My name is Quentin Verlé and I’m from Belgium. I moved to Canada in May, 2012 in search of new career opportunities.
I was always passionate about art and music. I pursued graphic design even before I could enter college and followed it up with a master’s degree at the School of Graphic Research in Belgium. Soon after, I completed another course in Adobe Creative Suite and worked on design software perfecting my skills. Prior to moving to Canada, I also did a couple of internships in the advertising space. While I embraced art as more of a career choice, music turned into a hobby.
A friend from Belgium who I worked with on musical projects moved to Canada about six months before I did. His description of Canada inspired and motivated me to make the move too!
This is my story.
At the time I didn’t know if I wanted to move to Canada permanently, so I applied for a working holiday visa which is a visa under the International Experience Canada (IEC) category. In addition to exploring career prospects, as a native French speaker, I looked at my move to Canada as a good opportunity to learn English.
I started off by trying to find a junior position in graphic design and integrate myself into an English-speaking environment. Going on interviews was the hardest part. I had the knowledge but wasn’t able to communicate in English so I would memorize the answers to commonly asked questions—not something I would advise on doing! My job search led me to an opportunity at a print shop; it worked out well because they liked my work and I didn’t need to speak English on the job. My hiring manager was also an immigrant and hence, was very accommodating of my situation. He motivated me to listen-and-learn. After about a year of working, interacting with locals, and investing time in studying the language I managed to get a good grasp of English!
The experience I gathered with my first job in Canada opened doors to many other opportunities in my field. Currently, I work as a Lead Product Designer with RBC Ventures.
For newcomers looking to better their language skills, my advice is:
- Network with people from varied cultures; don’t restrict yourself to interactions with those from your home country. Try to meet more people who speak English and include them in your social circles.
- Do more activities that involve English, such as watching sitcoms and/or movies or attending meetups where the main language of communication is English.
My journey to Canada and the process of settling in taught me to be more humble and tolerant, and I truly appreciate that! For me, the shift from Belgium to Canada was easier because there are a lot of similarities in both cultures.
However, for many newcomers, the settlement process can be quite challenging. Gaining fluency in the English language is a key first step that you can take to better adapt and integrate yourself into the Canadian society!