The Eyeopener: Vol 57, Issue 10

Page 1

TMU students express excitement about Ontario’s new One Fare Program

Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students say they are excited for Ontario’s newly implemented One Fare Program.

On Feb. 5, Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced it would be implementing and funding the program, according to an Ontario news release.

One Fare came into effect on Feb. 26, according to a Metrolinx program page.

In a TTC update, the commission said this will apply to customers using PRESTO cards, debit or credit cards on TTC, Brampton Transit, Durham Region Transit, Mississauga’s MiWay and York Region Transit.

Through the program, commuters will be reimbursed for their single-ride Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) fare when transferring to and from GO Transit. Those using public transportation will also be able to use their free two-hour TTC transfer to and from other transit agencies across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

“We are optimistic the program will boost transit use across the GTA and lead to more TTC customers,” the senior communications advisor at TTC, Stuart Green,

told The Eyeopener over email. And the government is sure this will be the case. Ontario’s Associate Minister of Transportation Vijay Thanigasalam told The Eye this

program is expected to increase TTC ridership to nearly 8 million new riders.

“As a system, we are ready, but we are enabling other transit agencies to accommodate the new changes. So that once we work together, all levels of government, we can make these things happen,” Thanigasalam said in regards to whether or not the TTC is ready for this increase in ridership.

He said this will reduce the province’s reliance on motor vehicles.

“What that means is more cars off the road, less congestion. So, our government is providing choice. [Students] have the choice to take public transit or their car,” he said. “This is a huge milestone that TTC is on board [with].”

Thanigasalam said this move is an investment in the future of transportation and infrastructure, which is why $70 billion will be put towards this.

“What we’re trying to do is we are trying to build the infrastructure, we are trying to enable all the municipal leaders and all the transit agencies like TTC, GO [Transit]…for them to come together. We are connecting them with technology, with one system and also connecting them in the legal perspective as well,” he said.

Jaymin Pandya, a second-year aerospace engineering student, said the extra money he won’t be spending on his commute will be going toward his savings or a treat for himself.

Pandya said his commute usually consists of his local bus service in Brampton, the GO train and the

TTC. Prior to the One Fare program, this would have cost just over $18 in each direction.

“It’s nice to be able to take the subway without having to think about the cost and the additional money,” said Pandya. “It’s a nice, free transportation method when I’ve already been paying so much every day.”

Emily Jose, a second-year criminology student, said she commutes from Brampton using the GO train and TTC. She said she takes transit so that she doesn’t have to pay for rent in Toronto.

“I’m worrying less about how much money I’m spending on my commute, coming to campus every day is quite expensive,” she said.

Ahmed Siddiqui, a fourth-year graphic communications management student, said he’s most excited about the money he’ll be saving but wished the change had been implemented sooner.

Siddiqui said he takes the GO train from Aldershot in Burlington to Union Station and then the subway to campus, four times a week. According to GO Transit’s trip planner, this commute can total $16.50 each way.

“We’ve been in a recession so I feel like everything has been so expensive lately,” he said. “I think even a little change like this can help the average commuter a lot.”

With an affordability crisis currently at play in Canada’s government, Thanigasalam says he is hoping this will certainly help those students debating skipping a class or getting a part-time job.

“Right now, affordability is the

number one issue. The cost of living is going up, the grocery prices are going up,” he said.

Thanigasalam said he understands the struggle of having to pay double or triple fare.

“Right [after] my graduation from university, my first job was in Mississauga. I [was] living in Scarborough. So I was commuting from Scarborough to Mississauga everyday, paid double fare, so I understand what people are going through right now,” he said.

Ontario’s news release stated the program could save riders commuting five times a week up to $1,600 per year.

Ted Rogers School of Management professor Richard Deklerk said in an interview with The Eye that this will be beneficial for students commuting to TMU.

“I think it is going to help students a lot because they do need a lot of help,” said Deklerk. “Even though you are living at home and mom and dad are paying the rent [and] you are getting free meals, most of us need a part-time job [to get by in University].”

He also said he is looking forward to this program for his own sake. Deklerk commutes from Markham and uses GO Transit and the TTC.

“I used to get a bit of a discount [on transportation],” said Deklerk. “I think it was $1.50 or $2. Now they are basically saying, ‘Whenever you are on the GO train, tap on again on the subway, and it will be free.’ I’m looking forward to that.”

With files from Dexter LeRuez.

NEWS 2
As of Feb. 26, riders are saving money on commutes that use two or more transit systems
Par ticipants must:
Currently have, or have had, a diagnosis of anorexia ner vosa
Be aged 18-65, non-smoker
Have no histor y of neurological illness
Not currently be tak ing street drugs, nicotine or cannabis
Not currently be pregnant or breastfeeding This study aims to investigate whether brain inflammation occurs in Anorexia Ner vosa. I t will take place at the College St site of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (250 College Street). For more information about programs and services at CAMH, please visit www.camh.ca or call (416) 535 8501 (or 1 800 463 2673) The security of information sent by e -mail cannot be guaran eed Please do not communicate personal sensitive information by e -mail Please do not use e -mail to communicate emergency or urgent health matters

How Jama Bin-Edward has left a legacy at TMU

Jama Bin-Edward simply couldn’t be stopped.

On Jan. 15, 2020, the then thirdyear basketball guard for the Ryerson Rams, now the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold, women’s basketball team, left her footprints all over the court against the Waterloo Warriors.

With family and friends in attendance to watch her play in her hometown, she scored 21 points in the first half alone, giving the Rams a commanding 24-point lead. This was business as usual for Bin-Edward.

“She was playing at such an incredibly high level at the time,” said now TMU assistant coach Stefanija Mrvaljevic, who played with Bin-Edward on the women’s basketball team from 2017 to 2022. “She was playing so well in every possible way.”

But then, calamity struck. Midway through the third quarter against the Warriors, Bin-Edward, while running in transition, leaped in the air to catch a pass from then point guard Hayley Robertson. It was a routine play the two frequently connected on, yet when Bin-Edward caught the pass, she slipped and fell awkwardly on the court.

She initially thought she had dislocated her knee. “I looked down and everything looked straight, but deep inside, I knew something was wrong.”

The fans and players alike—including Mrvaljevic—grew quiet as Bin-Edward was on the floor in visible pain.

“You could feel all of the life suck out of the gym,” said Mrvaljevic.

Despite her clear injury, BinEdward reassured her teammates that she would be just fine.

Robertson, who played with her from 2018 to 2020, said the sentiment shared by Bin-Edward was to not worry and focus on the game.

“Sometimes, you don’t get that with star players or people with that level of talent...she’s very humble and down to earth,” said Robertson.

The next day at the sports clinic, Bin-Edward received the news—she had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, along with two other major knee injuries.

TMU women’s basketball head coach Carly Clarke was “heartbroken” after the diagnosis.

“We all knew how much Jama meant to our team, on and off the court,” she said.

Bin-Edward is the eldest child of a first-generation immigrant family. Her parents immigrated to Canada from South Sudan in 1998 and had an interest in one particular sport—basketball. As a result, she grew up playing the sport and she found success on the court during her high school days—leading to her being a highly sought-after recruit in early 2017.

She would ultimately decide to play her university basketball career at what was then Ryerson.

She attributed her choice to the allure of playing at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens, joining a team that had won the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Critelli Cup just two seasons prior and the calibre of coaching she would receive from Clarke. Bin-Edward knew there was going to be a “level of excellence” that Clarke brought to the table.

“I knew that would make me want to be a better player,” she said.

Mrvaljevic first met Bin-Edward in May 2017. She instantly realized that there was something special about her fellow first-year teammate.

“Right off the bat, you could tell that her personality shines,” said Mrvaljevic. “She’s really positive

and friendly. I immediately knew that I was going to enjoy having her as a teammate.”

Robertson, who transferred to the Rams during the fall of 2018, noticed Bin-Edward’s character regularly stood out.

“She’s dynamic and she’s ultracompetitive, but in a fluid, graceful way,” said Robertson. “She’s an overall complete player and she always did it with positive, uplifting energy.”

The 2019-20 season was when Bid-Edward’s university basketball career began to flourish. She averaged 14.6 points, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game while also leading the team in field goal percentage.

“She gave everything she had to others”

“There was a certain level of focus that I had in practices and games,” said Bin-Edward. “I think we were slowly beginning to peak as a team.”

That year, the Rams fell just short of capturing their second Critelli Cup in five seasons. Although BinEdward missed the final stretch of the campaign due to her injury, her teammates could still feel her joyful and optimistic presence brimming on the sidelines.

Mrvaljevic said from the moment Bin-Edward was sidelined she still brought the most energy and continued to be herself.

“She gave everything she had to others, even though she was struggling with what she was going through. The way she poured into everybody else was so selfless.”

Bin-Edward returned during a road win over the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks on Nov. 27, 2021. With a knee brace on her left leg during her 12 minutes of action, she was exhilarated to finally be back on the court with her teammates—682 days after her injury.

The Rams went undefeated that regular season and were considered the favourite to win the Critelli Cup

and the U Sports national championship. But to claim each prize, they had to go through a talented Brock Badgers team twice.

The Rams came out victorious in overtime in both games. During their second matchup in the U Sports national tournament semi-finals, they were led by Bin-Edward, who scored seven of the team’s 10 overtime points.

“It’s funny because I had an interview after the game and they told me that I had scored the first five points of that overtime and I had no idea,” Bin-Edward laughed. “Willing the ball through the net is really what’s going through my mind. It’s the focus that I had in those moments.”

Bin-Edward was awarded U Sports national tournament most valuable player for her play during the event— her final appearance as a player.

“There’s no other feeling but complete joy in that moment,” she said. “All of the hard work, battling with [my teammates] and my coaches just kind of all culminated in the perfect ending.”

Less than two years later, BinEdward sat on a chair and quickly scribbled something down on her clipboard as the Bold took on the York Lions.

Bin-Edward, currently in her first year as an assistant coach for the TMU women’s basketball team, is adjusting from player to coach.

“I’m starting to see the whole picture,” said Bin-Edward. “As a player, you’re still seeing things, but not at the same analytical level than as a coach.”

Still, TMU lead assistant coach Shae Dheensaw said Bin-Edward has “remained the same.”

“She was a positive role model as a player and she’s stayed true to that as a coach,” she said.

Even though Bin-Edward isn’t immediately looking to become a bench boss, she has already left a lasting impact at the university—on and off the court.

“At TMU, we always talk about leaving a legacy,” said Clarke. “And I think Jama has done just that.”

Editor-in-Chief

Negin “Orange” Khodayari

News

Gabriela “Hey Guys!” Silva Ponte

Dexter “With Files From” LeRuez

Anastasia “Decagon” Blosser

Photo

Brithi “Visual Balance” Sehra

Jerry “Jamie” Zhang

Sammy “Shawarma” Kogan

Online

Madeline “Blossom” Liao

Shaki “Buttercup” Sutharsan

Features

Kinza “Mattress” Zafar

Arts and Culture

Caelan “Colourful” Monkman

Business and Technology

Jake “J’ai Mis” MacAndrew

Communities

Bana “Comms Mother” Yirgalem

Sports

Ilyas “Wishing” Hussein

Daniella “Good Riddance” Lopez

Fun and Satire

Joshua “Bubbles” Chang

Media

Konnor “EIC” Killoran

Vanessa “Bangin’” Kauk

General Manager

Liane “7 Weeks Left!” McLarty

Design Director

J.D. “Happy Midterms” Mowat

Contributors

Blake “English Breakfast Tea” Talabis

Sam “Paris! Texas!” Beaudoin

Todd “2nd & Goal” Ash-Duah

Daniel “Ambush Pro” Carrero

Raphael “Blocked” Chahinian

Jonas “Poetry” Ibach

Adriana “Politics & Film” Fallico

Mitchell “#DawgMentality“ Fox

Pierre-Phillipe “Young Gun”

Wanya-Tambwe

Evan “The California Recap” Davis

Danielle “Also Writes!” Reid

Gavin “The Wiseman” Axelrod

LeBron “New York ” Pryce

Felipe “State of Mind” Karmel

Divine “You Look Good” Amayo Zufan “Mama” Haile Yergalem “Baba” Habtezion

Nazareth “Boy Mom” Maynes

Shushan “Hamilton Baddie” Yirgalem

Ruth “True Crime Nerd” Yirgalem

Biniyam “Big Bro” Yirgalem

Michelle “Slay” Obama

Drake “Breaking News” Graham

Samantha “Accountant” Almeida Zarmminaa “Justice for Eggy” Rehman

Messai “Bana’s Twin” Maynes

SPORTS 3
SAMMY KOGAN/THE EYEOPENERER

A page from the managing editor’s diary

My family’s resilience and strength is a pillar of my identity

Natsnet. This means ‘freedom and independence’ in Tigrinya—my mother language. It is a word deeply rooted within Eritreans’ history whether you live back home in a village like Mekrem—where my dad is from—or a big city like Toronto.

When I think about myself, I think about how I’m a fourth-year journalism student who is the communities editor at The Eyeopener and a member of the Black Business Student Association team.

Yes, not to flex, I’m very involved within my school, which makes me proud. But, I also take immense pride in being the youngest child of two of the most inspiring people in my life.

My parents are from Eritrea, a small country in East Africa, right off the coast of the Red Sea. Many people may not know about it due to the country only recently gaining its independence 31 years ago. Eritrea and Ethiopia were at war as Eritrea was seeking to be a separate country and eventually became one on May 24, 1993. You might think, ‘What does that have to do with Bana?’

all three of my older sisters were born. After living there as a family of five, my mother decided to move to Canada alone with my sisters in 1990, while my dad stayed in Saudi Arabia for work.

A young woman immigrating with three young daughters under the age of six, while speaking zero English and having no job lined up was challenging to say the least. However, my mom, being the superwoman she is, ultimately made the sacrifice and found her lane.

The war was something both my parents experienced, my mom being an innocent civilian and my father was a member of the group that put their lives on the line for the future of Eritrea. While living in Canada, I never had to experience the fear of losing my freedom—a privilege my parents didn’t have in their home country.

They had to flee the country separately to avoid the harm plaguing their home. This led them to immigrate to Saudi Arabia, where

The massive age gap between us made me feel like an only child at times. Although I may have had a different upbringing than my family, I never felt like an outsider.

From my cultural days in elementary school to listening to Eritrean songs on my way to campus, embracing my culture in any way possible makes me feel more connected to my beautiful heritage.

She worked two jobs, night and day, to ensure my sisters were always financially and emotionally supported. My sister would tell me about the times when my mom was treated poorly due to her being an immigrant—but that never stopped her from doing what she needed to do.

My father still provided for my sisters and mother from 10,711 kilometres away. Imagining that my dad had to be away from his wife and daughters for so long makes me sad but it shows what a selfless man he is—the man I’m proud of.

11 years later, My dad eventually made his way to Canada in 2001, a year before I was born and finally reunited with my mom and sisters for good. Not much happened until Sept. 7, 2002, when little old me was finally here.

My mom always told me: “Bana, I gave you your name because you’re the light in the family that shines within the darkness.”

I would believe those very words she said to me. But now, when I think back on my parent’s experiences, they’re the light within my life. All the blood, sweat and tears they have shed throughout their journey to where they are today is a prime testament to why my parents are my greatest heroes.

Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students, whether you’re a first-generation Canadian, an international student, an immigrant or from an immigrant family, the experiences of you and your families deserve to be celebrated.

I’m the only one in my family that was born in Canada. I was born in the West end of Toronto. My experiences growing up were much different from my family’s. My mom became a mother at 21— the same age I’m finishing my undergraduate degree.

My sisters are closer in age and grew up together before I was born.

As you turn the pages of The Diaspora Diaries, remember it’s not just any diary. It’s a diary filled with beautiful images and heartwarming stories of students from different walks of life gracing the pages. This year’s communities special issue is where we dive deep into the beautifully diverse student body at TMU. So, let’s dig in.

DIASPORA DIARIES
4

Guess the editor’s background

Geography bu s, it’s your time to shine!

Much like the Toronto Metropolitan University student body, The Eyeopener’s masthead is made up of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. ‘Just how wide?’ you ask—well try your shot at guessing some of the masthead members’ backgrounds based on the clues below!

Negin Khodayari

This country is known for its poetry, rugs, pistachios and saffron.

Gabriela Silva Ponte

This country is well-known for its custard tarts.

Dexter LeRuez

This self-governing Crown Dependency is known for its cows.

Ilyas Hussein

This country has the longest coastline in mainland Africa.

Daniella Lopez

This country became the first to adopt Bitcoin as a legal tender.

Bana Yirgalem

This country’s capital is sometimes called ‘Africa’s Rome.’

Why Canada?

As the son of Mexican parents, why they chose to immigrate so far up north remains a mystery to me. Canada, a land of ice and snow, is so different from the Mexican state of Puebla, where they’re both from. In Puebla, snow was only ever seen on top of volcanoes, so seeing snow fall for the fi rst time—soon after immigrating—was something they had only read about in books or seen in fi lms.

Though I was born in Canada, I went to live in Mexico at three-months-old. At four-years-old, I moved back, first residing in Brampton, Ont.

Seeing snowflakes fall from the sky for the fi rst time was dreamy and breathtaking. Seeing snow fall for the second, third and fourth time was still magical but I’d gotten to the point where by the fi fth time, the snow had lost its lustre. Seeing snowflakes for the 99th time outside from my bedroom windows only instilled a sense of dread in me, knowing I would probably have to venture outside, weak and weary, to shovel the driveway.

Growing up, television cartoons like Arthur always made it seem like one would get the fabled ‘snow day’ at the first sight of snow, but not in Ontario. Here, only an ice storm would prevent you from having to make the trek to class if you had the misfortune of walking to school through snow piled up to your knees.

I remember once, back in middle

Brithi Sehra

This ethnicity is very common in the Greater Toronto Area.

Vanessa Kauk

This country was the first country to officially adopt Christianity.

Madeline Liao

This country is the birthplace of bubble tea.

Caelan Monkman

Canada technically shares its head of state with this country.

Kinza Zafar

This country is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons.

Jake MacAndrew

The national animal of this country is the unicorn.

Joshua Chang

This country is well known for its pop culture and beauty/skincare industries.

Anastasia Blosser

This country is considered the first European country to have reached Japan.

Whether it be while slipping on black ice or stand-o s with geese, I have often asked myself this question

school, I fractured my leg around the same time the sidewalks had frozen over with ice, rendering my crutches useless. It was hard showing up to class the next day, knowing that most, if not all of my classmates had seen me crawl my way home.

Spring is never much better. With the geese returning, I’ve often found myself hightailing my way to the train station. I’ve been chased by a flock of them for getting too close to “their turf,” which would seem to be just about anywhere with a square inch of grass.

My mom told me that when she was deciding between immigrating to Canada or the United States, she was drawn by Canada’s safe reputation.

While I don’t want to take the safety we have for granted, it can be hard to appreciate it when so many people around me are teetering on the edge of homelessness. Along with many other fi rst-generation Canadians, I can attest that whatever people are paying for their metre-by-metre shoebox apartment here would probably buy them a full house in their parent’s home country. It might come as a surprise to some, but the average cost of a home in Mexico City is just under $24,000. This news is particularly difficult to hear when you consider that the average rent for a onebedroom apartment in Toronto is as high as $2,620.

But with rent prices soaring, I place my faith in Costco’s $1.50 hotdog to never change, even when

everything else is.

However, looking back, I feel grateful to have grown up in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) out of any place in Canada.

When I began to travel during my first year of university, the idea that Canada was the most polite and civil country in North America dispelled as I travelled north. The further I went, the more racism I faced, almost as though I was riding along some grayscale of discrimination.

While visiting a friend outside of the GTA, I sat reading along the curbside, waiting for her to freshen up and get ready. While I waited, people paler than me would stick their heads out their car windows while driving by, nearly crashing as they stared at me in bewilderment that someone like me was in their small town. I felt as though they were looking at me like I was some Sasquatch, rearing its head out in public for the fi rst time in years and maybe they were bewildered all the more that I could read.

It feels strange that even in a country built by immigrants, Canada can still make you feel like an interloper in a place you’ve called home your whole life.

For as many problems as I may have with Canada, be it our dull suburbs or subpar public transportation, it’s still my home. Though there have been many times when this country has caused a sense of frustration for me, it holds a special place in my heart.

DIASPORA DIARIES 5
BRITHI SEHRA/THE EYEOPENER

From arrival to wellness: Mental

The morning light bleeds through the window, casting shapes onto the floor of a bedroom. Everything feels still and tranquil within Idrees Raheem as he lays in bed—his mind a blank canvas wiped clean of the previous day’s thoughts and worries. He opens his eyes and the inevitable tasks awaiting him loom in his thoughts.

There’s nothing you can’t accomplish, the fifth-year business technology management student repeats to himself over and over in an affirmation. When he’s finally gained enough motivation, he can rise with the day to face what’s ahead. For Raheem, these daily affirmations are a “critical component” to maintaining his mental health.

Raheem’s mental health has always been important to him, but opening up to his parents hasn’t always been easy. In fact, this is a challenge that many students in immigrant households face daily.

In an immigrant household, mental health can be a difficult concept to learn as conversations around the topic are often dismissed. Cultural barriers can loom large, which can create barriers between a child and their parent(s) while preventing them from seeking mental health services.

According to the Canadian Mental Association Journal (CMAJ), “In general, immigrants and refugees are less likely than their Canadian-born counterparts to seek out or be referred to mental health services, even when they experience comparable levels of distress.”

students emailed TMU’s International Student Support (ISS) asking for mental health services and stating they were experiencing anxiety and isolation—but the waiting period was so long that they gave up on seeking help from the school. She adds that students tend to find support in community-based organizations instead, where they’re provided the services that their universities should be giving them.

“They don’t follow up because after two weeks, they don’t get any reply to their email,” Akbar says. “Even when they go to the office, there’s a huge queue and then there aren’t enough resources for them.”

While some international students are vocal about their personal challenges, there are still many who don’t feel comfortable sharing or discussing their mental health issues with family due to cultural taboos.

Along with his affirmations, Raheem also relies on the power of prayer to practice caring for his mental health. As a Muslim man, he prays five times a day. While these prayers all have a similar effect on him, he feels that the very first prayer, Fajr, is the most peaceful.

“Praying that morning prayer [specifically] is the perfect way for me to start my day,” he says. “I feel fresh after and I’m ready to take on anything that comes my way.”

“If you’re going through something. you kind of just have to deal with it”

Mental health continues to be both an important conversation and an inconsistent one. While some households find it easy to discuss, others face significant challenges, particularly in immigrant households where these conversations may not be normalized due to societal differences.

Marshia Akbar, a research area lead on labour migration at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), says while universities invest some money to support the mental health and wellbeing of international students, it isn’t enough.

Over the years, TMU has proposed increased funding for mental health services to reduce wait times. However, students waited an average of 14 weeks for a counselling appointment from 2022-2023, which is an increase of more than 12 per cent from pre-pandemic times, according to On The Record

Akbar says she found that some

me, they just want to help me,” he says.

Growing up, Raheem says he faced significant challenges from being overweight and would often be bullied at school. Comments were made both behind his back and to his face about his appearance. Despite the hurtful remarks, Raheem reached a pivotal moment where he had to decide whether to listen to the opinions of others or be confident in who he was.

“I couldn’t pretend like I was okay”

“I am who I am,” he says. This is where his self-love journey began, but it took time for Raheem to become fully aware of his mental health needs.

“Every day I tried to implement different things that would help me feel better about myself,” he reflects.

While he can’t recall exactly when he began telling his parents he was struggling, he remembers addressing his need for a lifestyle change and pursuing support to help him maintain it.

While caring for his mental health is one of his strongest values, the practice wasn’t emphasized much in his family in the past. He was raised in a Muslim Trinidadian and Guyanese household and conversations surrounding mental health were vastly different for his parents when they were growing up.

“I think my parents never really had that kind of focus growing up and they couldn’t go to their parents for those kinds of issues,” he says.

“If you’re going through something. you kind of just have to deal with it. You don’t really talk to people about it,” Raheem says. “And from a religious standpoint, you would talk to God about your problems and he’ll have the answers for you, but it would never be something that you would go talk to another family member about.”

“They showed me support through their actions,” Raheem says. For example, they provided him with a gym membership and would offer him words of encouragement with every milestone he achieved.

At this point in his life, Raheem is very open with his family and will go to them for advice when faced with a problem. He describes their relationship as “effortless” with “no real hesitation” to confide in them.He values their closeness because he knows a lot of people don’t have this privilege and wants to make sure he doesn’t take it for granted.

Akbar says immigrant households often want to integrate into society and go beyond

their cultural and generational traditions. “On the other hand, there is a pulling of the traditional system and there [are] kind of stigmas in terms of talking about feeling anxiety because often parents or even grandparents don’t understand what this person is talking about,” Akbar says.

Raheem reflects on his experiences from his standpoint as a Muslim man, expressing that people from Muslim households in varying countries may not always be as close to their parents as he is. He believes this can make it difficult for individuals to reach out to their parents about their mental health struggles.

Raheem says his parents weren’t raised to openly speak about their mental health struggles, so they provided him and his sister the opportunity to have what they never did.

According to the Institute for Muslim Mental Health, there is a misconception that mental health is a “taboo” in the community and that it leads to shame among those who are struggling with their mental health. This cultural norm can prevent Muslim people from seeking the support they need, whether it be talking to a friend or a professional service.

In Nigeria, fourth-year psychology student Toluwani Adeniyi was never accustomed to the idea of being alone. Her younger sister was like a roommate and she lived in a boarding school with eight other girls growing up. However, when she moved to Canada to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, she remembers feeling as if “everyone’s just minding their own business.”

When she started at TMU, she made sure to maintain a high grade point average, work a part-time job and volunteer so she would stand out when applying to graduate school. As time went on, Adeniyi’s plan for success was disrupted when she wasn’t meeting certain expectations to excel among her peers.

With her siblings working towards obtaining science degrees, her brother often jokes about her decision to pursue an arts degree.

“I was trying to prove something to them, that I never needed to prove to anybody,” she says when talking about the possibility of success in her chosen career. “Even good parents can give trauma. Even [in] the most loving households…if you’re in an environment where everyone is doing exceedingly well… you’re going to feel like something’s wrong with you if you’re not able to maintain [that excellence].”

Akbar believes that international students who don’t live with their families are more prone to express their mental health struggles with others since they are surrounded by people who have had similar experiences. Adeniyi reached a point where she began to miss work and her classes, unable to ignore the toll it was

Initially, communicating mental health issues to his parents proved to be challenging, but as he matured, he became less reluctant to speak to them about his struggles. Eventually, the barriers began to diminish. “It came down to the understanding that they’re not going to be judging

DIASPORA 6
Visuals by

health in immigrant households

taking on her. She had screeched to a halt.

“I couldn’t pretend like I was okay,” Adeniyi says.

This is what prompted her to begin seeking therapy, which she recalls feeling very foreign. Her therapist had told her to “forgive herself, to be weak, to fail and not blame herself for once.”

She says she felt like a walking contradiction to her past beliefs because, in Nigeria, she felt like she would only be considered successful if she was visibly struggling while figuring out her life on her own.

Ashika Niraula, a senior research fellow and project lead of Canada Excellence Research Chair at TMU, emphasizes how important the conversation surrounding mental health is in immigrant households.

“We need to ask [and] we need to look for help, before it’s too late.

I think having this conversation [and] starting an open dialogue is very, very important,” she says.

Niraula says when someone is not feeling well, their pain may not be fully understood when speaking to a healthcare practitioner who doesn’t understand their cultural contexts and beliefs.

the care [they need].”

When Adeniyi went through the counselling services at TMU, she had been set up with someone who was also Black-identifying. However, even though the person was Black-identifying, they didn’t come from the same cultural background.

“There is so much that makes up a person that finding the right therapist for each and every one is going to be a big challenge,” Adeniyi says. “If I’m saying something…someone who’s not from the culture may not understand [the importance of each experience].”

Adeniyi felt the counsellor just couldn’t understand the cultural experiences that came with being Nigerian.

“When people don’t have access to culturally appropriate services, they don’t have trust in the [overall] system [making it] difficult to go and approach and be able to access

In her third year, Adeniyi realized that she needed to stop sacrificing her wellbeing to make others happy. She slowly began having more open conversations with her family, while keeping in mind that she needed to seek out support for herself. She now keeps her family updated with her internal conflicts and they’ve given her more grace.

These conversations have slowly reframed Adeniyi’s family dynamics and re-

solved the preconceived notions she had about her parents’ experiences with mental health. “I used to think they were perfect, but they opened up about their struggles and issues, showing me that they’re not as flawless as I thought.”

S“I just need someone to listen”

itting in a sea of nervous university students, Cheryl Leung couldn’t help but focus on the scribbling of pencils and rustling of papers that echoed around her as she waited to write her exam in the Mattamy Athletic Centre. The then first-year business management student restlessly looked around at her peers while trying to contain her worry—a feeling that would persist throughout the rest of the exam season. Currently living with her aunt and uncle, the now third-year student from Hong Kong realizes that this was the turning point for her to come to terms with her mental health struggles and give them the attention they deserve.

Leung feels that her aunt and uncle don’t fully grasp the stress she experiences in university. Despite their good inten-

tions, they sometimes question why she feels stressed, assuming that she doesn’t have much work to do. Leung believes their generational gap and different lifestyles—seeing as they are retired and have a lot of free time—make it difficult to fully comprehend the pressure of the academic responsibilities, volunteer work and jobs she has to juggle all at once.

She says the academic pressure she experienced in Hong Kong was significantly different from her experience in Canada. When she was in high school back home, she faced a lot of pressure, but upon moving to Canada, she found that the pressure she felt was more self-imposed than from her family. Despite her parents’ leniency with academics, Leung feels a responsibility to make the most of her opportunity in Canada by excelling academically.

The financial strain of international tuition fees adds to Leung’s stress, as she worries about managing her expenses without burdening her family. Leung understands there are often stereotypes associated with the financial circumstances of international students, which in her situation, are not true.

Akbar says considering that international students hold a study permit and are temporary migrants in Canada, they have to pay higher tuition fees compared to domestic students, which can result in increased stress.

Leung acknowledges that discussions revolving around mental health would have been less likely to occur back home in Hong Kong. She recalls her family never highlighting the significance of reaching out for help in any way.

“If you were [having] a breakdown, you

would just deal with it yourself,” she says.

In high school, if Leung was ever feeling down, she would play sports to relieve her stress, but since coming to Canada, she learned about the additional resources available to her, such as TMU’s counselling services, which she says have been helpful. Another way she approaches mental health is through the use of social media, where she looks for affirmations and meditation videos, especially before going into an exam.

While social media has become an integral part of everyone’s lives, according to a journal article Pros & cons: impacts of social media on mental health, “There is neither a negative nor positive consensus regarding the effects of social media on people.”

While social media can have great sources for how to improve your psychological wellbeing, the article also states that there are certain factors relating to overconsumption on social media that need to be addressed. Finding that balance is crucial.

Leung often talks to her mom about what’s going on in her life, as they share an open relationship and she considers her mother to be a friend. While she doesn’t explicitly discuss her mental health struggles, she keeps her mom updated about how she’s feeling by communicating with her frequently. However, Leung says she doesn’t feel equipped to reach out for help when she’s struggling mentally.

“I don’t think…I would need anyone to give me advice, I just need someone to listen,” she says. As for her parents, they rarely discuss their own struggles, Leung says. “I think they’re just not used to speaking about it.”

Adeniyi’s parents have now moved to Canada and are living with her, sometimes making her feel as though she has to explain herself more than before. Even though she knows they still don’t completely understand her struggles, they still want to show that they love and accept their daughter, despite the fact they may not always be on the same page.

Although therapy may have not been what she needed at the time, Adeniyi has found support within her extended family and warmly recalls the comfort they provide her, such as receiving hugs from her little cousin. To be surrounded by people who know her, care about her and notice the little changes in her makes her feel like she’s not alone.

“It’s so important to just take it day-by-day, not only for [yourself] today but live for [yourself] tomorrow.”

DIARIES 7

Knowing I belong in two different worlds

My life experiences hailing from different countries has took me on a path to rediscover who I am

“Kain na,” my Lola—meaning ‘grandma’ in Tagalog—yells to me early on a bright Sunday morning. Along with the sound of her voice, I often wake up to the sweet smell of longanisa, spam, eggs and fried rice she made with the leftover adobo from last night’s dinner.

This is a common occurrence in my household, as my Lola was not just the master of breakfast, she’s also the master of the kitchen and arguably, the best cook in the world. That’s probably why some of my jeans don’t fit me anymore.

Every day, I thank God that I grew up with my Lolo and Lola because I’ve experienced so much of my Filipino culture through them. The close relationship I’ve been able to have with them has helped me feel more connected to my identity. From the Christmas parties where we sing karaoke and through every time I help my little cousins collect their alamusa to regular family gatherings, I’ve constantly immersed myself in my Filipino heritage.

Being both Jamaican and Filipino, I always take pride in where I come from. It’s such a unique experience to be involved with and embrace the multiple cultures you’re born in. It’s like having VIP access to a club, but I’m in my own booth, vibing to dancehall like “mi a boss.” While I’m tearing up some spiked calamansi juice, cooling me down as if I was chilling on the coastlines of Boracay. Just don’t tell my mom I put rum in the calamansi.

As a mixed kid in Scarborough, Ont., I admit I’ve had it easy growing up. I mean, wherever I went, I’d always see someone who looked like me. Despite growing up without the

presence of my dad for the majority of my life, I still felt connected to my Jamaican heritage.

Whether it meant going to my ninang’s—meaning ‘godmother’ in Tagalog—house to tear up some of my uncle Danny’s oxtail and rice and peas or my mom bumping some Sanchez in her car I never felt disconnected.

During the first 20 years of my life, I’ve always had a sense of belonging. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tested. To this day, I still get asked, “Which side do you feel closer to?” I never hesitate to say both.

I’m an advocate for representing all parts of where you come from, in any capacity you can

I remember a time in high school when I was sitting down for lunch. Some students who weren’t Black claimed to be “more Black” than me purely based on the ways society thinks Black people act. This made me question where I belonged and where I fit in. From this point I have felt so comfortable of where I was in this world when I came to my identity, just to feel like I don’t belong.

I don’t smoke weed and I don’t throw around the n-word, but those are not things that showcase Blackness. Waking up, walking around and carrying myself with pride is showing my Blackness, not the stereotypes that are meant to place people like me in a box to define who we are.

Simply on the basis of my physical appearance, many people refuse to believe I’m also Filipino. They’ll doubt me until I pull out my very limited Tagalog vocabulary, and without fail,

Dearest diaspora: I don’t have to choose

I was looking through my closet yesterday when I found an old outfit of mine. I probably could have donated it years ago. It’s really small and I couldn’t have been older than 11-years-old when I last wore it.

It’s a lehenga—a traditional piece of South Asian dress wear. There are plenty of different styles of lehenga, but mine is made of white chiffon with a mesh overlay, complete with intricate pink beading which form small flowers on the tank top. There’s matching beading down the skirt, cre-

make their jaw drop. It’s even funnier that some of my family members are surprised that I know so much about my Filipino culture.

Growing up on my mom’s side, I’ve kind of held the responsibility of building the bridge between cultures. This led to me acting as a teacher for my families, educating each side on traditions and customs practiced by the other. Luckily, my mom’s side of the family has resided in the Greater Toronto Area—specifically Scarborough, Ont.—for many years now. So, experiencing other cultures hasn’t been a foreign concept to them.

This part of the city is like a melting pot, being home to over hundreds of different ethnic backgrounds. It’s a place that will never cease to celebrate different ethnicities through community-hosted events or gatherings at Thompson Park, which is one of many social opportunities available for residents to come together.

Unfortunately, experience doesn’t always mean that it’ll lead to understanding. That’s not to say my Filipino family has made me feel alienated or like I don’t belong, but there are some things I have to help them understand. For example, nobody on my mom’s side has hair like mine, so it was my job to teach them about the different hairstyles that fit my 3c hair type.

When I was interviewed on my experiences with my hair in an Eyeopener feature, “Let’s Talk Texture,” I shared how some of my family members were conditioned to believe certain stereotypes about people who have a similar hair texture like me, thinking that it was unprofessional and untidy. This experience led me to have to carry the weight of educating them.

I went through a whirlwind of emotions the first time I braided my hair. When I first asked my Lola for permission to do it, the four words, “Not until I’m dead,” firmly left her mouth along with a stone-cold expression. Those words aren’t something you’d want to hear from your own grandmother.

Waking up, walking around and carrying myself with pride is showing my Blackness

Months later I mustered up the courage and went against her wishes. However, those same four words echoed in my head as I blankly stared into space on the bus on my way to my hairstylist.

When I was going back home after my appointment, my forehead was glistening with sweat from having my new braids pulling back my scalp after a fresh cut. My hair smelled of hair mousse and blackseed oil as I headed upstairs to show my grandmother my

new cornrows. To my pleasant surprise, she ended up liking the braids on me. She was happy that my long curls weren’t covering my face anymore, which had been covered since I started growing out my hair.

By getting my hair braided, I was able to show my family that cornrows could make me look clean and neat, helping to break down stereotypes they had about Black men with braids.

Through the years, I’ve heard about kids from different cultures and backgrounds who get scrutinized for something as simple as a hairstyle or embracing parts of who they truly are. I’m an advocate for representing all parts of where you come from, in any capacity you can.

We are all unique and special, so to suppress parts of ourselves to fit in or feel comfortable is doing us a disservice. From someone who’s come to a better understanding of accepting my identity, learn to say “fuck what other people think” because you are you. Nobody can ever take your identity away from you and accepting that you belong is the first step.

As a young Indo-Guyanese woman, coming from two different cultures has had its ups and downs

scendoing into a thick pink border at the bottom of the full skirt.

I remember going to buy it with my mom and aunt for someone’s wedding. Like so many other family weddings, the two of them would wrangle my sister and me to what seemed like hundreds of South Asian clothing stores and sometimes, the 747 Flea Market in Brampton, Ont.

Every store was the same: fluorescent lighting, outfits in a wide range of colours and styles, packaged neatly in plastic bags, stacked on shelves that went all the way to the ceiling and the finest outfits on display in the front windows. They always smelt the same too—like millions of years of fabric and aarti incense sticks had been trapped within the walls of the stores.

“This one is so cute for the Hindu ceremony,” my aunt would excitedly say to my mom after I’d spent 10 min-

utes posing in an outfit just outside the makeshift change room.

The lehenga was pretty and it felt grown up at the time. Looking at it in the garment bag in my closet now, it was hard to fathom myself little enough to fit into it.

But, I’ll never forget why this outfit meant so much to me.

Little me, getting out of that white lehenga in that tiny changeroom, annoyed at how much time I’d spent getting in and out of its long, poofy skirt, thought for the first time, “What the hell am I going to a Hindu wedding ceremony for?”

I know it sounds slightly harsh but I actually think a lot of little Muslim girls in my position might have had the same question. My strange mix of an Indo-Guyanese mom and Egyptian dad attracted a lot of those questions when I was small—many

of them from strangers.

Of course I knew why I was literally going. Family is family and we never turn away from an excuse to get dressed up. But still, every part of the process reminded me I wasn’t the same as everyone who’d be sitting in that wedding hall.

Let’s get one thing straight: the mix is amazing. Thanksgiving at my house is like an international buffet— my Aunty’s lamb chowmein and my Teta’s macarona bechamel sitting on either side of my mom’s turkey. My parents’ anniversary parties are like a journey around the world. My eyebrows look like they belong on a hair growth advertisement and my cheekbones successfully convinced at least seven people I went to high school with that I learned how to contour at the ripe age of 14.

Read more at theeyeopener.com

DIASPORA DIARIES 8
COURTESY OF JONATHAN REYNOSO COURTESY OF MARIYAH SALHIA

The battle between the mind and heart: A student’s dilemma

When culture and family intersect with education, students often find themselves stuck between societal expectations and personal goals

Growing up, 12-year-old Zoya’s* favourite subject in school was math. But once she reached high school and was exposed to a larger variety of courses, she found herself gravitating towards classes involving religion, philosophy and law. If she’d had it her way, she would be attending law school in England. Instead, eight years later, she’s a third-year mechanical engineering student at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU)—a program of her parents’ preference.

Outcomes like these are not a foreign tale amongst students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Steve Joordens, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, said this sort of situation isn’t surprising and it’s “relatively common” to see some students enrolling in the post-secondary programs of their parents’ choices—in Zoya’s case, engineering.

“A lot of our students come from Eastern traditions, where it’s very family-focused,” he said. “There’s also—depending on the background—usually a perception that certain career paths are highly respectable and the kind you would like in your family.”

An article titled “A Systematic Review of Factors That Influence Youths Career Choices—the Role of Culture” in the academic journal, Frontiers in Education, vindicated Joordens’s sentiment. After conducting studies in countries that emphasize community relations including Indonesia, South Africa and India, and others more individualistic such as Canada and the U.S., researchers found that young adults from the former group were placing more value in parental and societal expectations.

“The opinions of significant others matter significantly to youths from collectivist cultural settings,” the study states. “Whereas, in individualistic cultures, youths tend to focus on professions that offer higher income and satisfy their personal interests.”

Zoya never pictured herself studying a subject in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related field, but she applied for engineering programs knowing that’s what her parents wanted her to pursue. Her two older sisters were in similar disciplines—one in medicine and the other also in engineering—which Zoya said made her parents assume that she would go down a similar path.

Coming from a Pakistani background, Zoya said, “Our parents definitely play a

big role within our lives.”

Roughly a year before she began university applications, Zoya’s paternal grandfather passed away. While it was a profound loss for her whole family, it was particularly hard on her father—who started to talk about some of his personal regrets in life and not being able to fulfill some goals his father wanted.

“That also played a factor into why I didn’t really want to go against my parents,” Zoya shared in a hushed tone. “I know [my dad] was extremely sensitive at that time.”

Despite doing well in her current program, Zoya said she wishes she was “encouraged to take more risks” earlier in her academic career.

“I know that, at the time, I was very uncertain [whether] law would have been the right path for me,” she began. “I feel like if I had given it a shot, if I had the opportunities to make those mistakes, I feel that would have been something.”

Zoya continued, saying “Ultimately, even if law didn’t work out for me, it would have been beneficial for me in the future—just in a path of being able to discover and pursue my passions.”

The intersection of family and education can also be connected through psychology concepts. Joordens made the connection to intrinsic and extrinsic motivations as well as the self-determination theory. He defined intrinsic motivation as one’s “inner drive” to take action because “it comes from within.” Meanwhile, extrinsic motivation is all about “external rewards”—such as enrolling in a program of your parents’ choice for their approval.

According to the psychology professor, the self-determination theory is about what someone needs in order to feel intrinsically motivated. He also brought up autonomy as a key concept that plays a large role with this specific motivation.

“Anytime we feel like someone’s telling us what to do, we do not feel motivated to do that thing,” explained Joordens. “But if we decide we want to do it, if we see the value [and] understand the purpose of that thing, if it reaches some point we want to reach, then we enjoy it and get that intrinsic motivation.”

Damian Rose, a creative industries student at TMU, has had a rather unconventional path in academics—to the point where he is unable to definitively say which year of the program he’s in due to taking semesters off in between terms.

Ever since he was three years old, Rose has always had a passion for all musicrelated activities. He got his first guitar at the age of 12 and started getting paid for playing gigs at 14. Whether through playing at corporate events or weddings, Rose said he’s gotten a taste of various venues across Ontario.

Although Rose would have been more than happy to pursue music full-time, he shared that his father—who is a vice-principal—and his strict, Catholic family members take schooling very seriously. They wanted Rose to get a university degree. After reviewing his options, Rose settled on the creative industries program.

“I remember I went to the university job fair and was like ‘What program can let me be a musician, an actor, a director [and] an author?’” Rose shared. “They [said] ‘there’s not anything that’s going to be exactly what you’re looking for, but the closest thing is going to be creative industries.’”

While his mother is supportive of his pursuits and his father has been “coming around a little bit more recently.” Rose expressed that his biggest supporters were his maternal grandparents—to the point where they financially supported his artistic endeavours. Within the last three months, both have sadly passed away.

“[Their support] meant the entire world to me,” Rose said. “Whenever things were kind of rocky at home, I would always have a safe place [with them] to go.”

Rose emphasized one message that he also practices within his career and life.

“No matter what you’re going through, push through it because you can do what you set your mind to, no matter what the circumstances are,” he said. “If you have faith in yourself and you believe in yourself, that’s what it takes.”

Sanaa Mansuri, a third-year psychology student, practiced a similar mindset when deciding to pursue the program of her choice. During high school, she had shown interest in numerous student initiatives. From joining the student council and debate club, to having an avid interest in biology, Mansuri said she tended to pursue anything that piqued her interest and that she was always called the “smart kid”—a label she didn’t necessarily like.

Up until grade 11, everyone—including Mansuri herself—thought she would go down the ‘pre-med’ route in her post-secondary years. However, once she learned more about “the social aspects of science” after taking a high school psychology elective, everything changed and she shifted her gaze to pursue a psychology degree.

“The whole thing I loved about science and biology is [how] I could apply it to real life. [Psychology] just felt like the better version of that,” she said. “I’m learning about people and not on a physiological level, but on a social level too. I just like this better.”

Mansuri said that her parents didn’t react well to the news, and that their reactions were fuelled by two major factors. The first was the general stigma surrounding mental health and psychology in the South Asian community. Ultimately, their reaction boiled down to the second: confusion.

“They didn’t understand why I was changing my mind [unexpectedly] and why, all of a sudden, [for] something that wasn’t so secure of a future,” Mansuri said.

She explained that in her culture, students are expected to pursue “safe, secure money-making jobs that have a generally high status,” including doctors, lawyers and engineers. She also explained how others outside of a student’s immediate family tend to make comments about their academic choices.

Mansuri touched upon the concept of ‘immigrant child guilt,’ stating that it can be hard to prioritize yourself because of this feeling.

“My parents packed up their lives and moved across the world for me [so] I [could] have a good future, a stable job,” Mansuri shared. “Now, in my head, I’m not even taking a stable career [path].”

“I know a lot of Western society is individualistic but that’s just not the way South Asian and Desi communities work,” she said. “It’s very community-based.”

However, with time and exposure to what the program and discipline consists of, Mansuri’s parents have come around, only “wanting the best” for her.

Joordens said some of the consequences students may face by enrolling in a program that isn’t their choice, including a disinterest in the work. This could lead to poor grades, trouble studying or learning and a sense of hopelessness. In some cases, he said these outcomes make it difficult for students to confide in their parents about their struggles which can become “a real mess.”

Other times, he said students are “aligned quite well with that way of thinking.”

Despite being in the latter category, Zoya has heard the “just do what you want” sentiment —one that’s prevalent in individualistic communities—multiple times.

“I feel it’s a lot more nuanced than people make it out to be,” she said. “Everyone’s lives are so complicated with their interpersonal relationships…just doing it or making that jump can be a really scary thing.”

“I think depending on the person, it is definitely the right thing to do. But sometimes, it’s just not possible for some people.”

Joordens said he’d want to give students in Zoya’s shoes advice from his own “Western perspective” to pursue their own interests and goals.

“At some point you want to say, ‘Come on, find that thing you love and go that direction.’”

“But it’s not that easy for a lot of [students],” Joordens said. “There is that strong bond to family and some of them just feel like their role in the family is to try to do what their parents think is the right thing for them to do.”

*The source’s name has been changed due to privacy concerns

DIASPORA DIARIES 9

Appreciating food away from home

Two TMU students find comfort in Toronto’s vibrant food scene

When the hustle and bustle of Toronto’s city life begins to feel overwhelming for some Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students, they can find comfort in the food that reminds them of their homes.

The city’s vibrant ethnic neighbourhoods allow for countless food spots that offer an escape for nostalgic, homesick students or an adventure for curious foodies.

For first-year public administration and governance student Iana Tsurkan, home can be found all across the city—in both food spots and the familiar ingredients she’s able to source.

Tsurkan is originally from Chișinău, Moldova but hasn’t been back to her hometown in approximately eight years.

“I haven’t been back home since 2016, so it’s been quite a while since [I’ve] tasted authenticity,” she said.

However, one of her favourite local eateries, Cafe Polonez, is “one of the true Balkan restaurants here,” with dishes that range from perogies to soups to sandwiches—all of which remind her of home.

Though Toronto has a reputation for diverse culinary spots, Tsurkan feels that some of the food lacks the same satisfaction it provided back home, even in ingredients as simple as tomatoes.

“The Republic of Moldova is known for its very fertile soil,” she said. “That’s why it’s called black gold...it really gives juiciness to everything there.”

Enjoying food is an experience, especially when the foods we eat are so closely associated with familiar memories. These memories allow foodies like Tsurkan to reminisce about home, even when she’s far away from it.

Tsurkan reminisced on having Moldovan tomatoes. “I haven’t had one in so long,” she said. “I just remember the juiciness of it.”

First-year social work student Abrahim Ahmad was born in Ahvaz, Iran but currently lives in Scarborough. Living in Toronto has given him access to a lot of the food he had while growing up across the globe, living in countries such as China and the Philippines.

“There are plenty of places that serve food from these countries authentically”

“There are plenty of places that serve food from these countries authentically,” he said. “So I don’t feel like I’m missing out.”

Ahmad finds solace in his homeland’s colourful palette at Khorak Supermarket—often referred to as

Super Khorak by Iranians. The supermarket is a Persian grocery store with fresh produce, freshly cooked meals and a variety of Iranian and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Though Ahmad is satisfied with Toronto’s versions of his favourite foods, he said some dishes can’t compare to how they taste back home. Regardless, a replica is always a delicious delight.

“Just trying to find a place that serves kebab was nice, but [they weren’t] the same as the ones my dad

makes,” Ahmad said. “After years and years of [cooking kebabs], he’s perfected the recipe.”

Despite common stereotypes about Western foods being bland, there is merit in identifying the smaller victories such as Tsurkan finding sour cherries in a local Metro or Ahmad discovering his love for dry noodles upon moving to Toronto.

Whether a person is finding these moments of nostalgia in a city restaurant or a ripe, red tomato, familiar flavours could just

be around the corner in Toronto’s street kebabs or the beef patties at Bathurst Station.

“[They weren’t] the same as the ones my dad makes”

After all, who needs a plane ticket when a Presto card and an appetite for adventure can go so far?

As you would say in Arabic to invite others for a meal—Sahtayn!

Heritage echoes through songs from students’ homelands

Rhythms and melodies help TMU students connect to their roots

The power of music bridges a connection to the motherlands of Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students from across the globe.

Sometimes students listen to songs—either from their home countries or in their native languages—to feel connected with their cultural heritage. Some TMU students said this music brings them closer to wherever they consider ‘home’ and connects them with family and friends all around the world.

descent. Her favourite song that reminds her of her heritage is called “A Cabritinha” by Portuguese Pimba artist Quim Barreiros. She said this traditional folk song brings back memories of her community getting together and dancing.

Another beautiful feeling when listening to songs from your country is the way it can resurface nostalgic memories and give us a sense of home right here on campus!

Here are some of TMU students’ favourite cultural songs:

“A Cabritinha” by Quim Barreiros Isabella Ganhao is a first-year early childhood studies student who was born in Canada but is of Portuguese

“50 Palos” by Feid

traditional language, Spanish.

Moreira was born in Canada but grew up speaking Spanish. He added that listening to Spanish music expanded his knowledge of the language that he may have lost by growing up in an Englishspeaking country.

memories of growing up in Jamaica.

“It just brings me back to my childhood listening to music back in Jamaica and hanging out with people who like music,” said Amor.

“Nagada Sang Dhol” by Osman Mir and Shreya Ghoshal

ily in big halls and gardens. Since this is his first year studying abroad in Canada, listening to this specific song brings him back to the memories of home.

“Portugal is a really small town so when there’s a dance, the whole community is there,” she said.

“A lot of the [language] that I lose from not being [in Ecuador] is learning a lot of slang words,” he said. “But I was missing how to actually speak with regular people.”

Jaimit Gandhi is an international student from India in his first year of nursing at TMU. His favourite is the Garba song

Roy Moreira, a fourth-year engineering student, is of Ecuadorian descent. He said his favourite song is “50 Palos” by Colombian reggaetón artist Feid. Moreira shared that this is his go-to ‘pregame’ song before going out for a fun night with friends. Moreiera said Ecuador and Colombia have many cultural similarities, so they are all able to enjoy this song in their

Moreira shared that this helps him stay connected with his Latino heritage as he can communicate using colloquial terminology rather than using traditional Spanish words all the time.

“Nagada Sang Dhol” by Osman Mir and Shreya Ghoshal. It’s a part of the Navaratri festival in India.

“One Man” by Gaza Slim featuring Vybz Kartel Jamaica Amor is a first-year early childhood studies student. She was born in Canada but raised in Jamaica until she was about eight years old.

‘Navaratri,’ meaning ‘nine days’ in Sanskrit, is representative of the nine days that people all across India dance to specific Garba songs during the celebration.

Listening to the song “One Man” by Gaza Slim featuring Jamaican dancehall artist Vybz Kartel brings back

“For nine days at night, we dance to specific songs and those are only based on Garba [songs],” he said.

‘Garba’ means ‘womb’ in Sanskrit, and the festival celebrates feminine divinity. Gandhi said this song reminds him of dancing with his friends and fam-

“Del” by Jawid Sharif Marwah Azizi, said her favourite song, “Del” by Afghan pop artist Jawid Sharif, gives her a sense of reverse nostalgia. She is of Afghan descent and is in her fifth year of public health at TMU. She shared that “It’s romantic, but it also [gives me] that feeling of…the happiness that I haven’t experienced yet.” Listening to Sharif’s song brings her closer to experiencing that happiness in real time.

For these students, listening to music in their traditional language or from their homeland evokes memories and brings them closer to various traditions of their cultures. While their music may be echoing throughout the TMU campus, these songs will always connect them back to their roots.

DIASPORA DIARIES 10
JERRY ZHANG/THE EYEOPENER

Inner conflicts and the realities of identity loss

The battle between society and culture was a journey of finding my identity

Growing up is one of the toughest challenges we face in our lives. We go through phases that teach us about who we really are. We learn about our emotions, what makes us happy and sad. We discover hobbies and traditions that we enjoy and dislike. Eventually though, all these things come together to make us who we are.

Growing up, I always knew who I was and where I came from. Or at least, I thought I did.

Being born and raised in a Western country like Canada was something I was told to be grateful for. It became normal for me to call myself “Canadian” but whenever I did, I felt like I was living a double life—as if I was disregarding half my identity. One life is who I was at home with my family, practicing my cultural and religious beliefs. The other is the life I lived at school or the workplace—an often more Westernized version of myself that fits into the Canadian ideal.

ery person in the store had their eyes on me, making fun of my family. Every time my parents spoke to me, I’d answer in English since my Urdu wasn’t that good due to barely speaking it outside of the house. My answer was loud so that anyone who heard my parents speak Urdu knew that we spoke English as well, fluently even. I hoped that it would somehow convey the message that I was born here, my mom came here at a very young age and my dad immigrated here when he was in his early 20s—we belong here. I felt the need to justify everything and I did this to prove that I was one of them and although a child, I knew that even the words we spoke made us stand out from Western norms.

In Grade Five, my school hosted a multicultural fashion show, and I remember being excited but slightly nervous to wear my traditional Pakistani dress, also known as Salwar Kameez.

As I draped the dupatta (traditional shawl/scarf) over my shoulder to complete my look for the show, I heard my

When someone asks me where I’m from, I never know how to answer. “I’m from Pakistan but I was born and raised here in Canada,” is usually my response. Then I think, “Well no, why do I need to specify I was born and raised here?” While the other voice in my head echoes “Are you really from Pakistan if you weren’t born there?” The constant confusion of who I am has been consistent throughout my life and when I think about why, it’s usually never because of my own self, but rather the society I grew up in.

Being a child of Pakistani immigrants, I was familiar with my culture from a very young age and grew up following those cultural practices in my house. It wasn’t until I walked through my elementary school doors as a little girl that the world around me changed. All of a sudden, my surroundings went from the five family members I grew up with, to 25 people who looked and sounded nothing like me. They all resembled each other and I became the odd one out.

I remember going to the grocery store with my parents and they’d switch back and forth from conversing in English to Urdu about which fruits they should purchase. I’d be embarrassed, feeling as if ev-

teacher from down the hall saying, “Oh my goodness that outfit is beautiful, it’s so intricate.” Although that made me smile, I saw some of the other students who had never seen the traditional clothing looking and giggling amongst themselves, so I immediately replied to the teacher saying, “Thanks, but I don’t really like these dresses I just have to wear them for special occasions.”

I then joined that group of students and began to make fun of my own culture, my own people. When they laughed with me instead of at me I felt better about looking different because at least I acted the same way as them.

It was tough growing up.

I never resonated with Western culture and their ideas of “fun” or ways of living, but I also never fully resonated with the Pakistani ways of living either.

So where did I belong?

I was too “whitewashed” to hang out with the other South Asian students who had a strong connection to their home country but I also wasn’t “Westernized” enough to fit in with Canadian culture.

social worker and psychotherapist, Paris Manavipour says people don’t need to pick one specific culture they identify more with. “I think sometimes people forget that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can see the beauty in both things and choose what you want,” she says.

Manavipour expressed how to find a balance between your culture and Western society. “[Take] what beautiful things you love from your own culture…and what beautiful things you see from Western culture that you’d like to also put into your own life and practice on a daily basis. And that can be [how] you find that balance.”

It got to a point where I felt lost. I didn’t know who I was and I was done faking my personality. Registered

Now that I’m older, I realize that I was too young to understand that it was my paranoia of being seen as an outcast with the added pressures to adapt and function under the Canadian norm that drove me away from my cultural identity.

The reality is, I actually wasn’t too “whitewashed.” I was lucky enough to be raised in a household where there was a good balance of my culture and Western culture. Even though at home I practiced more Pakistani traditions than Western habits, I used to hide it from people because I was scared to reveal that side of myself out of fear that the Western society would treat me how they treat my people in Western media.

Pakistani woman, because I didn’t really understand these things on a deeper level.”

Khalil continued on how she’s experienced this within others as well. “I’ve worked with a lot of young immigrant and refugee girls and the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that when they come here, they feel really embarrassed of speaking their language…their accent or wearing their cultural clothing or wearing more modest clothing.” She added that if these young girls keep adjusting to society, they’ll never feel fulfilled.

Similar to Khalil, the truth is, my culture is my favourite thing about me.

Third-year TMU social work major, Hadiyah Khalil, says she faced a similar experience growing up. Hadiyah is Pakistani, like myself. “I was a little bit more embarrassed of my culture and my identity, even just being a Muslim

I love to hear my language fill the halls of my home. When my mother calls me down for dinner, she calls me “jaanu”—which means “my love” or “my dear”—in Urdu. To me, it sounds like any other word in English but in my mother language, it feels like a hug.

When I’m sick, I crave my mom’s homemade food which is often a traditional Pakistani dish. My usual go to is hot curry and rice that holds the perfect balance of sweet and spicy, always managing to put a smile on my face. “The most wonderful time of the year” for me isn’t winter break and Christmas, it’s Ramadan and Eid. It’s putting on henna and wearing traditional dresses with jewelry that’s been passed down for generations.

woman, because there were so many stereotypes in the media,” she says. “Growing up, I’ve always run away from that part of me being a Muslim woman, being a

I’ll no longer wait for Western society to create a fad of wanting the very tan that fills my skin, my food, music, style and language. Instead, I’ve learned to embrace this uniqueness,being proud when I stand out.

Although it was a long journey of the course of many years, I can say that I truly know who I am and am proud of each cultural element that has brought me to this point. It didn’t come without it’s own personal struggles though and honestly, I think those struggles make me more grateful for the place that I come from.

This journey of rediscovering your identity differs for everyone and although I’ve rediscovered my own, someone can still be searching for theirs in this sometimes difficult-to-navigate Western society.

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