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  • Lesley Urgel

The Immigrant Experience: How Intersectional Identity Influences Career Exploration in Criminology

Police officer. Lawyer. Criminal intelligence analyst. Corrections officer. Border patrol officer. Criminal justice researcher. Criminology professor.

These careers present the multitude of options that Criminology students can explore within the Criminology field. Whether you obtain those positions from Co-op, internships, graduate programs, or applying on job boards, career exploration is what you make of it. Passion and ambition to pursue a certain career is a full-time job in and of itself. But what about looking into yourself and seeing who you are? Do you see yourself in these roles, or is it something you have to pursue for others? What if you're unsure about your career exploration? What then?

I continue to face this dilemma as a first-generation immigrant to Filipino parents. I immigrated to Canada at the age of four, raised as a middle-class citizen while facing the pressure to make my parents proud, succeed in a country far from my cultural heritage, and present myself as a "Canadian-grown, Canadian-born" individual (my parents' words, not mine).

After entering post-secondary to obtain a Bachelor's degree in Criminology, I thought I knew what I wanted to do. I bounced through my interest in careers that I wanted to apply for: a criminal profiler, a social sciences researcher on the criminal justice system, a criminal intelligence analyst for the RCMP or Statistics Canada, a social worker, and a criminal or corporate lawyer.

Now that I'm set to graduate next year, I have my doubts on my ability to pursue any of these careers. The question of where I would be "five to ten years from now" remains blank, although my identity as a Southeast Asian woman would certainly bring forth more diverse and inclusive perspectives for the Criminology field. However, I have consistently labeled myself as a person of colour, a visible minority, and an immigrant. How do I enter a profession that engages with other minority groups, while considering my own identity as a potential factor in how I treat marginalized communities?

While I could put in the work to unlearn harmful stereotypes, prejudices, and unconscious biases that come with living in a westernized, colonial landscape, it's still difficult to reconcile with internalized racism, misogyny, and colourism that I've expressed to myself. I'm passionate about issues relating to social and criminal justice, but am I extending that sense of justice for myself, to heal the self-resentment I felt as an immigrant, in my pursuit of a fulfilling career?

Personally, it's hard to find an answer to this question, but for those struggling to find themselves, I want you to know that it's okay to keep exploring. Criminology is an expanding field that will, hopefully, seek justice for young professionals and the vulnerable populations who interact with them. The immigrant experience is one story to tell out of many, but it should provide some clarity on what our values are, how our intersectional identities play a role, and what we can offer to the Criminology careers of our choosing.

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