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Carbonear Collegiate student celebrates graduation, Canadian citizenship on same day

Essam Azaghdani, second from the left, poses for a photo at his high school graduation alongside friends (from the left) Katie Butt, Emmanuel Gonese and Jack Green.
Essam Azaghdani, second from the left, poses for a photo at his high school graduation alongside friends (from the left) Katie Butt, Emmanuel Gonese and Jack Green. - Contributed

Essam Azaghdani, originally from Libya, honoured to be a part of Canada

CARBONEAR, NL — Carbonear Collegiate’s recent graduation ceremony was a night one student at the school will likely never forget.

Essam Azaghdani and his family are no strangers to moving. Although he was born in the North African country of Libya, Azaghdani says the family’s lifestyle has brought them to many different corners of the world, with the most recent big move being to Canada in 2012, when his father, a physician, came to the country anticipating new job opportunities. Now, in 2018, Azaghdani is an 18-year-old Canadian citizen, with a high school diploma from Carbonear Collegiate. Although the latter of the two is usually a life-changing moment for almost any student in Newfoundland, the night was especially exciting for Azaghdani, as it was also the same night of his citizenship ceremony.

Originally, the fact that the two events collided was a bit of a disappointment, as Azaghdani and his friends feared he would miss the graduation ceremony in order to attend his citizenship ceremony in St. John’s. However, as he explained to The Compass, the night could not have worked out any better for him.

“I found out that the citizenship ceremony was the same day as my grad night, so I wasn’t able to go. I had to tell all my friends that I couldn’t go, and I could tell they were upset – I’ve formed some really great friendships while I’ve been here, so of course I wanted to spend my graduation day with them,” he said.

“But, when I left from St. John’s to go back to Carbonear, I arrived an hour or two hours late to the graduation, but it was still very special. My teachers told me to go up and have my own grand march, so I did. When I went out, they told everyone that I recently became a Canadian citizen, and the whole room – 600 people – gave me a standing ovation. It was like they were saying ‘You’re one of us now, welcome home.’ I really enjoyed it.”

To Azaghdani, becoming a Canadian citizen was a major step toward the future he sees for himself. He told The Compass that the idea of being an official citizen of Canada is still almost unreal to him, and that he still struggles to grasp the idea, calling it a dream come true.

He has also spent a significant portion of his life living in Britain. However, Azaghdani is happy to call Canada home, noting that his fellow Canadians made him feel at home from the moment he first set foot on Canadian soil.

“When I first stepped foot into Canada, I said to myself, ‘I wonder what I can do here, and what this country can do for me?’ This country, and the people in it, gave me everything. They made me feel at home, and I always had great people by my side, even through the darkest of times. Becoming a Canadian isn’t something I can describe with words. I go around, and I can happily say that I’m a part of this great country. That’s something that literally only happens once in a lifetime, you know? I’m going to cherish that until the day I die.”

Although he admitted that there are parts of his past homes that he misses, such as his friends back in Britain and his family back in Libya, he noted that he could not be any happier with the turns his life has taken. To him, Canada is home, and the pride he takes in his citizenship is evident in his enthusiasm for the country as a whole.

Now, with two of his life’s major milestones under his belt, Azaghdani is quite optimistic about his future as a Canadian. He told The Compass that his life in Canada has provided him with opportunities he could only dream of taking on, and hopes to build a future for himself where he can better not only the lives of his fellow Canadians, but to better the country as a whole.

“I’m just very thrilled to be a part of Canada. I want to see this country get better and better every day, and it’s my duty as a Canadian citizen to do that now. I have family in Libya, and of course I miss them dearly, but this is my home now. I feel like this is where I belong,” he said. “This is a privilege, a gift, and one I’ll never take for granted.”

chris.lewis@cbncompass.ca

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