#ImmigrationMatters: Telling the stories of CLIP community partners
CLIP works with you to create welcoming communities for newcomers in Calgary. We believe in a city that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusive communities for all. We know that immigrants contribute to the local and global economy through their experience and connections. We also know that when immigrants feel settled, they are more able to take part in the social, economic, cultural, and political life of the city. When immigrants succeed, we all do well.
CLIP has an amazing collective of people who make up the CLIP Council, Immigrant Advisory Table and Working Groups, many of them were immigrants to Canada themselves. CLIP is a great example of newcomers engaging in the community. As we promote the #ImmigrationMatters campaign, we thought we’d share some of their stories and advice with you. In their own words, these are our newcomer stories!
Tihana Radojcic – CLIP Immigrant Advisory Table
Rohit Shankar – CLIP Immigrant Advisory Table
Rachel Gnaléga – CLIP Council, Francophone Sector
David Tam – CLIP Immigrant Advisory Table
Arevik Tokmajyan – CLIP Community Liaison
Sonia Sehgal – CLIP Immigrant Advisory Table
Lindy Ann Ephraim – CLIP Immigrant Advisory Table
Dakshima Haputhanthri – CLIP Immigrant Advisory Table
Kachi Nwoke – CLIP Immigrant Advisory Table
I wanted to live in “America” ever since I first watched the TV show “Northern Exposure” with my mom. I was only 4 at the time and perceived “America” as a vast land with lots of snow and strange animals. As I grew older and eventually enrolled in Sociology, I studied societies in “America” and in Europe. The economic situation in Croatia was tough and young educated people like myself couldn’t find a job. Things turned around when the country made an agreement with Canada to pilot a Working Holiday visa program. It was 2012 and I was determined to leave and begin my own Northern Exposure. Among other major Canadian cities, Calgary won because of its affordable living, sunshine and the mountains. In 2014 I officially began my immigration journey.
My work permit was only for a year but I knew I was not going back to Croatia. I had no time to settle slowly, I had to look for an employer willing to invest time and advocate for me through complex and financially painful LMIA process. Other challenges were obtaining transcripts from my university, finding roommates and making connections.
I did my research before moving to Calgary and learned that the province was in high need of early childhood educators. I was overqualified for this occupation but I also knew that this would be my safest settlement strategy. My mind was in survival mode for 12 months and the new visa arrived just a week before the old one would expire. What helped was positive thinking and my vision board with clear immigration goals.
I was a temporary worker twice and then a Permanent Resident through Express Entry and now I am a Canadian Citizen.
My advice to those new to Calgary? Calgary is an innovation hub in the making and needs immigrants to shake up the status quo.
We decided to take the plunge to come to Canada, with the hope that with hard work, high quality education and experience on our side, we would be able to start fresh in this beautiful country. I have a degree in Engineering from the top ranked college in India and have worked in senior positions in Oil and Gas all over the world for over 11 years. One of the biggest issues I faced over the years was while my career was moving forward, the same could not be said about my wife. She is a medical practitioner – which being a licensed profession meant that if she chose to move with me, her career would go into suspension – till the time she studied and passed exams to get her license and by then, the volatile O&G market demanded that my expertise and services be required elsewhere. This led us to consider a move to Canada and then to Calgary, where we felt both our careers could thrive while we see our lovely three-year-old daughter grow up together.
We have lived all of our married life in a multi-national, multi-cultural society. We are very also comfortable in English. Our oilfield life was very similar to the life that we currently see in Calgary, so assimilation should not have been a problem. Unfortunately, there were challenges right from the simple ability to be able to rent a house. We had no job, no credit history and no references. We were lucky after a month of searching to find an owner who was ready to trust us to rent out his basement to us. Secondly, when I went searching for a job, I hit the proverbial wall of “Canadian Experience” which belittled my international experience and education. I find this surprising as the same is not true when people seek jobs in other countries. As I have continued to search for a job in my field, I am using my time to improve my credentials with certifications such as PMP and CET. In the 3 months since I immigrated, I passed all the exams and obtained my PMP.
Immigrant serving organizations have been very helpful in guiding me to make my resume fit with the Canadian corporate environment and in providing networking opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I am currently on shortlists for positions, but am still waiting for that interview.
I do not plan to give up. I have used my time here effectively. I was able to look after my daughter while my wife studied for the barrage of exams to get her medical license. I have met some really good people, which in-turn gives me the hope that the tide will turn in our favour to be able to move our life forward.
I came to Canada to follow my husband. He was living in Canada and I was living in the Ivory Coast (in West Africa), my birth country, when we got married. We were separated the first few years of our marriage. I was no more than 20 and it was hard for me to leave my family, my friends, my good job, well, my everything to restart my life in a new country. It was a very difficult choice but I chose my husband and followed him.
First, I came as an international student. I came with a student visa to do a Master’s Degree in Public Health at the University of Montreal. I had studied in Paris (France) where I became a doctor in dental surgery. I didn’t face many challenges as a student. I was used to studying hard so I found the Public Health studies easy and I did my Master’s Degree in 2 years without difficulties. It was very expensive to study as an international student but the main challenge I faced was the cold weather when I was studying because Montreal is much colder than Paris. The other challenge I have never been able to overcome is the recognition of my doctorate in dental surgery acquired in Paris. I had 15 years’ experience working as a dental surgeon in a hospital in the Ivory Coast and I have never been able to work as a dental surgeon in Canada. I tried the exam when I was living in Hamilton, Ontario but it was too expensive and the competition was too difficult. I decided to use only my Master’s Degree in Public Health to work in Canada because it is a Canadian diploma.
I am now a Canadian citizen with a good job who is well connected in the francophone and also the Anglophone community. I have a lot of friends and I enjoy living in Canada. I am now working with the francophone community as a project officer for the Francophone Immigration network of Alberta because my first language is French and I like my job.
My advice to those new to Calgary? I would ask them to go through a training when they come in order to have a Canadian diploma even if they have already qualifications from another country because it is hard to find a suitable job without a Canadian diploma.
Thirty years ago, one of my relatives brought me an immigrant application to Canada and told me to give it a try. I submitted the application and, through some luck, was approved within 9 months. I knew nothing about Canada at that time nor how to start my settlement journey. I decided to take a trip to explore all of Canada, and visited Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto. I decided to settle in Calgary because I was able to connect to a job offer here and I liked the city. In Calgary, people were friendly, it was easy to get around, and, surprising my family and friends back home, I enjoyed the cold and dry weather more than the heat and humidity in my home country.
My first challenge was finding a place to stay. I had no friends or relatives in Calgary. I came with my wife and a 6-month old baby. I rented a car at the airport, arranged a temporary place to stay for 6 days and began my apartment search. I didn’t know at that time there was something called a “credit check” required before you could rent an apartment. This was a major road block to finding a place to stay. Eventually, I had to use all of the cash I had to pay for 3 months rent before finally finding an apartment to settle down.
Determination helped me to overcome those initial challenges. I knew that this was the place for my family and I to stay. I took many part-time jobs to make ends meet. I networked with everyone I met to find information about getting jobs and other support. I called government agencies to ask for information. There was no internet at that time. Most of the time I got information by calling people and agencies I looked up in the phone book.
I am very glad I put in the hard work 30 years ago so that I could call Calgary my hometown. I have lived here ever since.
My advice to those new to Calgary? Don’t give up. The immigrant’s journey is tough but the challenges that we overcome leave us stronger, smarter and more resilient.
I immigrated to Canada from Armenia when I was 10 years old. This decision was made by my parents who wished to provide a better future for my siblings and I. Although I had the advantage of learning quickly since I was young, there were many challenges that I faced when I first arrived such as leaving behind my extended family and friends, learning the language and adapting to Canadian culture in order to succeed in school, communicate with my peers and build new relationships. Having a sister very close in age helped in overcoming these challenges since we would share our experiences and learn from one another. Moreover, my parents were very encouraging and always emphasized the importance of making the most out of our immigration. Currently I consider myself fully settled since I am a Canadian Citizen, I hold a bachelor’s degree from the University of Calgary, I am working towards my master’s degree and I am employed full-time. The biggest advice I would share with a newcomer to Calgary is to take advantage of the services available to them in helping them reach their goals.
Originally from India, I moved to Canada 13 years ago with my husband and 2 daughters. We landed in Toronto and stayed with a family friend for a couple of weeks. As skilled immigrants we were well prepared and had gathered a lot of information about settlement in Canada. However, no amount of planning helped us prepare for the adversities and challenges life threw at us, weather being one of them. Coming from +40 to -40 was something that threw us off. However, watching the snow fall was one of the most exhilarating moments of our life, and we stayed up all night as a family to experience what we now dread, living in Calgary.
One of the challenges, though, was gaining meaningful employment in my field of work. The steps were too many and the process to getting credentials assessed was way too long. So, staying positive we went on to explore any other opportunities that came our way. Our roles at home changed and while I went to work and gained Canadian experience, my husband took care of the household along with working towards his certification exams. Fortunately, while studying for his exams he got an opportunity that matched his skills and experience and we moved to Calgary where life took a steep turn towards our settlement. With my husband being employed, I started working on my upgrading. As luck had it, just as I was about to graduate from college, I was offered a job that helped me transfer my skills and experience. As I embarked upon a career change, I quickly understood and learnt the norms of working in a Canadian culture along with working on my soft skills. At present, I work in the settlement sector where I help and support other newcomers towards their integration into Canada.
The advice that I would like to give to my fellow newcomers is to stay positive and work towards their goals. It is extremely important to learn from each experience you encounter. Relocating to where the jobs are isn’t all that difficult in the earlier stages of settlement. For me continuous learning, adapting to the new culture while maintaining my own, and staying optimistic helped me succeed in building a new life in Calgary.
Lindy Ann Ephraim
I am originally from a tropical country, so when people ask why I chose to live in Canada I normally laugh because it does sound bizarre. “Why would I leave warmth to live in an icebox?” Truthfully, I knew my future was better in Canada so, when the opportunity came to attend the University of Calgary I took it without truly knowing what I was exactly jumping right into. Thus, in 2009 I began my journey towards getting my undergraduate degree.
While language was never a barrier for me as English is my first language, being from a tropical country made winters extremely difficult. I never knew at that time what real cold felt like so knowing how to dress appropriately for such extreme weather conditions was a huge learning curve.
Another challenge that I experienced was adapting to the food and culture. Additionally, while I wanted my independence I missed my family deeply. At first I felt isolated and overwhelmed but over time I evolved. I made new friends who like myself lived far from home and we were able to relate to each other. I also made friends or met first generation Canadians who helped me balance between two different cultures which made the culture shock more bearable.
After ten years living in Canada, I am now a permanent resident and my advice to anyone who is new to Canada would be to be patient with yourself as nothing good comes easy. While it is easy to get swept away by a new environment, do not forget who you are. Canada thrives on diversity, and you are now part of that diverse network. There are many different communities or places in Calgary that will make you feel like home. Do not isolate yourself from others. Accept kindness when it comes. Be open and willing to get out there, but also do your best to remain true to yourself.
Coming to Canada, was actually a random decision, Calgary was where I thought it would be safe, as I belong to the LGBTQ community. Although I never was “outed” in my country, I lived in fear of persecution and scared of public opinion.
Canada felt like my home country, as I was with my community of people but slowly I moved myself in to the broader community, making friends and being open about who I am without feeling guilty or ashamed. Optimism, love, understanding and never giving up helped me overcome initial challenges.
I’ve moved into a new field from my career in law at home. I just finished my degree in Social Work and I’m eager to start working and sharing my experiences.
My advice to newcomers to Calgary is, it’s never easy but it’s not impossible. There will always be nice, helpful people that will help you in your settling down process in Canada.
I chose to move to Canada to go to university. I chose to move to Calgary specifically because I had an aunty that lived in Calgary.
The biggest challenge in moving to Calgary was adjusting to the extreme weather, especially as city transit was not regular in the neighbourhood that I lived in.
Family members such my Aunty that was living in Calgary at the time helped me to settle in the city. Also, my parents that were supporting me through school and the amazing people in my church.
I have been in Canada for about 12 years now, I moved to Calgary in August 2007. I became a Canadian city in 2012. Right now I work a Senior Youth Counsellor in the Mentorship Program at the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth. As part of this role I help newcomer immigrant youths in junior and high school in their integration settlement journey in the city of Calgary.
My advice for newcomers would be to volunteer, network and reach out to the settlement and integration agencies in the city that support newcomer immigrants in their settlement journey. As well, be resilient and remain positive and keep going even when the light at the end of the tunnel especially as it pertains to your career might seem dim or non-existent.