From interviews with Samantha Sunio and Justin Balan
Samantha and Justin came to Canada from the Philippines in the spring of 2018:
Justin, as an international student, studying business management, Samantha, as a healthcare professional. Samantha had four years of nursing experience back home and was looking to improve her credentials and her opportunities. Justin had a business management background and saw opportunities to open a new business in Canada. The COVID-19 pandemic changed many things and paused certain plans – but it has not dulled the optimism of these two newcomers, who share their stories, insights and advice for international students and skilled workers coming to Canada.
Samantha’s Story: You’re not alone. So, jump in
I came to Canada with the hopes of finding a better future. My ultimate goal and purpose were to continue working in my field – as a nurse. When you land here, you don’t really have a guarantee of what job you’re going to get, what you’re going to do, where you’re going to live and how it will all go. It was a big leap of faith. Luckily, I have family here, so I took that opportunity to come as a permanent resident.
Once you step out of the airport, it is a totally different world: The weather is different, the people are different; I didn’t know how to start, where to go, or even what websites to look for. It seems so scary at the time, but then you realize that so many newcomers are going through the same thing. Canada is very open to all people.
Another big difference is the fact that people here are very willing to help and to guide you – you’re not alone. There are various newcomer organizations in the community that offer resources that help you settle and organizations that help you find a job. Everything is basically available online.
You have to be open to all possibilities. Sometimes the change may seem too much, but you have to embrace it. The job market here is very big. Compared to home, there’s so many jobs available and so much variety. You may have to reinvent yourself. Gaining experience here is important even if it’s a job that’s different from what you were doing back home.
Volunteering is a great way to get a feel for the Canadian workplace.
I volunteered at a long-term care facility while I was writing my licensing exam to be registered as a nurse in Canada. Following that volunteer experience, my first job was as a personal support worker (PSW) in long term care. At first, I thought that I would get stuck in that job; that I had to treasure it and keep it because it would be difficult to find another job.
As I began to understand the Canadian job market better, I realized that there are so many chances and so many options, that you just have to try them out; you have to grow every single time. I currently work in acute medicine and have been working at the hospital for almost two years now. My next goal is to study to upgrade myself in my career. In September, I will be taking the cardiology nursing course at Humber College.
Read more about the benefits of volunteering as a newcomer in Canada
Experience builds character
The coronavirus caused hospitals to make policy changes almost daily. As frontline healthcare workers, we were dealing with so many changes. It was uncharted territory. It wasn’t just physically demanding; it was also mentally, emotionally and psychologically draining. The experience has helped make my character much stronger. It’s amazing how everybody works as a community to help one another.
There was a time when the hospitals were closed to the public. It was just the patients and us. We had to be strong for the families and for the patients. It was so sad when no one could visit their family members who were sick or dying. The amount of support and moral support we got from one another was crucial for us just to get by.
I also remember at the beginning when people were cheering us on. There were days when firefighters or the police would turn on their sirens and drive around the hospital block. Then drivers would just honk their car horns, and people waved banners. It was a great thing knowing that you’re not alone.
My advice to people considering coming to Canada is to take that leap of faith because it’s true: you never really know unless you try. So, keep that in mind that your journey is always supported by people here in Canada. Even if you come here alone, you are with thousands of newcomers who are all going through the same thing. I’ve said it a couple of times, but remember, you’re not alone.
Justin’s story: Learning the business of Canada
When I was in the Philippines, I had a background in business management. I was the manager of my family’s agriculture business and had been managing it for four years. Then I got bored. I was looking to do far more. I asked myself, “Why don’t I just study again?” I saw that there were opportunities here in Canada and so began applying and was accepted at Humber college in their business management program.
I arrived as a mature student, and my goal was to finish school and try to quickly get into a field where I could grow, so I completed the four semesters of the two-year program in one year, studying in the summer as well. Because I was older than the other students, I struggled at first. I lived in residence and would often hear lots of parties going on. I had to adjust to people and the personalities here too.
The learning approach is different here too. In my country, it’s a system where they ask you the question, and then you answer in front of everyone, which can be degrading if you give the wrong answer. Here, if you’re having difficulty, they may talk to you one-on-one to help you understand. They treat you with respect and acknowledge different personalities.
International student centres are there to help: Don’t be afraid to ask
The International Centre at Humber was a constant source of help for me. I really didn’t know what I needed to do as an international student in Canada. For example, after getting my study permit, I needed to get a student work permit. The advisor at the International Student Centre explained the exact steps I needed to take and what I had to do to become a permanent resident in Canada.
All schools have international student centres that can help you find a job as an international student. They can also help you file your taxes and guide you on opening your first bank account in Canada (I opened mine with RBC because everyone said that it had good opportunities). All schools have an International Student Centre that is designed to help and guide you. There are so many resources; it’s up to you to use them.
|Book an appointment with an RBC Advisor or call 1-800-769-2511 (toll-free) to discuss your financial needs and know more about how you can open an RBC student bank account. RBC’s phone services are available in up to 200 languages. Once booked, an advisor will reach out to find out whether you’d like to meet via phone, video or in-branch.
Back home, I managed the family business, so I didn’t really have a boss. But I was working part-time while at school, so I was now an employee: I had to change my whole perspective. I had to understand my colleagues as well as the other students. It was a big change.
At first, I didn’t listen to people who told me to build my network, to meet people, to try and find people who could help me find a job. It’s been hard for me, but I am learning a lot. I’m in management, but I also volunteered in the local hospital, which initially seemed weird. Surprisingly there are a lot of opportunities for management students as well in healthcare; it’s just that people don’t think of it. I did my placement at the hospital, and I had a really good job – everything was good, but healthcare wasn’t for me. It wasn’t my goal here.
My plan was to build a business here so that I could expand it and create new opportunities. I saw that there are a lot of people migrating to Canada, and there are a lot of people migrating from my country. Newcomers are missing stuff from back home, and Canadians – not just Filipinos – are more interested in products from the Philippines. So, a lot of people are learning about the food and culture of my country. It made me think, “There may be some similar products in the Canadian market, but I have better connections back home.” I could import products from home, and maybe even do it better. I saw this as a big opportunity, something that could really work! When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, of course, my plans had to be adjusted.
For now, while I’m trying to survive the pandemic and make a living, I’m taking this opportunity to learn more about how Canadians do business: to see how the Canadian industry, Canadian workforce and Canadian markets work. It’s all part of my journey and my goal.
I work in retail food service at the moment, and every day I’m learning something new that I can use in my business. I’m learning what consumers are looking for, how they consume and frankly, what they really want. I have also learned that different from some countries, in Canada, we respect everyone’s rights and opinions.
Embrace the differences and accept your new country
I have changed a lot. Instead of complaining about the networks and things that I had back home, I’ve learned to accept the challenges that come with being a newcomer in Canada. My goal is to stay here, to be stable here, to have a house and a family here. Eventually, I would like to become a Canadian citizen.
I’m on the right path. I try to be more positive and to try new things. Although I may not say I’m successful until I have achieved my goals, as long as I’m on this path, opportunities present themselves.
My advice is that If there is an obstacle in the way of your career goals, just try to be positive enough to get over that obstacle.