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I wanted to make Canada my home. Then I realized my degree was worthless here

A woman in a winter jacket sits on a bench along Toronto’s harbourfront.

This First Person column is the experience of Komaldeep Makkar, a Canadian permanent resident who moved back to Dubai. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I grew up in the Indian state of Punjab. It felt like almost every street in my state had billboards promoting a better life and lots of job opportunities with higher salaries in Canada. I knew many families whose younger members were enrolled in courses for English-language proficiency tests making efforts to move to Canada. The pride in the eyes of those parents as they shared the news of their son or daughter settling in Canada left a strong impression on me. It made me think Canada had amazing opportunities and could one day also become my home.     

I graduated with a bachelor of architecture and a master of urban planning from India. My work as an architect took me to New Delhi and subsequently to Dubai, where I worked for multinational firms. In Dubai, I earned a salary I likely would have never earned in India, while also having a good work-life balance. But as an expat living in Dubai, there isn’t a straightforward path toward citizenship. So to advance my career goals and in pursuit of a place to call my permanent home, I applied for the Canadian express entry program in 2017. I got married to an architect during the process of application and received my permanent residency visa in early 2020. My husband and I were excited to finally make the move we had heard and read so much about.

Makkar, pictured here, and her husband immigrated to Toronto in 2021. (Submitted by Komaldeep Makkar)

When we landed in Toronto in January 2021, we experienced our first snowfall. I loved breathing in the clean air and listening to the sounds of nature, which were so different from India. But soon our winter started getting colder with the cold calls that ended nowhere. After a few months of job hunting, I realized that my education and nine years of experience as an architect in the Middle East didn’t matter. 

We joined government-funded newcomer programs when we arrived in Toronto to learn how to adapt our skills and experience to the Canadian market. I was told by multiple employment counsellors to remove my master’s degree from my resume — the same degree that had gained me additional points in the express entry program. They also kept suggesting that I shave off some years of experience from my resume or strike off some of higher-profile projects so that I didn’t…

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