Brexit is going to be one of those ‘where were you when’ moments, that will be shared among friends and family for years to come.
For me, on the 24rd June 2016 I was in the Premier Inn in Belfast. The night before, my boyfriend Aidan and I decided to stay in the city to celebrate his birthday and devote some time to organizing our upcoming trip to Canada. As we spent the evening swamped in bank statements, booking websites, itineraries and visa requirements, we tried to follow the referendum coverage but in the end we just couldn’t stay awake. Believing that the Remain campaign would win, I was willing to read those headlines in the morning.
So, upon waking and learning that the Leave campaign (52 percent) won I was shocked but held some small hope that 56 percent of the population of Northern Ireland voted to Remain. Surely we could not be dragged out of the EU against the democratic will of the people? Going to work that morning I had no idea what the future would hold in terms of Brexit or Canada, but before we left I remember joking that ‘it would hopefully it all be sorted by the time we are returning home in two years time!’ Oh, how naive I was.
I am fortunate that my decision to leave Ireland was not based on social, political or economic concerns. Following five plus years of post grad education, I simply wanted to take some time away and focus on other passions that had, for the most part, taken a back seat during my studies. I wanted to see different parts of the world and experience life in different country and culture for a while. It was a personal indulgence that I was, and still am, fortunately able to pursue.
To date, our time in Canada has been everything I could ever have imagined and more. For the most part, society here is open and tolerant; individualism is actively encouraged especially here in Vancouver where I currently live.
“We have made life-long friends that enrich our lives everyday.”
Society here thrives on difference. Vancouver is an artsy city; everyone is dancing, writing, making music or pursuing photography. Creativity, soul searching, self-awareness, allowing room for difference, and learning from each other are the foundations of life here. In just over two years we have observed and learnt from many different cultures, religions, classes, sexual orientations and genders. We have made life-long friends that enrich our lives everyday. We have experimented with our looks, our goals, and our beliefs. We have tried different versions of ourselves and ticked many items off our bucket list. On top of that, we have been fortunate to find many career opportunities, in a work culture, which values home life and professional development to the same degree.
Yet, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world has its challenges and it takes those first few years to feel established in any way. As a result, immigrants here have often only just begun to find their feet by the time the working holiday visa is coming to an end. Our visa was due to expire in October 2018 and we spent many months going back on forth on the decision whether to apply for Permanent Residency or to return home to Ireland. We eventually decided to extend our visa, but in the end that was due to the fact that we are simply not finished our travels. It is not unusual for temporary emigrants to extend their stay past the original working holiday visa. For a start, while two years once seemed like a significant period of time, you soon realise that it passes in a flash.