The Immigrant Journey Experience

Polly Sidher Family, Immigration, Relationships, Self Development Leave a Comment

Have you ever really assessed what you and your family experienced when you first moved to Canada?

It’s a well-known fact that immigrants face numerous psychosocial factors — both internal and external — including how they are perceived and how they perceive themselves. But for some reason, this aspect of the immigrant experience is often not openly discussed, and newcomers often suffer in silence as they struggle to settle in.

Having immigrated to Canada with my family at the young age of two, I definitely don’t remember the initial days of my parent’s journey as immigrants. But I certainly witnessed the ups and downs of this unique passage as I grew older — from being a passenger in the family car on our first official Canadian road trip or being forced into the role of “translator” by an ignorant store clerk assuming my grandfather didn’t speak English!
Successful transition

When one migrates to another country, all immigrants go through three important stages. The initial stage involves the actual decision to make the move. The physical move itself is the secondary stage. The last stage relates to the social and cultural integration of the new immigrant.

The transition from initial migration to successful resettlement isn’t the same for all newcomers, of course. First, the reason for migrating influences their ability to better resettle. For example, what would inspire someone from Somalia to immigrate to Scarborough? Is it the search for “greener pastures” and better opportunities or is it to leave poverty or war-ridden environments? Second, what qualities do some immigrants have that enables them to be more resilient than others to overcome the issues of migration and resettlement more easily? And there are many more factors that determine how easily immigrants can transition from migration to resettlement.

Some social factors are:

• financial implications
• language barriers
• employment options
• socio-economic concerns

Other psychosocial factors can include:

• prejudice and racism
• a conflict in one’s ethnic identity
• self and cognitive dissonance or confusion and isolation

These factors are only a few that are associated with an immigrant’s psychological and emotional experience of integration, and often determine the success of the overall migration and resettlement processes.
Survive then thrive

Understandably for most immigrants, the primary focus is to first survive before they can thrive and cultivate a better life. For many, this means kicking into survival mode and focusing on the basics of shelter, food and employment.

But as the determination to create a better life for themselves and their families grows amid all the above factors, immigrants face many psychological shifts in ideologies and attitudes to make the transition as seamless as possible.
But dealing with conflicting values, customs and behaviours can be emotionally overwhelming. For example, a person’s perceptions about their existing cultural identity and their ability to balance and create a new identity can be a rather difficult task. It is this very turbulence that may contribute to higher levels of physical and mental health issues faced by immigrants. So, in my new column for Canadian Immigrant, I will continue to explore the psychological, social and emotional stages of the immigrant experience, and hope to bring you some insight and encouragement in your difficult, yet exciting, journey ahead.

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