Ms. A. Gray - an International Student’s Experience in Canada
“I had no expectations. I was open to whatever would come.”
In mid-October 2014, I sat down to interview a close friend of mine, Ms. A Gray. Born in Nigeria to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, Ms. Gray is an International student in Canada. She was raised in the UK, and has been in Canada since 2011. Ms. Gray has a Bachelor’s of Law and a Master’s in Theology (Christian). Having the opportunity to immigrate anywhere in the world, she was spurred on to come to Canada to connect with long lost family living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).
Prior to entering Canada, Ms. Gray attempted to have her education assessed to ensure it was on par with Canadian educational standards but was met with bureaucracy and red tape that could not be overcome until her arrival in Canada. She initially entered Canada on a working holiday program.
At first, she said she wasn’t sure if Canada was where she wanted to be. However, as a law graduate she says it was quicker to get licensed here in Canada (a fellow common law jurisdiction) than it would have been in England – an obvious perk and advantage. Because of this, as well as always having a desire to become a lawyer – her father’s previous position back in Nigeria (he’s now a retired judge) – she credits Canada for giving her more opportunities compared to England, to work as an independent lawyer, legal entrepreneur.
However, Ms. Gray didn’t always think this way. When she first came to Canada, she describes employment opportunities which varied, and experienced discrimination from customers and clients her employers serviced. However, she also describes experiences of warmth with those customers/clients – mainly seniors – as they were comforted by her English voice – a piece of home – and would often call her just to talk. These experiences occurred when Ms. Gray wasn’t fully aware that she could take the NCAs to qualify to practice law in Canada. So, she worked outside of her chosen field (law).
Though, once she started working in the legal field (her facial expression changes as she tells me), she says it was and continues to be a most humbling experience working in her chosen field. Finally, she wasn’t being spoken ill of nor was she looked down on – her knowledge, skills and presence were revered.
Ms. Gray was extremely excited to start working in the legal field. She had professional clothing she’d brought with her from England. However, one night while washing her clothing at a public Laundromat, all of her clothes were stolen from the machine. With all of her professional clothes gone, she had to find an alternative – she wore her good church clothes to work.
Out of this experience, though, something truly amazing happened. A friend of Ms. Gray (also from England and attempting to qualify to practice as a nurse in Canada) called Ms. Gray one day. She asked her to meet her for lunch at a location downtown, but wouldn’t tell her why. When Ms. Gray met her friend, she was met with a beautiful surprise: her friend had purchased her a whole new wardrobe. Only a few items fit, but it was such a beautiful gesture and it was the thought that counts, she tells me with tears in her eyes as I pass her a box of facial tissue.
Ms. Gray has passed all of her qualifying examinations as well as the LSUC’s barrister and solicitor’s licensing examinations. However, she still has some time to wait until she becomes a fully licensed lawyer in Canada. Regardless of her experiences here in Canada, she credits the NCA program for providing her an opportunity to be around like-minded people:
“Most of the people I met in the program, were Canadians who’d gone abroad to study in places like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It really felt like a community. Despite my social experiences not being the best in Canada, many of the friends I have today I met through the qualifying program/exams.”
Despite not knowing what the future holds for her, nor whether she will make Canada her permanent home, Ms. Gray remains optimistic in the face of the series of unfortunate events which have occurred in her life since coming to this country. As our interview comes to a close, she gestures that she’d like to add one more thing:
“My faith is strong. I refuse to believe that God brought me here, to this country, to fail.”