From Cape Town to California

Cape Town to California
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1. What is your name?

Aneesa & Junaid Ramsingh.

2. What country were you born in?

We were both born in South Africa. Aneesa born in Cape Town and Junaid in Kuruman but raised In Cape Town. 

3. What job did you have in your home country?

We are both pharmacists. 

4. How long have you been living in your new country for?

Junaid living here for 13 years. Aneesa living here for almost 7 years.

5. Did you immigrate alone or with your family and kids?

Junaid immigrated here alone. We got married and I moved here with him. 

6. How are the schools in your new country?

Schools and education are mostly free. Excellent resources available for kids. Quality of Education is phenomenal. College and University fees are expensive. But most schooling is free – KG, Primary & High School.

7. What is your job in your new country?

Both pharmacists. Junaid is a clinical pharmacist at a hospital.

8. What do you enjoy about your new country?

  • We feel very safe and there is hardly any crime
  • We feel free to enjoy life without fearing anything happening to us
  • We feel free to practice our religion (Islam) without being discriminated against.
  • We enjoy our community of friends and neighborhood of friendly people 
  • We are able to travel frequently (well before covid) and enjoy our adventures
  • We work hard but we are rewarded and appreciated equally for our hard work and dedication.
  • Our toddler is able to enjoy the outdoors without fear. He is able to make friends of diverse cultures and religions making him less likely to discriminate others of color and race. He learns so much every day.
  • We enjoy halal food and able to shop for halal meats and spices in our city.

9. What do you miss the most about your home country?

Family and friends. And of course the food, snacks and biltong lol! Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world. If crime and corruption was not an issue, we would gladly move back home. 

10. What advice would you give someone contemplating about immigrating to the USA?

Moving to a new country is a big step. A Huge culture shock. The first few years are really hard to make friends (that share the same interests or religion or culture). The first few years you miss your home, family and friends the most. You want to go back so badly. But stick it out! Especially For your future generation. You won’t regret it. 

11. What challenges, if any, would you advise them to anticipate based on your experiences when you first moved to the USA?

As stated above (11)

  • fitting in
  • Learning new work systems
  • Finding yourself amongst strangers
  • Making a home

12. What advice would you give them to overcome those challenges?

Keep reminding yourself of your reason for moving. Whatever it may be. Be friendly and accept people or all cultures and religions. Be more accepting and people will accept you. Respect people for whoever they are and you will see them have a huge respect for you too. Don’t isolate yourself. Get involved in community projects. Volunteer. Get out there!

13. How was the visa process for immigrating to the USA?

Many years ago Pharmacy was a rare skill. We were in a high demand worldwide. Junaid was working at Groote Schuur hospital at the time that the company Rite Aid (corporate pharmacy) came to SA to recruit pharmacists. Junaid applied and got approved to write a board examination in the US. All flights and accommodation was sponsored by Rite Aid for the applicant and a partner. Junaid came with his sister. Once He passed the examination, Rite Aid sponsored his work visa and promised to apply for a green card (permanent residence in the US) in his behalf. He was given a sign on bonus. He completed his internship again in the US, wrote and passed his board examinations and became officially licensed to practice as a Pharmacist in the USA. 

I however came to the US on a H4 visa (wife of a H1b worker visa). I was unable to work on this visa. Once Junaid was eligible we applied for our green cards (permanent residency after 5 years of working in US). Thereafter I was able to legally work in the US. Now we are both US citizens, Alhamdulillah. 

14. How is the cost of living in California, USA compared to South Africa.

California is one of the most expensive states to live in. The cost of living is pretty high. However, California is also known as the high income state. Saving is also very important. Coming from a developing country, we always taught to appreciate the value of money and the importance of saving. Alhamdulillah, the salary is great and we are able to save and enjoy life equally.

15. Anything else you would like to add, or any advice you would like to give to anyone contemplating moving to the USA?

US does not allow people to come on a work visa without a sponsor. You can come on a holiday visa but you are not allowed to work. You need a sponsor at all times. Moving to a big country like the US is challenging and daunting. But stick to your decision even in the weakest moment. Give yourself the opportunity to grow and make the most of the experience. South Africa, particularly Cape Town, will always be home to us.

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