Born and raised in Saint-Louis, Senegal, Mouhamed Habib Niang moved to Canada in January 2019 to attend college. Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Senegal is well known for its official language which is French. Senegal is also known as a multilingual country with 36 languages spoken.
Mouhamed like many international students, came to Canada to obtain a world-renowned diploma and to gain international exposure. Mouhamed also added that international students in Canada enjoy the same rights and freedoms that protect all Canadians which are: respect for human rights, equality, diversity, and a stable and peaceful society. It was because of these attributes that made Mouhamed choose Canada.
When asked about the immigration process, Mouhamed stated that it was very straightforward. “I only followed the steps given by immigration so that I can process my case as quickly as possible without slowing down. The procedure involves obtaining an accepted letter from a Canadian university, applying for a visa using the letter provided by the university, and undergoing a medical test. “It only took 3 months before I obtained my visa to come to Canada,” added Mohammed.
Mouhamed remembers his first day as if it was yesterday, and he added that without a doubt, the cold weather was his first cultural shock. “My sister who was already in Canada, came to pick me at the airport on the 15th of January 2019 and she brought a winter jacket for me, telling me that it was minus 35 degrees outside. I remember telling her, I won’t need the jacket as I have a hoodie, without realizing how cold it can get in winter because I have never lived it before”. “Once I was outside, I recalled, running back inside. I had never experienced that type of cold weather before and I will never forget that day. It was nice to see the world differently, and at the same time, it’s a funny memory I will cherish in my life”.
Mouhamed also shared that his second and most important cultural shock was the language. “I barely spoke English before arriving in Canada. So, my vocabulary and comprehension were not so good. I had difficulties understanding people who speak English very fluently and quickly”. Although Mouhamed speaks French in his country of origin, it was still a little difficult even in French. “I had a little trouble understanding the Quebec or Franco-Manitoban accent” shared Mouhamed.
“I also avoided eye contact when talking with my professors in college and this was mainly out of respect and it’s also a cultural difference between Canada and my birth country” shared Mouhamed. Soon, Mouhamed learned that in Canada, avoiding eye contact when talking to someone was a sign of disrespect and it also meant that the individual does not care about the conversation. This was a learning curve for Mouhamed and he understood how culture can change between countries and from country to country.
Mouhamed also shared that what has helped him and his friends from Senegal to connecrt with the community was a project that was being conducted at the Universite de Saint-Boniface where he was studying in Manitoba. This 3-year research project was carried out in collaboration with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and several community partners working for the settlement and integration of newcomers in Manitoba. Mouhamed received settlement and integration services as part of this project. He also got the opportunity to learn from other immigrants who came to Canada before him as well as from other organizations and employer information sessions.
“It is part of a series of projects on the themes of immigration, integration, inclusion and identity. This project has helped me and my friends from Senegal to let people know that we love Canadian culture and respect the traditions and culture, but we also shared that we do not want to be judged for things we do based on our culture or religion” added Mouhamed.
Asked if there is one thing, he would have liked to know before coming to Canada, Mouhamed said that he would have liked to know that even though English and French are both the main languages, he would have liked to know that English is the language mostly spoken by people in Canada. He also shared that if he had known that Rugby and American Football were the main sports here in Canada, he would have been more serious about it in Senegal to increase his chances of playing in the CFL.
Mouhamed stated that if he had to do it all over again, without any doubts, he will. “Canada is a land of opportunities and there are so many employment opportunities. And, you can achieve your goals and become anything you want or have a career that you want. There are no limits” added Mouhamed.
While life is good here in Regina, Mouhamed said he truly misses his parents, siblings and the traditional food.
Mouhamed shared that many times people have referred to him as being an altruistic person. He was a volunteer in an association that cares for sick and disabled people in small villages in Senegal. In that association, Mouhamed shared that he had the opportunity to learn more about people and develop a love for helping people.
“Working at COR is more than a job to me, the fact that I get up in the morning thinking that I’m going to see this person and we are going to have a good time together, doing activities together, and helping them feel safe and comfortable is more than a job to me, it brings me genuine happiness. And of course, everything I do, I always try to remain professional at all times”.
Asked where Mouhamed see himself in 5 years and he shared that he will like to have a long career at COR and if the opportunity was presented to him, he is also interested to work in Human Resources, as he has a degree that field.
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Written by Joana Valamootoo