My name is Hannah Kummer and I moved to Toronto in December, 2017 with my husband. We’re from Brazil, and back home we were both lawyers. With almost no knowledge of English or French, immigrating to Canada via the Permanent Residency (PR) route seemed like a distant dream – even though we had the financial backing. We, therefore, decided to explore the ‘student path’ to settling in Canada. While both of us came to Canada on student visas, we eventually decided that it would be best for my husband to complete his studies first and I would go back to school at a later point. So, as a dependent spouse, I received a work permit.
With our move, we left behind not only our families and friends, but also gave up our established careers and took a giant leap of faith to chase the Canadian dream!
This is my story.
My husband and I came to Canada in search of better opportunities and a better quality of life. However, my initial days in Canada were very difficult.
We struggled to find long-term accommodation. Arriving in Toronto during winter didn’t help either as there aren’t as many units available for rent. We searched online on sites such as viewit.ca, padmapper, kijiji, craigslist, 4rent, etc., and also walked around the neighbourhood looking for potential apartments for rent. Since we were students and didn’t have employment letters, credit reports, or referrals, it was very challenging to find accommodation. It took us a month until we were finally able to secure a place by showing the landlord our savings.
As I was looking for employment, one of my primary goals was to improve my English. I took classes, listened to podcasts, read newspapers, and changed the default language on all my electronics to English, which helped improve my communication skills.
My first job was that of a sales associate at a retail store. I got the job by walking into a mall and speaking to the store manager. At the time, I wasn’t aware of how things worked in the Canadian job market: how important it is to network and build your connections, how to craft a resume that works for your skills, how to answer interview questions, and what the process was to look for jobs. To make the situation even more challenging, I wasn’t a native English speaker.
It took me a while to understand these aspects and find an opportunity, because even though I was applying for entry-level positions, I made the mistake of listing my law experience from Brazil. As a result, hiring managers thought of me as over-qualified for the role and rejected my application.
After working as a sales associate for eight months, I took up a job as an administrative assistant at a furniture manufacturing company. I found this opportunity after about five months of applying online for various roles and editing my resume to align with the position I was applying for.
A couple of tips that I’d like to give other newcomers are:
- While apartment/condo hunting, be wary of scams; inspect the place in person and don’t make any payments after merely looking at pictures.
- To better your English speaking skills, include it in your everyday life.
- Customize your resume to every position that you apply to.
Living in Canada for close to two years has taught me to be open-minded and accepting of different cultures. I love how Toronto is such a multicultural city that offers a variety of experiences. As I start my journey of becoming a Permanent Resident (PR) in Canada, I look forward to going back to school, successfully switching careers, and making Canada ‘home.’