When most students were enjoying the last of their summer vacation, 21-year-old Asan was writing two exams.

The young woman from Turkey, who moved to Ottawa in 2019 with her parents and two brothers, needed two more English high school courses before she could attend Algonquin College. She passed both exams and started at Algonquin College 10 days later, studying finance.

Meanwhile, her 19-year-old brother is finishing high school this year while her 14-year-old sibling is just starting. (A third brother is in university in Turkey).

Asan and her parents made the decision to come to Canada after years of facing discrimination because they are Kurdish.

Asan says her father ran several businesses, including a furniture store, a car dealership and a chicken farm with 35,000 chickens and 25 employees. Her mother ran a salon.

Asan says she was born into business, grew up in it and loves it. When she turned 14, she started to work with her parents and took over accounting duties.

As it is for most newcomers, life was a lot more challenging than expected when she moved to Ottawa.

“When I look back, it was hard. You don’t know the culture or the language. If you try to rent a house, you can’t because you have no credit history. You live here but it’s hard to be anything,” she said.

The family ended up living in a shelter. The woman who ran the shelter helped them find a tiny two-bedroom apartment.

As their English improved, Dad found a job and so did Asan. Today, they live in a new townhouse.

“For fun, I love to work out. Go to a gym or go for a walk with my mother. I love to read books. I love to clean. It’s my favourite thing. When I get bored, I clean.”

After she earns her business degree, she wants to work and save up to go to law school.

As well as going to school this fall, Asan will be working part-time as a bank teller. And she volunteers in the community, helping other newcomers settle.

“I will be their translator, help them make appointments, take them to their appointments,” she said, adding it’s great to have a driver’s licence.

Despite the initial hardships, Asan says knowing what she knows now, she wishes her family had made the move 10 years earlier.

“Every day I feel more Canadian.”