Photo: Nicole Brumley

Through my eyes: From Aruba to Toronto

In Communities /

By Melissa Salamo

Coming to a new country allowed me to appreciate the little things that often go unnoticed. As I boarded the UP Express from Pearson Airport to downtown Toronto for the very first time, everything around me looked, smelled and felt new. I saw highways, tall buildings, trains, people and what seemed like an abundance of everything. It all looked in order and everyone seemed to know what they were doing, as if they all had a specific role in society.

I moved to Canada’s largest city last year from Aruba, one of the tiniest islands in the Caribbean. My family and friends called me crazy for wanting to pursue my studies and career in Canada, one of the coldest countries in the world. I on the other hand, saw it as an opportunity for adventure and intense learning.

Looking through the train window, the trees were lush and the streets were clean, without a single hole or rumple. All these things may seem commonplace, but as I observed the scenery of my new home, these “ordinary” things felt exciting and new.

Coming from a country with a population of about 105,000 to a city with a population of 2.7 million was a big shock. Of course, it came with the overwhelming feeling of doubt and fear once I stepped foot into my new home at Ryerson University’s International Living/Learning Centre residence. I could hear my family in the back of my mind saying, “Winter is going to be tough!” Fortunately, I had arrived in the summer.

Not long after moving in someone told me, “We want to go to Aruba, why would you come here?” Now, I know it’s normal for people to want a change their environment, but as a newly arrived immigrant I wondered, “Why would anyone want to leave Toronto?”

I realized that sometimes when we take the little things for granted, we fail to appreciate the beauty around us. What I call “these little things” range from the sidewalks, to a functioning transportation system, seasonal changes, skyscrapers and time efficiency. As an outsider, all of this was new to me and looking at things this way brought me an abundance of happiness.  

In Aruba, sidewalks don’t really exist. Everyone uses cars although we are such a small, flat island with summer weather all year round. In Toronto, when I realized how often I could walk around without having to depend on a ride, I praised the sidewalks. Undoubtedly, my friends thought this was pretty funny.

Aruba’s transportation system runs by “island time.” This means that we don’t have an app or screens that tell us when the next bus is coming, you just wait for the next one to arrive. I laugh every time I hear Torontonians complain about the TTC.

After living in Toronto for over a year now, I try to keep that spark of amazement in me. When my friends notice my weird moments of amazement, they chuckle. What makes my life exciting are the things that they might be taking for granted.

When people fail to appreciate the little things, it’s easier for them to become unhappy. Taking the time to notice them has turned most of my gloomy days into days of joy. Practicing this method everyday will give you a new outlook on life, where you can find beauty in the things many take for granted.

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