Being a newcomer in a new city means networking, failing at times, and never giving up
By Rany Ibrahim
“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come.” That maxim always kept me going forward as an immigrant.
Maybe it’s a generic, one-size-fits-all statement, but it’s relevant to newcomers.
Moving to a new city isn’t an easy task. Moving to another country is a major life-changing event.
It takes courage, an adventurous spirit, patience, and determination to make the leap. The moment we realize the status quo isn’t enough, we feel the urge to pursue a dream, we know it’s the right time to make a change. Often, it’s not an easy undertaking, as obstacles may be blocking the path.
You may be lucky to have a network of family and friends supporting you along the way. Or perhaps you’re on your own with your persistence to realize your dream, and you want to go above and beyond the goals you and others have set.
People migrate for various reasons. Some are running from something—persecution, hostility, or poverty. Others are running toward something—a better life, safety, freedom, education, a career, and a community.
I was the latter.
I grew up in Egypt in a middle-class family. My father was a military officer and my mother was a banker. I had a comfortable life as a late-teens/early-20s educated professional. I was privileged, drove a new car, lived in a nice house I fully owned, and had an exciting career in the aviation industry that allowed me to travel around the world. However, something was missing; I had a gut feeling there was something else out there for me.
Most of my family and friends back home thought I was crazy to give it all up for my adventure to go back to graduate school, and in Canada, of all places.
Being an international student can get expensive. I sold everything I owned back home to pay for my graduate school in Canada. When I ran out of money, I searched for an on-campus student job, then I borrowed student loan money from banks. When that wasn’t enough, and as a last resort, I asked my parents for help. They did, reluctantly, but only after reminding me how wrong my decision was. They said I was just wasting time and money on needless education in Canada while I had it all back home.
Meanwhile, I excelled in school, finishing at the top of my graduating class. Eventually, my family turned around when they started to notice my successes.
For me, there was no turning back. I never lost sight of my dreams. I never doubted my decision to move here, even in the hardest times when finding an opportunity was a challenge. I understood from day one it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride, but giving up wasn’t an option. Failure wasn’t an option. And if I did fail, and at times I did, I got up again quickly and kept at it.
As an immigrant, new in town, you must create a brand. Your reputation is your main asset. I took every opportunity, regardless of how little it was, very seriously. I was determined to set the benchmark high. I learned how to hustle, how to overcome my shy personality, to network, do cold calls, try ice-breaking techniques, and hone my public speaking abilities. I believe these are the most important and must-learn skills for immigrants in any new community.
Certainly, in a small place like Halifax, where every second or third person knows someone you know, building bridges and connections with the community outside your work, either through volunteering or in your social life, becomes important to both your integration process and career.
Go out of your way and connect. Don’t be complacent or compliant. Don’t be afraid to question the status quo. Experience and experiment. Volunteer and engage. Have a can-do attitude.
And the earlier quote continues, “Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.”
The fact you’re here already is a living proof of how capable you are. The first bridge I built was within myself, changing my frame of mind to enable me to build another bridge towards my new community.
Rany Ibrahim is a business strategy professional, professor, communicator, writer, and analyst. He is a business workforce consultant, a tech startup founder, and part-time university faculty. He also serves on various academic and professional boards. Rany has won several awards for leadership and entrepreneurship and is a member of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference. He’s among Atlantic Canada’s 50 most inspiring entrepreneurial leaders under 40 and is a Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards Winner. He was recognized by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for his contributions and community involvement. He is passionate about immigration, human rights, freedoms, and democracy. You can follow him on Twitter: @RanyIbrahim.