Moose, snow, and hockey. Those three things were all I knew about "America’s northern cousin" Canada almost my entire life. Of course I've heard stereotypes about the incredible kindness of Canadians, but as someone who grew up in Texas I never got to test the validity of those claims. So, as far as my understanding went, Canada was home to hockey playing moose living in eternal winter. It never crossed my mind that I would be living anywhere other than Texas so color me shocked when in my third year of high school my parents decided to take up a job offer in Newfoundland and Canada became a lot more than just another distant country.
Moving out of the city I have lived in my whole life, away from the friends that supported me during my lowest of lows, into a province thousands of miles away where I knew nobody was... terrifying. Overwhelming. Isolating. Take your pick. I had felt like the only world I had ever known was not there for me anymore, and the stability I once had was destroyed.
All of my being was warning me like a canary in a coal mine that no, you can't do this. You won't be able to be yourself in such a different place, no one will like you. You can't hold conversations with people who you aren't comfortable with, they will hate you. I was falling and I didn’t know how to stop.
But when the day finally came that I had to leave my world and head into the unknown, a new school, the people I met were incredibly welcoming and exactly what I pictured to be the best case scenario.
They didn't seem annoyed that I was too shy for long conversations, and they didn't ignore me like I had thought they would. They tried to include me, an anxiety driven girl whose only skill is making every conversation as awkward as it could be, into everything they could. They all took the time to introduce themselves to me at some point during the week when they had no obligation to.
They invited me to lunch on my first day so I wouldn't be alone, and invited me to after school activities despite me being closed off and nervous. They made the unknown feel like a new world to explore, warm and welcoming. They made me feel accepted. They were Canadian.
I was not the only transfer student in my school; there were students from a variety of countries like Nigeria, China, and Russia who, like me, were made to feel as though Newfoundland and the school were just new homes.
So in my opinion, there are no specific requirements you need to have in order to be a Canadian. Being a Canadian doesn't mean being a certain race, or religion, or personality. It doesn't need to have any requirements because Canadians aim towards accepting others. I noticed it was a genuine goal for most people I met to be accepting of people from anywhere and everywhere, of all different origins and beliefs, to accept them and let them feel at home. And I also noticed that they succeeded.
Canada is not a blanket made from only one fabric, it's a quilt created by the diversity of the people and sewed together by the thread of acceptance. Cheesy? For sure, but from what my experience has shown me, it is also true.
Now that I have lived in Canada for about a year, I can see that it is much more than just moose, snow, and hockey. I would be lying if I said I am completely comfortable and "myself" in this new world I found myself in, but almost everyone I have met on this island made the transition the easiest it could be. The acceptance and support I got from the school community kept me from doing things I would surely regret. And for that, I am truly grateful towards the Canadians who welcomed me with open arms.