My name is Oscar Cecena; I’m from Mexico, and I moved to Toronto in 2013 as an international student. I currently work in the software industry, managing customer onboarding and customer experience for Horizn Inc. Back in Mexico, I was an experienced professional with over fifteen years of experience in the software industry. I had also started a small software company, which unfortunately, didn’t do very well and I had to start over from scratch. I chose not to let that minor setback discourage me and started planning for a fresh start.

This is my story.

Canada’s natural beauty is what attracted me to the country; a short trip to eastern Canada in 2008 had my wife and myself convinced that this was the place we should move to. At the time the Permanent Residency (PR) process for Canada took over two years and we didn’t want to wait. The political environment in Mexico was a major factor that pushed us to emigrate at the earliest and hence I chose to apply for a student permit, which would eventually let me apply for PR. The ‘international student route’ got us to Canada in just a few months!

After I arrived in Canada, I was very conscious of my (limited) English language skills. But once I started my course, I realized that a majority of my classmates were also non-native English speakers and immigrants (just like me) and that put me at ease! In the process of getting to know my peers, I met some interesting people and forged friendships. My wife started volunteering for an organization and that’s where she met people. This is how both of us took our first steps in building our social and professional networks in Canada.

As part of my course, I was required to complete a co-op. At the end of the co-op term, the company I was working with decided to hire me full-time. I studied Human Resources and worked for a few months in the same field. Unfortunately, I was let go two days before Christmas. At that point I had six months to find another job which would enable me to renew my work permit and continue staying in Canada. It was a very stressful situation to be in but I remained optimistic! After almost three months of intense job hunting, I interviewed with the organization where I currently work and managed to secure the job.

Here’s some advice that I’d like to share with other newcomers:

Meet like-minded people 
Look beyond the common factors of language and home country when building your social group. You don’t have to be very selective but look for common interests and think if you’d befriend them in your home country.

Budget for long-term accommodation and unexpected expenses 
Have sufficient funds to cover the first few months of rent. In my case, the lack of credit history required us to pay four to five months of rent in advance, which was an unexpected expense for us. Providing a bank letter stating you have enough funds or showing a job offer letter are some of the ways you can try convincing a landlord of your ability to pay the rent on time. Realtors may also be helpful in securing a place.

With all the ups and downs I’ve had prior to moving to Canada and even after arriving, I’d like to say, be open to change and have a positive mindset. It’s easy to give up and stay in your comfort zone. When you feel disappointed or discouraged, think about the core reasons why you decided to move to Canada and let that serve as the key motivator for you to keep going!