Canada's Stories

I always felt uncertain about my future in the U.K. I finally found my home in Calgary.

After moving to three continents, I settled down in Alberta
Aysha Samrin
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For most of my life, home always felt like a temporary place. I was born in Trichy, India, in 1994; when I was three months old, I moved to Abu Dhabi, where my dad worked as an engineer. We were treated like second-class citizens in the UAE. If my dad ever lost his job and couldn’t find a new one, we would have to consider moving back to India. Starting at age 17, I roamed around for a decade: I moved to India in 2011 for a design degree, then switched to an illustration program in Southampton, U.K. In 2016, I found a nearby web design job and later started a full-time master’s degree in digital design.

I always felt uncertain about my future in the U.K. Permanent residency required a minimum salary much higher than what I earned, and I couldn’t find a better-paying job. By mid-2017, I began to consider other places. I set my sights on Canada, where I qualified for permanent residency, but decided to wait until I completed my master’s degree. Before my graduation, I flew to Chennai for my brother’s wedding. I met a photographer named Aman while I was in India, and we soon became engaged.

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I finally applied for permanent residency in January of 2019 and received it nine months later. I was ready for a change, although Aman and I would have to continue our relationship long distance while he stayed in India. I chose Vancouver for its booming creative scene, and when I landed, the city immediately felt familiar, with a climate like London’s and skyscrapers like Abu Dhabi’s. I thought it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I stayed in a shared house in the suburb of Richmond, where my room cost $650 a month. My plan was to live there for a couple of months to get my permanent residency card, and I got a part-time job at New York Fries to make some money. In February of 2020, I flew back to India to prepare for my wedding to Aman, but then came COVID-19. Our 2,000-guest wedding turned into an intimate 15-person ceremony at my parents’ home. I stayed in India until the fall, when flights opened back up. After returning to B.C. in November, I found a remote job as a visual designer for a software company. I applied to sponsor Aman’s permanent residency in Canada, which he received in November of 2021, though he wouldn’t fly in for another several months. Meanwhile, Vancouver’s real estate market was pricing us out of the city. The rent for a one-bedroom downtown apartment was at least $2,500 a month, and owning a home, which was our eventual goal, seemed far out of reach in B.C.

Calgary popped up on my radar while I was browsing rental maps online. I couldn’t deny Alberta’s affordability and Calgary’s multicultural appeal. In one night, I made a gut decision: I would uproot my life and move there. Within two weeks, I found an apartment in downtown Calgary for $1,100 a month. I gave my landlady notice, packed my belongings in two suitcases and flew out to my new home.

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A week before Aman arrived in January of 2022, there was a blizzard in Calgary. I had never seen so much snow before. I loved it, though when I showed my parents pictures, they freaked out. The view from my apartment was beautiful, and I was mesmerized by the falling snowflakes that blanketed the downtown core. After Aman moved in, he had to adjust to our new home and the cold weather, but getting a car has helped him bear the winters better. He started his own photography business last year, and we recently closed on a three-bedroom detached house in Falconridge for $384,000, where we live with our cat named Thakkali, which means “tomato” in Tamil. The home is outdated, but we’ve been renovating it slowly, whenever we have the money to spare. Our social circle is expanding, too. Through Facebook community groups, we’ve found a close group of friends who meet up for dinner parties and game nights.

Our home feels permanent now. I’ll apply for citizenship soon; in a few years, Aman can also apply. Calgary has given me a taste of the stability I’ve always craved, and for the first time in my life, I can see a future for us here.