With a graduate degree in theatre arts and a postgraduate degree in cultural management, Mariana Miquelin stumbled on an opportunity to become an event professional. This unexpected chance ended up defining her entire life! Mariana’s desire to grow professionally brought her to Canada in April 2018, starting a journey filled with emotional ebbs and flows, including moments that highlighted her ability to stay strong, be determined and persevere to achieve her goals! This is her story.
During my first month in Canada, my grandma passed away and that was a very difficult time for me. I couldn’t say my final goodbyes to her and I really wanted to be with my family in Brazil. But that was when I decided to stay strong and I told myself that I would accomplish this goal for her because that’s what she would have wanted.
Back in Brazil, I was pursuing a four-month course and as I neared completion of the course, I found a job opportunity with one of my teachers. The experience was good to start off with but over time, I felt as though I wasn’t using my full potential. Most of the time I was just working as event staff during actual events. After about four years of working in the field, I realized that I wanted to explore more and grow professionally.
By then, I was considering moving to Canada for studies and the option to get an international degree seemed enticing. Taking a step in that direction, I decided to improve my English language skills as it would add value to my application.
Read, research and take language courses to adapt faster
I enrolled at George Brown College for a course in event management. As I arrived in Canada just a week before my classes would begin, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to adapt to the environment and culture. My first week in Canada made me feel a lot more independent. And although it was challenging (mainly because of the language as I wasn’t used to speaking in English all the time), it was quite the experience — it feels different when you’re being taught in English versus learning to speak in English.
My advice to other newcomers who don’t have English as their first language is to work towards becoming more fluent by enrolling in language courses and practicing more. To adapt sooner, I would also recommend researching, reading and educating yourself as much as possible about the city and province you will be moving to.
“In my first week, my brain was like, “Oh my God! I’m so tired.” But I wasn’t physically tired, I was just mentally tired. It took me a while to convince myself that I could get used to it. The entire situation with the language skills coupled with all the assignments, deadlines and other academic schedules seemed daunting.”
Part-time jobs or volunteering are good ways to gain Canadian experience and develop your skills
My course allowed me to work part-time, so I gained some experience working at events and volunteering while I was still studying. I had the opportunity to be a brand ambassador for the Toronto Christmas Market and I also worked with the Toronto Light Festival. My college had advertised the opportunity to work with food vendors at the Christmas Market but I decided to contact the Market directly to learn more and that’s how I found out about the position for a brand ambassador. I received a call for an interview with them after submitting a ‘customized’ resume and that eventually led to a job offer.
“I thought it was amazing to have a chance to work at the Toronto Christmas Market because it would allow me to experience Christmas the way we see it in the movies! In Brazil, we don’t have that because it’s hot during Christmas. But here, we have snow, lights, and it’s really cold!”
On the job, it can be quite challenging to deal with unhappy customers or patrons in a language that you’re still learning. People are usually not happy to wait in a queue for over an hour when it’s very cold outside. Working at the Toronto Christmas Market helped me improve my customer service skills and develop a lot of patience.
Develop a good pitch for recruiters: Tell your personal story and connect it to the position
I graduated with honours but the end of my course was a challenging phase for me. I did my co-op at the Budweiser Stage but they didn’t have any open positions at the time of my graduation and so I had to look out for other opportunities. At the same time, I was desperate to get an extension on my visa. There were also other issues such as healthcare, for instance. Since I didn’t have a full-time job, I couldn’t apply for provincial insurance and had to find private health insurance. It was all very stressful – but I continued applying to jobs.
My current position at the Indigo book store is one that I found online. My love for books helped me connect the job profile with my personal story and after a couple of rounds of interviews, I had the offer.
Setting goals helps you stay focused and determined
I’ve already achieved two of my career goals: I graduated with honours from my program and I’ve gained some Canadian experience. My next goal is to find a job that makes me feel successful, provides financial stability and gives me enough flexibility and freedom to have a better quality of life. I would like to get into experiential marketing; I want to learn more about this role and continue working with events but from a different perspective – with an organization that values my skills.
“The past year has been challenging but I think I’m over it now and I’ve decided to start 2020 with renewed enthusiasm and vigour — I’m going to focus on my career, improve my English and even learn French.”
I am currently on the path to becoming a permanent resident (PR). In the next two to three years, I hope to get my PR and be financially ready to buy a house that I can call my own. I’ve already started saving for this. Moving to Canada has made me more independent, responsible and mature.
I don’t measure success in monetary terms; I would consider myself successful if I’m truly happy in my job. To me, success is when people admire you for what you do, they see you as a leader, not a boss, and when you are able to inspire others.
There will be difficult times; be patient, resilient and persistent
My journey has taught me to be patient, resilient and persistent every single day. The decision to settle down in a foreign country away from our families is a choice we make with the hope of living a better and happier life. I have made peace with the fact that I might not be there in-person back home, when my parents pass away but I know they will be happy for me because they understand that I am happy living here, in Canada, my new home.