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I was in elementary school when my family moved to Vancouver from Hong Kong.

What I couldn’t articulate at that young age was the ambivalence between the wish to belong as well as to retain my identity. Perhaps this is a feeling that’s familiar for many newcomers or anyone who had moved to a new city, community, or organization – yet it is possible to achieve both. For instance, contributing to my community played a key role in helping me adapt to life in Canada. My family introduced ourselves to neighbours who quickly became friends, and as we volunteered for organizations whose causes we believed in, our sense of community grew as well.

As we approach Canada’s 150th birthday, I feel a great sense of pride in the things that make Canada special – including the diversity our country represents and our welcome offered to newcomers who come from around the world and chose to call this country home. Below are a few suggestions that newcomers might find helpful in adapting to life in Canada.

1. Join a Newcomer Association

Most communities have associations specifically geared towards newcomers, offering a variety of resources such as job search assistance and language training. It’s a great way to meet other new Canadians who are going through a similar experience.

2. Try New Things

Be open to new activities such as skating, skiing, or hiking. In the summer, perhaps try camping in the Canadian wilderness, and take advantage of all of the national parks offering free entry as part of Canada’s 150th celebrations.

3. Volunteer

Not only is it good for the soul, volunteering is also a great way to develop deeper connections to your new community.

4. Stay Connected With Your Roots

Whether it’s through community associations, maintaining familiar traditions, or cooking with the flavours and spices you enjoyed back home, finding ways to stay connected with the familiar would help balance out the significant change that comes with moving to a new country.

5. Take the First Step

It’s not always easy being the new person – whether that’s being new to a country, being the new person in a new job, or being a new student at school. While it may seem daunting at first, take the first step in connecting with others by introducing yourself – you’ll be amazed at how welcoming people could be.

Young people of Canada have been impressive in taking the initiative to welcome newcomers to our country. One way I have seen this is through RBC’s “Make 150 Count” initiative where participants are doing everything from welcoming Syrian refuges to Canada to organizing Canadian-themed activities for newcomers.

These simple gestures are reminders that small things go a long way to making someone feel welcome.

How will you be celebrating Canada’s 150th?

Are you new to Canada? Read this story about what you need to do to settle faster and easier.