Moving for More

Riti shares her experience immigrating to the United States


Riley Wania

Ms. Barb Riti sits wearing a Canadian hockey jersey. Ms. Riti was originally from Canada but moved to Missouri to pursue a softball scholarship.

Faith Beckmann

Faith Beckmann, Newspaper Editor

As she sits at her desk grading papers, a Canadian flag hangs to the right of social studies teacher Ms. Barb Riti. Unlike some teachers who hang flags in their classrooms because they teach a class relating to the country the flag represents, the flag is not in her classroom because she teaches classes relating to Canadian history or culture. In actuality, it is because Ms. Riti is originally from Canada.

Ms. Riti grew up in a small, rural farming community in Ontario, Canada. When she was younger, most of her days were spent at the softball fields playing for local teams. When she turned 15 she transitioned from local ball to playing softball in the nearest big city. This prompted her softball career to flourish as her team competed and won in countless provincial competitions and even competed at the National competition level.

When Ms. Riti got older and was ready to move on to university, she started thinking that going to the United States for school would not be a bad option for her. Her love for college basketball had sparked the idea that she may be able to use her softball skills as a way to get her foot in the door at American colleges and universities.

“I watched college basketball and in 1991 there was this fantastic team out of [the University of Nevada Las Vegas] called the Runnin’ Rebels and I loved watching them play,” Ms. Riti said. “So I started looking into opportunities and options. And softball was one of my options.”

Fortunately, at the time, Ms. Riti had a contact who had gone to the University of Missouri and was able to get her in contact with the softball coach.

“I knew a woman who was six years older than me who had gone to Mizzou,” Ms. Riti explained. “So that coach came up to watch me play a few times and we communicated by phone several times. Then they invited me to come down for a visit and eventually just offered me the scholarship.”

“But it was just exciting. I mean, it was going to be a life changing thing for me and [the possibility] to pursue my dreams on a bigger stage.”

— Mrs. Barb Riti

When Ms. Riti received the news she had gotten the scholarship, she was unsure what to think of it, but excited nonetheless.

“Being Canadian… and also being young, I didn’t understand all that that entailed,” Ms. Riti explained. “But it was just exciting. I mean, it was going to be a life changing thing for me and [the possibility] to pursue my dreams on a bigger stage. ̈

Compared to immigrating from other countries, going to the United States from Canada did not require any extreme adaptation. Since the countries are both first-world countries with a majority population of white European ancestry, there were little differences in terms of language, food and pop culture. However, Ms. Riti notes the differences between college culture in Canada versus the United States, especially with Greek life.

“The Greek stuff was very foreign to me,” Ms. Riti explained. “In the 80s there was a show called ‘Revenge of the Nerds’… and that was my first exposure to seeing Greek life on campus was through this movie. I lived in a dorm right across from Greek town, so you would see the houses where the boys were living or where the women were living and it just seemed odd to me.”

In her last year of college, Ms. Riti met a man and decided to stay in the U.S. to be with him. Since she was marrying a U.S. resident, getting approved for a green card was an easier process. There was only one particular time, prior to her marriage, when she had issues with her paperwork.

“It was the year 2000,” Ms. Riti said. “And I was in my third year of teaching at David Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri. Every year before I went home for summer vacation, I had to submit some paperwork that needed to be filed and we had a new woman in HR. Typically what I would do is fill everything out and then highlight the areas that they needed to make sure that they signed because essentially, they were like my sponsor… Before I left, I said ‘This needs to be done or I’m not going to be able to come back.’… When I tried to come across probably a week before school started, the paperwork wasn’t there, so they told me I had to turn around. I remember driving two and a half hours back to my parents just in tears, like ‘What am I going to do?’ and calling the office and the woman saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize that.’”

Eventually, with the help of some coworkers, Ms. Riti was able to cross the border and return to work.

“I had really great people [that] I worked with,” Ms. Riti said. “They started calling members of the House of Representatives and our senators and trying to get all of those folks involved in speeding up that process… It was still probably two months but I eventually made it back.”

Though she is appreciative of the life and opportunities she has in the United States, Ms. Riti still says there are times when she wishes she were back in her home country.

“I think sometimes when there’s traumatic events or big things, I wish I could be closer,” Ms. Riti expressed. “So whether it’s like my dad [having] some health issues and [wanting] to be close [or when] 9/11 hit and you [wished] you could be with your people or even during quarantine when we were all kind of locked down… and when they’re celebrating family birthdays, or they’re all just getting together for the sake of getting together and we can’t do that. Those are things that kind of tug at our hearts a little bit.”