September 25, 2022

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This First Person article is the experience of Misbah Noor who lives in Calgary. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I believe there’s a light at the end of every dark tunnel, but it took years to find it after we moved to Canada.

My husband and I moved to Calgary with two children — ages five and two — in 2015. We started looking for jobs immediately and were full of hope because my husband had been a branch manager at a renowned bank in Pakistan. But we were in for a shock. The only job he could find to start was installing carpet. 

After just a week of work, he looked exhausted and said, “When I was climbing the stairs of our apartment building, I was wishing for a house without a staircase. My legs are so sore.” 

The next morning, he changed again into his work clothes, which were torn and shabby at his knees. His black shirt was faded from being washed every day. His hands were full of cracks from the dust and dryness at work.

“I can’t even stand on my feet today,” he said.

He left and I sat with my cup of tea. All I could think was: Why are we here? 

A woman and a girl stand inside an apartment.
Misbah Noor and her daughter inside their first apartment in Calgary in 2015. (Submitted by Misbah Noor)

We were not happy. We lived in a small apartment with little furniture and missed our family and friends back home. Every day we worried about what the next day would bring.

Moving to another country gives you a different picture of life and changes you into a new person. My brother applied to come to Canada on my behalf back in 2008 when I was still single. I was excited to move, happy to do the required language tests and gather the many documents.

But it took a long time — seven years before we finally got the permanent resident visa in the mail. In the meantime, I got married and had two kids.

I was still eager to come to Canada, hoping for better job opportunities, higher salaries and a brighter future for the kids. But now that we had young children, the struggle to get re-established was way bigger than we had anticipated.

After I finished my tea, I started looking for work desperately. I have a master’s in education but filling out online job applications was new for me and every job I found required Canadian work experience.

It was life with constant stress.

I am normally shy but I started talking to strangers — people in my building, parents in my children’s school, people at the library. I asked them how to get a job here. They would leave me with a link to some recruiting companies and websites I could not understand.

I desperately wanted to work so my husband could go back to school– Misbah Noor

I lost almost 22 pounds due to stress and ate less to save money. I desperately wanted to work so my husband could go back to school and get a good job. But neither of us had any luck.

He interviewed for a financial adviser position at a bank, and then paid $1,200 to a private company to try to become a transit operator. But each time the hiring managers kept refusing him, saying “your English is not good” or “you don’t have Canadian studies or work experience.”

We felt disappointed and worthless. Canadian officials accepted us because of our education. Our documents were attested to so many times in the process, we thought that our degrees would be valued here. We were wrong.

Finally after two-and-a-half years, I caught a break. My son came home from school one day and told me a lunchroom supervisor was leaving.

A woman stands near the Glenmore reservoir in Calgary.
It took years for Misbah Noor and her husband to find good jobs and feel financially secure again after moving to Canada. (Submitted by Misbah Noor)

I hurried to meet the principal. I told her about my degree and teaching experience back home. After listening to my struggle patiently, she told me how to apply. She guided me through the whole process, from making an account for the job application to structuring my resume to answer the job requirements.

I got that part-time job. Then my husband got a job as a forklift operator in an oil and gas supply warehouse that had better hours and easier on his body than carpet installation. We still couldn’t afford to have him upgrade his degree at school, so I took a two-year course to become an education assistant. Then finally, six years after we first moved, he landed a position as a pricing analyst in oil and gas without upgrading.

Those early days were so uncertain. I remember the day he called after getting the pricing analyst job. I was crying with joy, hugging my kids and so thankful to God. I believed this would be the end of our hardship and stress. As we shopped together for his dress shirts, pants and shoes, I pushed back my tears.

In January, I started working as an education assistant and we bought a house where my kids can jump, run and play freely.

But the stress of the past seven years had lasting effects. After going through so much, I still feel tired and anxious over everyday problems. I feel like my memory was affected by chronic stress, and my husband now has high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. We believe this is also connected. This is the price we paid to get to the place where we are now.

In the end, we have found financial stability and made our home in Canada. So this is a story of moving from disappointment to hope, deception to knowledge, failure to success and nervousness to confidence. But if I could go back in time, I would think twice before immigrating. It’s harder than we thought.


Telling your story

CBC Calgary is running a series of in-person writing workshops across the city to support community members telling their own stories. This is a First Person column from a workshop hosted by the Genesis Centre. To find out more about our writing workshops or to propose a community organization to help host, email CBC producer Elise Stolte or visit cbc.ca/tellingyourstory.

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