I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and this is why my parents named me Addis. My family lives in different countries around Africa. I am originally from Burundi but I have never lived there before, just visited a lot of times. Before I was born my family lived in Rwanda, Burundi and then moved to Ethiopia. I lived in Ethiopia for five years of my life and then we moved to Arusha, Tanzania. Before I was born, my oldest brother moved to Toronto for University. Then eventually my other siblings also moved to Canada for university.
We moved to Arusha and I was the only one living at home with my parents. I was always curious about what Canada had to offer. I knew that I wanted to move to Canada when I got older for school. My oldest sibling had already started his life here and built a family. When I was in grade 9, we started the process for me to move to Canada as well. I moved to Canada in summer 2017 and I lived with my oldest brother and his family.
At first, I found it difficult to adjust because I didn’t have my parents and friends. I was not worried about making friends but I did not expect it to take a while to make a solid friend group. The high school I attended was an English school in Gatineau, Quebec. The school was pretty big compared to my previous school. It was strange that some people in my grade did not know each other. You only met people if they were in your class or if you saw them after school on the buses. I had noticed that most of the people at my school had been friends with each other for years. They had already made their own solid friendship groups. I eventually made my own group of friends that I would meet during lunch and sometimes after school. I started to get used to the environment slowly and started understanding Canadian culture.
One thing that was very difficult for me to adjust to was winter. I have experienced five winters so far and it still surprises me each year. The first day it snowed in 2017 I slipped on the stairs on my way home from school. I went skating once on the Rideau canal and I instantly fell. I am excited to try more winter activities like tobogganing with my friends and family. I started appreciating Canadian winter right before COVID-19 hit so I did get a chance to do those activities.
In December 2020 I went to Arusha for Christmas for about two weeks. It is summer time in Tanzania in December and it is about 35 degrees. I normally travel in June or July when I go for vacation in Arusha so this was very challenging for me. Coming back to Canada in January when it is about -35 degrees took a toll on my mental health. During winter I find myself being more anti-social and I like staying at home. I always look forward to the next time I get to go home to see my family and friends. I think that it will take a bit more time for me to feel more at home in Canada.
I am very grateful that I have such a large Burundian community here in Ottawa. I have all of my siblings living in Canada with their families. I have family friends that I have grown up with and now we live in the same city together. I think that I am one of the lucky ones because I have a big part of my cultural identity here in Ottawa. I went to an international school in Arusha and also in Addis so I have met people from all over the world. Living in Ottawa has also exposed me to more people from different cultures. When I started my post-secondary degree, I knew that I wanted to work with a diverse population. I think with my lived experience as an immigrant in Canada, I can better understand the needs of the clients that we help.
Immigrant Women Services Ottawa
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