By Crystal Kwong

In the year 2000, the comfortable lifestyle of Bilal Malik in Montreal, Canada was about to change. At the sage of ten years old he was obligated to move to the United States, what he would soon call his new home. Despite how much resentment this brought him, he was forced to make this difficult transition. Bilal was born in Montreal, Canada, which he had grown accustomed to over his childhood years. This ten year old boy doubted that his new home would be as great as his old home, but regardless of how he felt, the move was inevitable due to family business.

Back in Canada, I spoke English and French, those were the languages spoken predominantly. My mother had my brothers, an older and a younger brother, and I speak to one another in French to be able to practice the language, but I communicated in English with my parents. Between these two languages, French was the dominant one, it was even illegal to have a store that consisted of only English signs. I grew up living with my father, mother and my two brothers in the province of Quebec. Throughout the whole year there are only one or two moderately warm months, but the majority of the weather conditions would range anywhere from snow up to your chest to freezing wind blowing against my face. Our house had solar panels that lined the top of the roof, consequently all our electricity was conducted through these panels. This technique of conducting electricity was common in the houses over there. Back then the exchange value for one hundred Canadian dollars was equivalent to sixty U.S. dollars, based off of that scale, my family bought our house in Canada for five hundred and forty thousand Canadian dollars. Houses over there are much cheaper than the prices of houses here. The structure of our house was three stories, a basement, a first floor and second floor; it consisted of four bedrooms and a gigantic backyard that led down to a forest. When you walked into the backyard of our house, the hill sloped down and it suddenly became a forest as you walked further. It was an ideal place to grow up; there was plenty of free space to gallivant around.

Also, opposed to the priority of driving brand new expensive cars in the United States, there was not much emphasis on cars in Canada because of the roads that were covered in snow. It was tough to drive in Canada because the roads were always salted to melt the snow and ice off the roads, this kept the cars from skidding off the road. The cars in Canada had to have their tires changed constantly and the interiors of their cars would quickly rust up in comparison to the cars in the U.S. One of the most remarkable things about being a Canadian is the free universal healthcare that is given to you. I'm not exactly sure how it works up to this day, but it's definitely a big load off of our family's financial shoulders to save thousands of dollars for healthcare. It's probably one of the best things about Canada, that and these delicious tasting chips called ketchup chips. The school in Quebec was the typical high school building often shown in movies and films. it was one huge building with three stories and that was basically the whole school. The curriculum was predominantly French; the education system there offered a choice of thirty percent French and seventy percent English or a split of seventy percent of French and thirty percent English. I chose thirty percent French and seventy percent English because I felt more comfortable with English, French was sort of an annoyance to me. The elementary school level was considered first through sixth grade and seventh through twelfth grade was considered high school level. One thing that stuck out the most in my memory about school in Canada was the school meals. I distinctly remember the food in school was made fresh, not some pre-prepared meals that simply had to be warmed up like here in the U.S. They were real meals and desserts were also available. Quebec was one of the bigger provinces compared to the others in Canada, the ethnicity of the people were mostly made up of Greeks and Whites.

The main reason that my family and I moved to the United States was because the family business in Canada was not working and my father began the business in the Untied States. My father left for the U.S. first before we arrived, then after he got settled he called us over. Some of the major obstacles my whole family had to face before leaving Canada were selling the house. Because the market value of the house was really low, we made no profit from selling the house. Additionally, we sold our two cars for five thousand Canadian dollars together. It was also really hard to leave my friends behind, but I was in high hopes of making new friends in the United States.

When I first arrived in the United States I was instantly amazed at how clean the roads were and how nice the cars and houses were. Before leaving my home country I didn't have much of an expectation of what life in the U.S. would be like because I was really too young to know much about such a far away place. Some of the few things that I knew about the United States before actually arriving here was, I heard my parents talk about how the educational system over where was better, and how French was not dominant in the U.S. and that he interest of hockey in Canada is parallel to the interest of baseball in America. My admiration and love for this country has grown because of the multitudes of opportunities that are open to do anything you want. I am able to choose the variety of schools that I go to and there are plenty more activities to do on my leisure time. As I grew older my leisure activities changed from playing hockey to basketball and once I entered James Logan High School, speech and debate became my main focus. I didn't realize all of these benefits in America until I grew older. At first, I didn't like coming to the United States because the environment here is very foreign to me than how it was in Canada: the structure of the houses, the schools, the people and the atmosphere. When anybody moves far away from their hometown, the common feeling that they experience is being uncomfortable and out of place. It took a certain amount of time to fit into the society in America, but in the end it was a successful transition, despite of how unfamiliar this place seemed to me at first.

The only discrimination that I have faced in America was after the 9/11 attack because of the race and ethnicity of the terrorists that caused this treacherous disaster. Other than that, I have never had any major experiences with discrimination in the United States or Canada. I am truly grateful to have moved to Union City, California, this place is filled with people from all over the world. Everybody here seems to be a lot more open minded and are becoming more and more tolerant of one another, therefore discrimination should be less and less of a problem.

In conclusion, an ideal American in my perspective should be open-minded and not buying into the stereotypes that are displayed in the common society; they should not be tyrannical or totalitarian. I do not see a big difference between being a Canadian or American, but I'm not really sure what it means to feel American. I do feel Westernized, but I do not think that specifically equates to feeling American or being one. I'm lucky to have made such a successful change from one country to another and I do think its possible for any immigrant. At the same time I do think it's possible for people to change his or her culture to easily fit into the Untied States or any other new country. I've seen people do it, but on the other hand, there are some immigrants who choose not to. A person who chooses to retain his or her culture in the U.S.  Should not have a difficult task at all because of the diversity in this country. It is possible for the person to attend cultural festivals and celebrate his or her own holidays, but yet at the same time lead an "American" lifestyle.

Looking back on this strained yet fulfilling task of moving from my hometown in Montreal, Canada to Union City, California; I feel that it is possible for any immigrant to complete this long journey as well. Although I do think that there is definitely a problem with an open door policy that is absent from any sort of filtering process. It is essential that the government has a policy intact to determine the legitimacy of future immigrants, but I do admit that I am not aware of what that policy is. With that being said, I do think that the U.S. should be more welcoming to immigrants, especially those that take up a huge percentage of unskilled jobs in America that Americans refuse to take up themselves. All in all, it will be the best for America if there is a policy that is a lot more welcoming towards immigrants, but at the same time careful for a certain intent for immigration status.

Bilal A. Malik