“Gosh Roop! Are you really an international student? But you do not speak with an accent. Wow, I would have never guessed that.”
I have heard this comment very frequently in my Canadian life. Initially, I used to pat myself for speaking the Queen’s English and considered myself superior to other international students (who speak with an accent). However, I soon realized that I am one of the international students and this frequently heard comment is not a compliment but a comment that others me and my community from the rest of the Canadian domestic students. Not acceptable! Yes, we come with an accent in this foreign land. But, that is not the entire story.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my cousin, and she told me that one of her friends works tirelessly, goes to school, and sends money back home to help his family out of poverty. Definitely, my first reaction was that I am in awe of that person for their hard work but soon realized that not everyone can do it and it must take a lot of grit to do that. Indeed, I was right: the friend sacrificed his study hours (and rest assured his social life) to pay for tuition as well as send money back home to ensure a better standard of living for his family. My cousin tells me that now the friend’s family has been able to purchase a car, a tractor, and renovate their house. Certainly, the friend worked hard, and his family has a better life now but what if that person really wanted to focus on their studies at that time rather than being bothered with money-making. Yes, he wanted to and did go through some really dark times to make ends meet.
My other cousin, who did three years of nursing school and two years of hands-on experience back in India, came to Canada (the land of opportunity) with the intent of finally putting her knowledge and experience into action. Did she make it? Not quite as she had to choose an alternative career because her IELTS (a test that every international resident has to give to prove themselves worthy of living in an English-speaking country like Canada) score came in the way. She had the determination, and experience but not an ideal IELTS score. She tried thrice but had to give up at the end as she had to carry out the duties of a wife, co-run the house, and start her own family (as she had reached what is considered a childbearing age). Now, she hopes to pursue her dreams through her kids!
From the abovementioned anecdotes, by no means do I intend to elicit sympathy. In fact, it is the opposite as Shakespeare rightly said “sweet are the uses of adversity”. I am sure the friend and my cousin are really proud of what they have accomplished through those hard times, but nothing came without tradeoffs (in this case, trading educational opportunities for family obligations). Last week when I received my IELTS score (a score that my cousin always strived for), my cousin told me,
“I wish I had that score. It could have changed my life”.
This made me appreciate how bad she worked for it. The IELTS test is important for communication purposes, yet we need to adopt a holistic perspective and assess people on traits of adaptability, courage and willpower in a foreign land. I feel very privileged to have attended good English-speaking schools (since childhood) and have work colleagues in Canada who acknowledge my work and entrust me with opportunities, however, not everyone is that fortunate and inadvertently has to give up on their dreams!
Trust me, it is not easy, and we deal with homesickness often. So please, if you are in that position where you can see the potential in people for their hard work and life experiences, try to look beyond a superficial IELTS score and take a chance on them as they will work the hardest to prove themselves worthy of that opportunity!