
To those folks who are contemplating about moving countries or making any other big decision, I say do it and do it now. This sounds so cliché, but it’s so true: life is really short and you only get limited opportunities. This is, hands-down, the craziest thing I have done in my entire life. But I am so proud of myself for making it this far. I went to university 16 years ago, yet Round 2 is when I am having a ball. I originally dreaded going to school with “kids” whose average age is 21, but I have to admit that they have given me such a fresh outlook on life. I didn’t even know what Snapchat was until I met them. The freedom is definitely something I could get used to, but it’s the joy of seeing my son’s face when he talks of Canadian bus numbers in his sleep that is truly priceless.
Tanushree is a former journalist with 13 years of experience, currently studying broadcast and online journalism. Tanu already holds a degree in mass media and communications from Indraprastha College for Women in Delhi University. She’s worked with Reuters, Businessworld Magazine, and Indian Express Newspaper.