Greeks of the World- Stella Mastrogiannakou
"I am from a small town called Monemvasia and my parents and I moved to Canada in August, 2011.
We moved here because both of my parents could not find work in Greece. Growing up, I remember my mother worked at the local museum as a tour guide and my father owned several restaurants and small convenience stores but business became a real challenge as the economy worsened.
My parents made the difficult decision to move to Canada in order to help secure a better life and future for me. They knew of the opportunities Canada had to offer and decided that this would be in our best interest as a family.
It was very challenging to adjust to Canadian life. I had no friends, no cousins my age, and didn’t know the language at all. I came to Canada in the summer of grade eight, entering grade nine and I remember being so upset because I couldn’t attend regular high school due to my English abilities. I had to complete one year of ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in order to be immersed into the mainstream education system.
The biggest struggle for me really was the language and trying to adjust myself from living in a small town to a big city. In Greece I experienced a lot more freedom, I was able to go out with friends and enjoy the lifestyle. In Canada the rules were different, I couldn’t go by myself anywhere because of my parent’s fear of the unknown and I also did not have friends to do things with.
The pressure I felt in school to be like the Canadian girls was also an obstacle for me. I was really doing everything I could to try and fit in but my accent was something that I felt very insecure about and that separated me from the rest. Thankfully over the years this all changed.
I definitely miss my family very much, we are so close and skyping or seeing them for a limited amount of time once a year just isn’t enough. The holiday season is especially difficult because we can’t be together, or times when my cousins have babies and I can’t be present to watch them grow up.
My two brothers also moved from Greece but rather than to Canada, they moved to Australia. The economy in Greece has contributed to the difficulties we face as a family separated by thousands of miles, especially because my one brother has a new baby girl.
In short, I miss the lifestyle, the beauty of Greece, the landscape, the people and the feeling of being back home.
There are so many reasons I’m now thankful for moving and living in Canada. I’m currently studying Arts and Contemporary Studies at Ryerson University and I have had the opportunity to pursue my passion of theatre and performing arts by being a part of an acting, dance and theatre company called Nefeli. Joining Nefeli really changed my life in many ways, it allowed me to meet my now best friends, practice my passion and pursue my dreams. It changed my entire perspective of Canada and the people here. I have seen that the opportunities available in the arts are vast and I have every intention of pursuing all resources to fulfill my career goals.
Looking back on my first year in Canada I suffered from a lot of anxiety, I lost a lot of weight and experienced plenty of internal turmoil. This has all made me a stronger person; it forced me to break out of my shell, embrace my new life and see the beautiful people in it. Now I say with certainty and fulfillment that Toronto, Canada truly is home."