Meet Vathsala Illesinghe, in our #ImmigrantStories series, aimed at informing and inspiring immigrants to arrive, settle and succeed in Canada.
After moving to Canada in 2013, however, she quickly found that her previous experiences didn’t hold much weight here. A couple of months into her journey as a Canadian, she found herself in the same position emotionally as many of the women she had fought so hard in her career to help.
“I quickly realized that if I wanted to make my previous work experience relevant, I needed to go back to school. So, I went back to school for a PhD in social sciences, making quite a significant career shift,” she says.
in 2017, she received one of 15 Pierre Elliott Trudeau doctoral scholarships. She is the first-ever Ryerson University student to receive this prestigious three-year scholarship, and its funding will support her research, community engagement and knowledge dissemination. Specifically, Illesinghe is focused on “understanding immigrant women’s vulnerability to violence and how immigration policies shape that experience.”
“In an ideal world, I would like to see women being treated as equal to men, and when they apply to become immigrants, I would like to see their education, skills and the type of work they have done pre-migration recognized as equally important as men’s.”
Speaking to immigrant women directly, she says: “If I could share one piece of experience, I would say don’t adjust to your new reality in a way that closes doors on yourself. Learn about your new country and the language because they can help navigate the challenges of resettlement, but it is also important to find relevance for your previous life experiences and work. What you have done before and where you are from are important, and it is because of those experiences that you should be valued, not despite them.”
Source Canadian Immigrant, Photo by Clifton Li