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Real Life Moving Tales: Relocating from the UK to Canada as a Teenager

Jemima moved to Toronto, Canada with her parents following her father relocating for work. Below she shares the experience of moving overseas from a teenagers view point:

Having just started my second year of High School, I was gelling well with my schoolmates, busy looking at GCSE options, and generally enjoying life as an average 13-year old.

Needless to say, a move to Canada was the furthest thing from my mind.

Just a few months after starting the school year in September however, I was indeed bound for Toronto on a one-way flight – just a week before Christmas. My Dad’s job in finance was taking us out there on a two-year contract (so naturally, we never came back). We arrived just days after the biggest snowstorm Ontario had seen for years, suffice it to say our Marks and Spencer duffle coats were far from sufficient for our new surroundings. Our clothing wasn’t the only thing we would need to update – there was a great deal of adaptation that took place in the months and years following, all of which made even tougher amid a cavalcade of teenage hormones…

New country, new experiences

We settled in a place called Mississauga, about 45 minutes outside of Toronto.

Safe, residential and home to a house located directly opposite the high school myself and three siblings would all attend, it seemed the perfect place for a family of six to pitch up and start afresh. Leaving behind my friends during a crucial part of my teenage years was tough, but the experience wasn’t about to get any easier. Despite the fact that I had left my second year of secondary school, in Canada, high school doesn’t start until 13. Therefore, I had to go back to primary (elementary) school, complete six months there (amid peers who had been at school together since the age of four), graduate (again), and then start high school. No amount of pleading with the school board would convince them to make an exception, and so my initial school years were fairly tumultuous as I struggled with adjusting to a new way of life along with a new high school.

Looking back, a lot of my fears about the move focused around my friends. Moving in 2000, a time when the height of technological communication was MSN, is distinctly different to moving now. Keeping in touch is far easier, and there is a lot more in the way of relocation resources available online. I did lose touch with a number of my close friends, but luckily have managed to reconnect in recent years thanks to Facebook.

One thing that was immediately obvious was that Canada is a country that welcomes immigrants on a regular basis, as generally speaking, people are warm and willing to help. This made assimilation easier, although I’d say more so for my siblings who were able to get in with their crowd of peers with more ease being of a younger age. We were quick to take up local pastimes like hockey and skiing, and enjoying the incredible summers that no one tells you about! By 16 I was able to work a part-time job and get a drivers license as we successfully achieved permanent residency, and we were made citizens in the years following.

The rest, as they say, is history.


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