Article by Ashley MacKenzie - Febuary 9, 2018
Each year Pickering High School opens their doors and welcomes new students for the upcoming school year. Some are coming from neighboring elementary schools, while others are attending PHS from a school on the other side of the world, where the education system follows slightly different standards and expectations than what we have been familiarized with. I had the opportunity to speak with Zara Khan, a grade 12 student here at PHS who opened up about her experiences (both the good and bad) regarding leaving the life she knows behind for a brand new one here in Ajax.
Ashley: Zara to start off, where are you from and what grade did you move here?
Zara: I was born in the city of lights, Dubai. I moved to Canada in 2009 around the fifth grade and left around halfway of the eighth grade. Last year I moved back here, entering the eleventh grade.
Ashley: What are your thoughts on leaving behind family and friends in Dubai?
Zara: All my life I have constantly been moving around the globe. It has given me the opportunity to observe the world and learn about the different cultures and traditions. Although, I do think that I’ve missed out on a lot of family time and have had to deal with the pain of leaving behind good friends. Obviously I feel lonely at times but I think that it sort of comes with the whole package of being a traveler.
Ashley: Do you ever consider moving back to Dubai sometime in the future?
Zara: When I’m older and more well settled in life, I would most definitely love to go back. There’s just something about the heat there that effortlessly lures me in every time.
Ashley: Academically, what sort of differences do you find when comparing the Dubai curriculum to what is offered here at PHS? And with that, have you experienced any challenges?
Zara: Academically speaking, I think that the curriculums greatly differ and it has not been an easy journey for me but I somehow found ways to cope and adjust to what was required. What I like here is that most of the schools here offer a variety of courses. Also, the education system has a greater application aspect to it, rather than just a written final end of the year exam that decides your fate.
Ashley: You have moved here to an entirely new school without knowing anyone, socially, what obstacles have you experienced? Could you share some of those experiences with us?
Zara: No matter where you go in life, there will always be a strange social atmosphere at any high school. Adjusting to it wasn’t that difficult because that’s all I’ve been doing my whole life so I’m pretty much a professional now. One of the challenges that I still face is being part of something that is already a whole. When I first joined, I was quite lost through the halls and at lunch I’d be confused on where to go. Being intrusive in other people’s circles was never my thing. Around grade eleven most cliques are already formed, some rooting all the way from elementary school. On the other hand, there are people like me, your lovely gypsies. No one knows where they’re from, how they got here and why they decided to join their school so late, but they’re there. I still sometimes get certain glances in the halls that depict the thought, “I know you’re not from here”, and at times it feels unwelcoming, but on other occasions, it makes me laugh. Eventually overtime I got to know more people and built more relationships and that is why I think that in the end it’ll always work out.
Ashley: I can only imagine how difficult it was on your first day at a new school, in a country that you are unfamiliar with. Being born and raised in Dubai, then making the transition of becoming a student here at PHS, have you ever felt marginalized?
Zara: Did I feel marginalized? Well, honestly not that much but on certain accounts people have asked me the strangest of questions. Like, “Does it rain in Dubai, like have you ever seen rain?”or “did you have internet in Dubai?”, and mind you these were serious questions coming from serious people so you can put together the rest of the pieces.
Ashley: After hearing about the similarities and differences Dubai has to offer, is there anything you miss back home that you can no longer experience here in Ajax?
Zara: One of the things that I miss the most would be the freedom to get around. Back home getting around is really easy. In Canada, if you don’t have a car you can really feel stuck in the middle of nowhere at times. I was born in the city; so living in the suburbs is really quite the experience for me. I prefer the sound of moving cars and city activity rather than just a plain old boring neighbourhood, but all in all it does help me recollect my thoughts and find peace.
Ashley: Now having first hand experience as a student who has moved from Dubai to Canada, in your opinion what could people in the community do to help individuals and families moving from other countries feel welcome? To prevent the struggles you have faced from happening to a future student or individual in society?
Zara: To make people from other countries feel welcome certain workshops could be held. Workshops that would be informative about the school and the opportunities they could take part of. Also, to motivate them to really do the best of their abilities and would give them the option of meeting other new and old members.
It was interesting to hear Zara share her experiences and thoughts on the cultural, social and academic styles we have here at PHS. That what we have so easily adjusted to and thought of as being “normal” in our society, is quite the opposite in other places of the world. There is always something new to discover right around the corner (or across the world).