Irkan has been studying with English Online since July this year. She is Somali-born but was living in Kenya before moving to Canada. Irkan used to work as an article writer for a local radio station in Somalia (where she had also published two books) but left due to the instability and unrest. She fled to Nairobi in 2013 where she earned her diploma in Development Studies. After graduating, Irkan realized that the life that she was living in Kenya was not the one she wanted. However, she was not looking forward to going back to Somalia since the climate had not changed. Instead, she set her sights for Canada where her half-sister was living.
“We reached our home from the airport at 10 pm and still the sun was shining. I was surprised that people were calling it evening!”
First impressions of Canada
It was a dream come true for Irkan when she arrived in Winnipeg last May 2018. She was so thankful that she wrote: “I arrived at the Winnipeg airport at around 9:00 pm where my sister Nimo, my brother Mahad and refugee coordinator Gail were waiting for me. That evening was the greatest evening of my life!” Like any newcomer, she was eager to look around in her new home. She noted everything she saw on the trip on the way to their house. What actually surprised her were not the streets, buildings, or even the weather. “We reached our home from the airport at 10 pm and still the sun was shining. I was surprised that people were calling it evening!” Irkan said.
Help from settlement agencies
Irkan hit the ground running. A few days later, she signed up with Manitoba Start and attended programs and workshops with Entry Program. She also took the language benchmark test at WELARC (she scored CLB 6/5/6/5) and learned about the various orientation and language training programs she could avail for free. Ikran started applying for jobs and thought that it would only take her one to two months to start working. But when she started applying, she realized that jobs here are highly specialized. “For instance, if you worked in an IT role, there is no such thing as a general IT person here. It should be specific, such as computer programmer, network manager or software developer. There is no generalization in the workplace, you should have specific experience in a specific role.” This led to several unsuccessful applications. But despite this experience, Irkan appreciates that there are a lot of organizations that help newcomers figure out this process. “There’s Manitoba Start and there’s WELARC. They gave me a career coach and they sent me to EESE (Enhanced English Skills for Employment) for some free courses. And now I’m learning with Live and Learn. It’s amazing, I can see people are helping immigrants. It’s a wonderful thing” Irkan said.
“I’m always with Live and Learn. Sometimes I’m in the sessions and sometimes I’m just reading the articles. I’m always here, morning, lunch time, dinner,” she said. “I really like e-learning.”
Learning English and planning for a career in human rights
“A relative told me that I should just look for work. Never mind those programs, because it’s a waste of time,” Irkan shared. “But I think that life is more than getting a job. It’s also about the experience, it’s about getting an education. And you can get that here in Manitoba,” she added. So aside from learning with EESE, she signed up with an EAL e-tutor at Live and Learn to supplement her learning. She liked that her e-tutor Pamela asked her about her learning needs and priorities. “I had the four skills but she focused on my pronunciation and I really appreciate that. My pronunciation was so poor before and now I can confidently talk and talk,” Irkan said. After she was done with her 10 sessions with Pamela, she started joining the Coffee Chats with Amrita and Blaine. “I’m always with Live and Learn. Sometimes I’m in the sessions and sometimes I’m just reading the articles. I’m always here, morning, lunch time, dinner,” she said. “I really like e-learning. With Live and Learn, I also increase my vocabulary, I like that,” she said.
For now, Irkan is taking it easy and focusing on improving her English. She plans on applying for jobs again, but even then, she plans to work only part-time so that she has time to take up a course. She is interested in child development and developing a career in human rights. “I want to think about things that will benefit people. We are in a country that is respectful and welcoming to immigrants so we should give back and support it,” she said.
Tips for newcomers:
- I recommend that newcomers use settlement supports like Manitoba Start and WELARC. I learned good information from these agencies. Don’t just sit at home, waiting for a job, or asking relatives to give you a job.
- The weather is unimaginable! It’s truly a wonder. They will see and experience a lot of things. But they will love living in Manitoba.
- Some people stop learning when they get a job. They should make an effort to learn. Continue to learn the language and learn new things. We should also be innovative and helpful. This is how you will succeed in Canada.