When did you move to Canada? & why did you move to Canada? How was your life like in your country of origin before you moved to Canada?
I moved to Canada in June, 2002 with my husband. I left Albania in 1997 and I lived for 5 and a half years in Italy before coming to Canada. In Albania in 1997 there was a civil war, my parents were very scared so they decided for me to go to Italy and live with my aunt. Italy did not offer very much. During the time I lived in Italy, I met my husband and we decided to immigrate to Canada as he had heard very good things about Canada and the life here so we decided to give it a try.
What was your first impression when you arrived in Canada?
I loved Canada since the first day I came here. As soon as we entered in the airport, the Immigration officer said to us “Welcome to Canada”, that made us feel very welcome. I come from a very small country, and Toronto seemed to me such a big city that I never thought I would be able to go around on my own. Now, after many years, feels like home and I would not change it with any other country in the world.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you moved here?
The challenges were quite a few which is understandable. Starting from the language, I didn’t speak much English and it was very hard to understand people. I did study English back home, but it was very basic, I started taking Esl classes to learn English. Another thing was that my school was not recognized at all here, so I had to start everything from scratch. I was studying dentistry in Italy, I was in 3rd year of university, but here nothing was recognized so I had to start from getting the Ontario High School Diploma and then deciding what career I would go to. I was working and going to school at the same time, my life was hectic to say the least.
Was there any support from the community to help you integrate? If yes, what were they? If not, how did you survive?
No help from the community. I worked, I did different jobs, working in supermarkets and Staples in the Copy and Print centre.
What do you miss most from your country of origin?
Albania has beautiful weather, the coldest temperature is 10 degrees. The nature is amazing, we have mountains and sea. Also, the food is delicious. We have a very specific kind of cuisine which is very tasty.
Since coming to Canada, have you visited your country of origin? What was your first impression of going back? How did it feel?
Since I have left Albania I have not been back, it has been now almost 23 years. My family lives in Italy, and when I have those little vacations I go to see them in Italy. I miss my country very much and I want to go soon especially I want to bring my kids to see where I come from, where I was born and raised.
What was your occupation in your country of origin and what is your occupation here in Canada? What have you accomplished so far and aim to in the future?
As I mentioned before, I was a dental student in Italy. Here nothing was recognized and I had to start everything from scratch. Since to become a dentist, was a very long way and very expensive, it was not possible. Then I decided to do something that is in the same field. I studied Dental Assisting in college and I worked 1 year, but I wanted to do more. Then, I decided to go back to college and study dental hygiene. Dental hygiene program was 2 years and after the diploma I got the licence. I worked for a couple of years for different dental offices. After I decided I wanted to do something on my own, I started my own business. The first 3 offices, I shared the space with other dental professionals till I opened my very own dental office in May 2016, named DentalX. DentalX is a full dental office. I am just days away from signing the lease of the second location.
How has your life changed since moving here?
My life has changed completely. I have a profession that I love. I look forward to come to work everyday with the same passion I had more than 10 years ago. I have two beautiful kids, Samuel 16 years old and Iliana 5 and half years old.
What advice would you give to newcomers in Canada?
Nothing comes easy, but if you work hard you can achieve what you want. You have to put your mind on what you want to do, and work toward achieving your goal, follow your dreams.
What advice would you give to people back in your country?
Unfortunately, I have left Albania so long ago that its hard for me to give any advice not knowing how things are there. But again, I would say work hard and believe in yourself and you can make it happen.
What advice would you give to Canadians on how to relate with immigrants?
We all have to help anyone that needs our help, within our possibilities. I would suggest Canadians to help immigrants with information and put them toward the right path.