Harleen Kaur Taunque is a young, enthusiastic, graduate from the University of Waterloo. After coming to Canada from India, she received her Master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering, along with a Graduate Certificate in Business and Entrepreneurship from the Conrad School of Business and Entrepreneurship. She currently works as a programmer for a startup firm, where she has built various software solutions for different clients. She is a lifelong learner and loves volunteering, communicating with people, and building long-term relationships!
Harleen has a unique story to share as she immigrated to Canada from India to pursue a new life, starting with her education. Reset Zone has invited Harleen to share her story, in hopes that it can inspire others and provide relatability to anyone in a similar situation.
I sat in the middle seat of a three-row gigantic Boeing plane flying to London. My hands held my baggage nervously, and my feet slid tensely under the front seat.
“Where are you from?” The elderly man next to me spoke softly, looking at me with inquisitive eyes. “India, and you?” I replied. This began my conversation with the Ukrainian man sitting next to me on the flight. The gentlemen started talking about his kids and how he occasionally travels to Canada to visit his daughter. He loved his grandchildren a lot and shared stories about each one. Listening to his stories, I felt strangely connected with this man. The conversation helped me to feel at ease and settle my nerves. After a 5-hour conversation, I began sharing about my life.
I was born in one of the oldest cities, Ajmer, located in a state of India – Rajasthan which means “Land of the Kings”. I was raised by very independent and open-minded parents. My upbringing was full of open-conversations, funny jokes, movie-watching together, and family trips, all which have left me with a treasure chest of memories. We shared almost everything together.
This is not considered very “normal” compared to other households in India. I recall one of my friends saying, “I never talked to my father openly since I was born.” My parents are my best friends. There is nothing that I am not able to discuss with them, ranging from very personal feelings, to making big life decisions – they never forced their beliefs on me. They provide their input, ask for mine, and always encourage me to make my own decisions. My father continues to motivate me to do things independently.
Colorful festivals, celebrations, sharing food, the bustle of the busy streets, a community-oriented culture – this is what I would describe as the trademarks of India. My personal favourite festival is “Diwali” – the festival of lights. The whole city is flooded with lanterns and colourful fairly lights. However, irrespective of the celebrations and lively culture, I often felt I was being questioned on where I am going and what I am doing within my community. The intense interest on my whereabouts would make me feel trapped at times. Living in a conservative atmosphere and community while being raised in a very non-conservative house made me feel estranged. This is when I decided to apply to Canadian Universities and explore other cultures.
Canada was the safest place for me to experiment, as I have a sibling residing here. I started doing research to apply to various universities. Lo and behold… I got an offer of admission into one of the most prestigious universities in Canada, The University of Waterloo. The university that encourages students to go “beyond ideas”. After receiving the acceptance, I was skeptical of what would happen next.
This was the biggest decision of my life. I had never gone out of my comfort zone before. My parents were my support system and leaving my country would deprive me of what felt like my oxygen. I did not realize this before applying. When I got the admission, things started moving rapidly and I started feeling as though my world was tearing apart. What would I do without my friends? I had so many colourful memories in my country. Going to Canada was not the same as going to a different state in India (India has 29 states)!
Within India, I could visit my family and friends anytime without restrictions. However, in Canada, without an expensive ticket and a long and tiring journey, I would not be able to come back to India. My parents and relatives could not come and visit me without a Visa either. This was a challenge for me. I was freaking out! I used to get nightmares thinking about the journey ahead, but my parents would come to my rescue in those times. They really helped me overcome my anxiety. I remember having weird dreams about being trapped in the airplane, and another one about my airplane being hijacked the day before my flight. These dreams really made me realize how interesting the human brain is!
“My heart is hurting listening to your story girl! Would you mind sharing about your emotions today when you boarded the flight? It must have been very hard for you!” The Ukrainian man asked, in a concerned tone. Ah! I was so deep into reliving my memories that I almost forgot that I had left my country! With no idea when I would be able to return. Then I mustered the courage to explain my emotions to the man.
On the day of the flight, I felt scared but ambitious. Superficially, I acted like a strong kid ready to leave my parents to discover the world alone. The emotions were totally confusing. On one hand I was happy that I would be able to grow emotionally, with the opportunity to meet so many new people from different cultures! On the other hand, I was scared that I would feel alone. That I might stray from achieving my goals by being distracted in a very new culture. I remembered the last words my father said to me when he waved goodbye at the airport, “We have invested in your studies and now you have to make your own home with your own hard work”. That day I promised myself, I would not cry. I will not shed a single tear. Why should I? It wasn’t as if something bad was happening. I am going to study in a prestigious, new country. I shouldn’t cry. Right?
My overwhelming mixture of emotions was suddenly interrupted by an announcement. The connecting flight was delayed.
Do you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious? This time of year is overwhelming for many; many are moving, going back to school, holiday season is approaching, and many other changes start to take place. The year 2020 has presented us all with some new challenges, that have added even more stress and overwhelm onto our plates. Take a few moments to reset those negative emotions with this one-minute video tool.