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Friday, February 23, 2024

Embracing Canada North: A Nigerian teacher’s journey of transformation

During her early days in Canada, Theresa Ogunjobi suffered an intense feeling of isolation. As she walked the cold and sparsely populated streets of Edmonton, she felt a pang of longing for the warmth and vibrancy of her Nigerian homeland.

“I never thought I could miss the noise and chaos of Lagos,” she said. But this was her new reality. The bustling energy of Lagos, with its teeming crowds and ceaseless activities, now seemed like a distant dream.

But as the days turned into weeks, Theresa’s initial shock gradually gave way to a sense of determination. She would find her way in this new land, she vowed to herself. She would build a new life, one that would embrace both her Nigerian heritage and her Canadian reality.

“It was never going to be an easy journey,” says Theresa. “But I am a Nigerian, and we are not people that shy away from challenges,” she proudly adds.

Theresa has a long experience in the field of education. Before her immigration to Canada in 2011, she was a Chemistry teacher at a respected private school in Lagos.

“I had a university degree in Chemistry, and a post-graduate degree in Education, all from good Nigerian universities. And I taught in a leading Nigerian Catholic school.”

From classroom to lab and back
But Theresa’s immigration to Canada brought about an unexpected career shift, leading her to temporarily abandon the classroom for a customer care role at a chemical laboratory.
After two years of working in the laboratory, she embarked on a determined pursuit to reclaim her teaching career.

Theresa’s immigration to Canada brought about an unexpected career shift, leading her to temporarily abandon the classroom for a customer care role at a chemical laboratory

She enrolled in a degree program in Canada, equipping herself with the necessary credentials to navigate the Canadian education system. “I have since returned to teaching and have joyfully remained there,” she beams.

For Theresa, the transition back to the classroom was, indeed, a homecoming, a return to her true calling. But it has not been without its own challenges.

“Professionally, I needed to make a few adjustments such as learning how to incorporate the use of technology into my lesson delivery, actively utilizing my knowledge of differentiation of learning in the classroom, especially as it relates to gifted students as well as special needs students.”

In Canada, Theresa has readily embraced the technological advancements in her field, seamlessly integrating new tools and methodologies into her teaching. Her Nigerian background has enriched her teaching approach, bringing unique perspectives and insights to her lessons.

Despite the cultural differences between Nigeria and Canada, Theresa has thrived in her new environment, carrying with her the resilient spirit that is characteristic of her Nigerian heritage.

“Some unique perspective that I bring to my work is my ability to easily improvise when technology fails. I find that I am never in want of what to do if technology fails to function in the classroom at any point.”

I always feel particularly isolated and challenged during the festive periods, especially Christmas

And how about cultural adjustments? “Of course, the sharp contrast between the communal life of Lagos and the more solitary existence in Canada required me to make several cultural adjustments,” Theresa enthuses.

Like most African immigrants, Theresa struggled with the transition from the close-knit extended family setting to living independently. In Nigeria, she was accustomed to the constant presence of family members, the warmth of communal meals, and the lively chatter that filled her home.

“But here in Canada, I found myself navigating the challenges of living alone, managing household responsibilities independently, and adapting to a quiet, lonely lifestyle.”

How well has she maintained connections with folks back home?
“This is another challenge due to the substantial time difference,” Theresa sighs. “To bridge the gap, I have to carefully schedule phone calls and video chats, often during late nights or early mornings, to accommodate the eight-hour difference.”

Even with the difficulties, these virtual interactions have become a lifeline, providing Theresa with a sense of familiarity and emotional support amidst the culture gap of her new home.

For Theresa, though, nothing can compensate for the joy of Nigerian festive seasons. “A time when I feel particularly isolated and challenged has always been and is still during the festive periods, especially Christmas. The celebrations and spirit of Christmas in Nigeria certainly creates a void that can not be filled outside the shores of Nigeria,” she declares.

Food also presented a unique challenge. Theresa, accustomed to the diverse flavours and spices of Nigerian cuisine, found herself confronted with a more limited range of options in Canada.

“I had to learn to eat what is available, rather than what I desire to eat,” she laughs.
And, of course, the frigid winters. Apart from the cold, learning to navigate the snowy streets and adapt to the shorter daylight hours became an essential part of her acclimatization process.

Finding balance between family and work is particularly daunting for an immigrant woman in Canada

Theresa has many words for women planning to immigrate to Canada. She particularly warns about the work-life balance.

“Finding balance between family and work is particularly daunting for an immigrant woman in Canada. There is nobody here to help with the children. It is very challenging and, sometimes, you may have to give up work to ensure that your family is cared for,” she warns.

Theresa always feels proud whenever she gets the chance to talk about Nigeria. “It is always fascinating to realize how little even the elite in Canada know about our country. It is always a delight to talk about who we are and what we contribute to the global community as Nigerians.”

Theresa exercises communal living through her church community in Canada. “The NACCE (Nigerian African Catholic Community In Edmonton) provides an excellent platform for communal fellowship. I am quite active there,” she proudly says.

Theresa’s story highlights the positive contributions that immigrants can make to their host countries.

She serves as an inspiration to others, demonstrating that success in a new land is not only possible but can also be achieved while staying true to one’s roots.

Claire Ezeokeke
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