Personal Experiences of an Immigrant Student

Jan 10, 2024


This paper explores personal experiences during the immigration process. The process of immigration, both internal and external, depicts an interplay of various forces that influence the decision to move from the host nation. Thus, this analysis adopts a sociological lens to make the connection between personal experiences and connection with broader societal contexts. Central to this analysis is to dissect how personal encounters ranging from the process of migration to cultural interactions and employment challenges mirror and intersect with broader societal paradigms. The paper will begin with a summary of the immigration process and settlement in Canada from Punjab, India, an overview of sociological theories and the application of these theories to my personal experience. In this essay, I intend to demonstrate that individual narratives and societal structures have an impact on the ways in which people navigate challenges during the immigration and settlement phases.



Pull and push factors are the main reasons why people emigrate from their home country. In my case, my decision to emigrate from Punjab, India, to Canada was due to the pull factors. Specifically, the “post-graduation work permit program” [PGWP] allows the international student an opportunity to work for up to three years. It tends to exempt the international student from the labour market impacts assessment” [LMIA] requirement (Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center, 2018). The PGWP offers access to work experience that counts towards the permanent residence applications. Thus, the opportunities in Canada are immense when compared to my home country and acted as the primary motivator.

 Besides, the concepts of family migration also came into play and affected my decision to emigrate. The concept of family migration holds that the international movement of people is attributed to the new or established family ties (Kofman et al., 2022). Thus, the family acts as the decision-making unit for the purpose of diversification of resources and investment. In this case, even though the opportunities in Canada attracted me, the presence of my sister aligned with the concept of family immigration. In essence, my sister's presence in Canada meant that I had access to a reliable support system, while her encouragement to take up new challenges acted as an intrinsic motivation.  

            Moreover, my student visa application process was smooth, albeit with a few challenges. My desire to pursue higher education in Canada began much earlier. My last two years in high school required adequate preparation and entailed taking the IELTS exams and passing the board of exams. My success in the board exams meant that the initial phase of the immigration process was complete. I then embarked on seeking immigration approval and later applied for the study permit with all the necessary documentation. Thus, from the board exams to the application phase, everything was smooth. The only challenge along the way was attributed to financial constraints, but my sister came through for me. Thus, my student visa application experiences were smooth due to the adequate preparation and support from family members.

            However, my experience of moving across the boards was a mix of apprehension and excitement. The anomie theory can best explain the cause for my apprehension. This theory posits that the different sociological and cultural settings tend to influence an immigrant's work and family, resulting in the feeling of disorientation and alienation from society (Pillay et al., 2023). Thus, during the moving process, I felt alienated from my family and social connections in Punjab. Specifically, however, the encouragement from my sisters and my individuals’ goals and aspirations provided the needs motivation to overcome this anomie. I was thus existed of the prospects of new challenges but at the same time apprehensive of the new environment, cultures and system in Canada.


Upon landing, my first impression was that Canadian culture varied significantly from my culture back in Punjab. The cultural difference meant that the way of life also differed and required significant adjustment. I also observed that the facilities in Canada were clean, information was frequently given, and one had to follow the rules and regulations, which differs from Punjab, where people need to adhere to the red-light rule. Besides, the country is diverse, and the atmosphere is friendly. I attributed these differences to the country's culture that differs from the one in my home country. Apart from the cultural difference, the presence of my sister made things easier for me. She had secured a student resident I would use during my study years while her house also had an extra room I would stay when visiting her over the weekend.

The support from my sister also enhanced my ease in transitioning into the Canadian culture. Based on her experiences, she offered tips on how to navigate life, approaches to finding jobs and budgeting. For instance, I found my first job at a construction site between May 2022 and November 2022 on a part-time basis through referrals from a close friend of my sister. The job provided needed upkeep money, which was supplemented by additional streams from my parents back in Punjab. Pillay et al. (2023) noted that immigrants tend to experience anomies due to the perceived lack of social support. In my case, I did not experience anomie due to the support from my sister and her friend. This support helped me cope with financial challenges.

Apart from the settling aspect, my life in Canada is goal-oriented. Specifically, my long-term career goal is to utilize the education and skills obtained in Canada and engage in entrepreneurship. In line with my family's spirit of entrepreneurship, I intend to use the PGWP program to create a business and provide employment opportunities. Compared to my home country, I am satisfied with my life in Canada. I have been able to achieve a lot of my personal and professional goals partly due to the opportunities in Canada that are absent in Punjab. However, despite this quality of life, I aspire to complete my education and go back home to make a change in my community and society.

Theoretical Analysis of My Experiences

The proposed theories relevant to my immigration experiences are threefold. Precisely, these theories are proposed by the following thinkers Karl Marx, Georg Simmel and Emile Durkheim. The thinkers above would analyze my immigration process by focusing on the power dynamics, my social integration and social interactions. The concepts that underlie the proposed theories are as follows, while the differences and similarities across the thinkers are highlighted in Table 1.

Karl Marx: Karl Marx's core concepts focus on alienation, conflict and historical materialism. The theory of alienation holds that capitalism has effects on humans in the sense that it estranges the workers from their labour, products and themselves due to the capitalist system (Zhao, n.d.). Further, Marx's ideals also explored the role of conflict in the society between the working class and the ruling class. This conflict between the two groups was the main driver for changes in society (Zhao, n.d.). The other concepts focus on historical materialism, which depicts the series of revolutions in the modes of production and exchanges. The core argument underlying this theory is the view that production is the basis of human existence, with ideological ideas emerging from the material conditions.

Georg Simmel: Simmel's ideals focused on social interaction and individual experiences. The main concepts introduced by the thinker focus on the ideals of social interaction and forms which hold that individuals interact within groups and societies. The size of the groups, as per Simmel, affects the social relationship (Zhao, n.d.). The other concept delves into “the stranger” in society and explores the ways in which strangers have unique perspectives which can be used to alter social dynamics (Zhao, n.d.). The last concept relates to the idea of the "blasé attitude,” which is defined as a mental state characterized by indifference or detachment (Zhao, n.d.). This attitude is common among individuals in modern urban settings who use these ideas as a coping mechanism.

Emile Durkheim: Durkheim ideals focused on the division of labour within the society. Underlying these ideas are the concepts of social solidarity, collective consciousness and anomies. The concept of social solidarity holds that society maintains stability and coherence through mechanical and organic solidarity (Zhao, n.d.). Further, the thinker also included the concepts of collective consciousness, which refers to the shared beliefs, values and norms that help maintain social unity and integration (Zhao, n.d.). Meanwhile, Durkheim also introduced the concept of anomie, which is described as a state characterized by the lack of moral regulation, individual initiative and segmentation.

Table 1: Similarities and Differences




k    Karl Marx

All thin   Focus is on society and how it functions

Both contributed to the sociological field

Both focus on the influence of social structures on individuals

Mark focuses on social struggle, Durkheim on social solidarity and Simmel on individual social interactions

Marx and Durkheim employed the macro-level analysis, while Simmel adopted a micro perspective

George Simmel

Emile Durkheim

Note: Adapted from Zhao's (n.d.) lecture notes


            My immigration experience even though smooth in attaining the student visa at the initial steps, embodies the complexities of cultural integration, challenges in fitting a foreign land and prejudices that are inherent in Canada due to the interaction between social groups. Specifically, my experience is marked by three major events: First, while moving to Canada, I worked at a heavy construction site on a part-time basis. Secondly, my main social support system was my sister, who made the integration and adaptability a smooth experience. Lastly, I visited the XYZ Chinese restaurant and was asked by the lady at the restaurant, “Are you in the right restaurant?" owing to my appearance as a Punjabi. Thus, my immigration experience was incredible due to the access to opportunities in Canada. Still, at the same time, I had to engage in “3-D jobs” (dirty, dangerous and demanding) and face challenges such as prejudice and discrimination.

            My experiences can be evaluated from a sociological perspective. The ideals and concepts of social stratification, as proposed by Marx, align with the tenets of the proletariat (Zhao, n.d.). In this case, I had to engage in 3D jobs, for instance, the heavy work at the construction job between May 2022 and November 2022, as a means to gain access to better opportunities. This work experiences the existence of class struggle and exploitation of immigrants. Meanwhile, the social stratification and experiences at the XYZ restaurant align with Georg Simmel's concept of social interactions. Simmel argued that a society exists where a number of people enter into interaction. The forms of social interaction include exchange, corporation, conflict and dominance (Zhao, n.d.). The incident at the restaurant, the assumption about my literacy and the judgment based on my appearance attest to a social relationship that is marred with conflict. Besides, the idea of a blasé attitude also comes into play in the sense that during the interactions at the XYZ Chinese restaurant, I did not react to the new stimulation with the required energy as I would have reacted when in Punjab, India.

            Furthermore, Emile Durkheim's ideas on social solidarity also apply in evaluating my experiences. Notably, the ideas hold that meaning in my experience relates to social condition namely the integration and regulation (Zhao, n.d.). The relationship with my sister acted as a means to enhance my integration in Canada. This integration acted as a protective factor since the weak relationship with groups increases the risk of egoistic suicide (Zhao, n.d.). Thus, even in the presence of work demands, school and discrimination, my sister acted social support system. At the same time, my desire to go back to India attests to the evolution of my identity in a new social context.


            My experiences emigrating from Punjab, India, to Canada, depict an interplay of personal experience and social process. Thinkers such as Marx, Simmel, and Durkheim provide a theoretical basis to explore my experiences from a sociological perspective. Marx focuses on the class struggle, which reflects my experiences at the construction site. Simmel's focus on social interactions helps reveal the interaction at the XYZ Chinese restaurant. In contrast, Durkheim's concepts of social integration attest to the role of my sister in my process of integration. This significant event during the immigration process depicts the societal structures and dynamics. Thus, my individual experiences and my ability to navigate the challenges during the immigration process reflect the societal influences at play in the host nation.




Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center CCIRC. (2018, March 7). Post Graduation Work Permit. Canada Immigration and Visa Information. Canadian Immigration Services and Free Online Evaluation.

Kofman, E., Buhr, F., & Fonseca, M. L. (2022). Family Migration. IMISCOE Research Series, 137–149.

Pillay, S., Riaz, S., & Dorasamy, N. (2023). Examining the work–life balance of immigrants in Australia: An anomie theory perspective. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 93, 101753.

Zhao J. (n.d.). Karl Marx: Alienation & Capital [Power Point]. Alexander College. Lecture Notes

Zhao, J. (n.d.). Emile Durkheim: suicide [Power Point]. Alexander College. Lecture Notes

Zhao, J. (n.d.). Karl Marx: Historical Materialism Class Struggles [Power Point]. Alexander College. Lecture Notes

Zhao, J. (n.d.). GEORG SIMMEL [Power Point]. Alexander College. Lecture Notes


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