Newcomer Stories

Newcomer story: Niyba Alizadeh

Niyba initially hesitated when I asked for an interview. With six kids to take care of, the stay-at-home mom did not really have time to spare for a chat. But despite her busy schedule, she was willing to share her experiences, especially knowing that it will benefit newcomers. So she agreed to be interviewed, but it had to be between 4:00 and a little bit past 5:00 pm. Her older kids return from school around this time and she would need to attend to them.

This tight schedule is what makes it hard for Niyba to go out and take formal English classes. Back in 2012 and 2014, she had enrolled in face to face English classes but had to quit both times because of pregnancy. So when she applied for Citizenship early this year, she was denied because she lacked the LINC/CLIC certificate that was required. The LINC/CLIC certificate must attest to a Canadian Language Benchmark 4 or higher. She consulted WELARC about her situation and they recommended English Online. Niyba is currently waitlisted for the LINC program but in the meantime, she attends English Online’s Coffee Chats so she can start honing her English language skills.

Her story: Love in the time of war

Fleeing war-torn Afghanistan was one of the most difficult things Niyba had to go through. First, she had to flee to Iran to avoid the Taliban attacks. This was actually a short-lived move since conflict in Iran was also escalating. However, while in Iran, Niyba met the man who would be her husband. They got married and decided to go back to Afghanistan hoping things have gotten better there. ”I decided to go back to my country hoping that the war would be over. But it was still not safe,” Niyba said. After the young couple had a child, they realized that it was now urgent to find a more stable place where their child can have a better future. So in 2007, the family fled to Pakistan.

While in Pakistan, the couple has two more kids. Meanwhile, Niyba’s mother, sisters and brother who have recently immigrated to Manitoba were now ready to sponsor her to come. It took a few years but on November 15, 2011, Niyba and her young family arrived in Winnipeg.

It’s never too late to achieve your dreams

Moving to Manitoba, Niyba and her family found the stability they desired. “I did not have a hard time adjusting to this country because of the support of my family,” she said. Upon arriving, Niyba and her family were welcomed with a place to live and assistance for all their immediate needs. “My brother did not go to work for a week just to show us how to get our SIN, go to the bank, and teach us other things,” she said.

The family settled into a comfortable life, with Niyba taking care of her growing family. She was able to take a few settlement and English courses early on, but when she had more kids it became evident that taking care of them had to be the priority. This is why Niyba found learning with English Online as a godsend. “I like studying with English Online because I don’t have to leave the house. I can go to a room while my older children watch the younger ones. I join Coffee Chats in the evenings when all my work around the house is done,” Niyba said. Aside from practicing her English skills, she is also happy that she is learning things about Manitoba to update her knowledge.

“I met people who set goals for the future. They planned their learning to achieve something. I think I can do it too.”

But more than these, the Coffee Chats have inspired her to have goals. Niyba was just a student when she left Afghanistan. And because of the constant move to various countries and the subsequent responsibilities of motherhood, she never got to finish her studies and pursue her dreams. “Before, I wanted to be a teacher, or maybe become a nurse. When I think about it now, I say it’s impossible because I’m too old to start and because of the kids,” she said. This view changed when she began to attend Coffee Chats. “I met people who set goals for the future. They planned their learning to achieve something. I think I can do it too,” Niyba said. She now resolves to take classes to earn an accounting or a nursing degree once her babies get a little bit older.

So today, Niyba is now learning to set goals and working to achieve them one step at a time. Her immediate target is to acquire her LINC certification, and then to earn her citizenship. But it will not stop there. There is enthusiasm in her voice when she said “when my kids get a little bit older, I plan to go back to school. Education is the key to success”.

Newcomer Story: Echo Duan

lady smiling“I’m the type of person who thinks of the worst possible scenario. What if I don’t get a job in three months? What if our money runs out? I worry about these things and plan for them. In my mind, I should be prepared for whatever happens. And when they do happen, we will be ready” Echo said.

What actually happened was the opposite. Echo hit the ground running upon arriving in Winnipeg in April last year. She immediately started volunteering. In fact, she held two volunteer jobs: one at an agency that provides English conversation practice and another at a family support centre as an office assistant. Her first paid job followed shortly. She was hired as an employment services advisor at an employment service agency. Currently, Echo works for Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA) as a Job Search Strategies Facilitator where her HR experience, particularly her knowledge about employers’ perspective, makes her a valuable ally for new Manitobans working to get their careers on track.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

A holder of a Bachelor of Laws degree from Jiangsu University, Echo found that she was more interested in developing people than practising law. Her first job as a corporate executive secretary led to an opportunity for a Human Resources post which allowed her to discover her passion for unleashing others’ potentials to reach their business and personal goals. Before she left, she was a Talent and Development Manager for Wrigley Confectionery in China where she was successful in building a talent pipeline and delivering leadership learning solutions for the organization.

Despite her flourishing career, Echo and her husband decided to emigrate. The young couple loved to travel and learn about different cultures. Immigrating under the Federal Skilled Worker category, they could have chosen to live anywhere in the country. But after studying and comparing several places, they thought that Winnipeg was the perfect place for them. After living in big, bustling cities in China, the couple saw Winnipeg’s small town feel as a welcome change for them.

“I was so inspired by the other learners I met during the chats. I could see their progress every time I meet them online. From knowing very little English, they improved with every session. It was very encouraging”

Aside from researching about Canadian cities, Echo started preparing for their journey to Winnipeg six months before their move. She began researching about the climate, cost of living, and the job market. She also attended Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) information sessions. During one of her online researches, she discovered English Online’s (EO) Live and Learn program and decided to register. She started joining Coffee Chats and drop-in workshops where she said she learned settlement information such as buying a home and about the public transportation system. Echo appreciated that during the Coffee Chats, she was able to connect with other Manitobans even before leaving her home country. “I was so inspired by the other learners I met during the chats. I could see their progress every time I meet them online. From knowing very little English, they improved with every session. It was very encouraging,” Echo said.

While studying with EO, Echo also took SOPA courses. These courses provided pre-employment guidance – from job search strategies to Canadian workplace integration. This is where she gained an understanding of the Canadian job market, learned about the “hidden market”, familiarized herself with Canadian workplace culture, and started to get her Canadian-style resume ready. Echo also started to build connections with the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba and started looking for work even before she left with the help of SOPA. Little did she know that soon enough, she will be working for the program when she arrives in Winnipeg. She is actually the first SOPA graduate in Manitoba to work for the program. Now, it’s her turn to share all that she had learned with pre-arrivals to Manitoba.

Stay positive, persevere

Echo’s preparation entailed a lot of hard work, but evidently it paid off. Aside from having a job she enjoys, Echo and her husband are loving their life in Winnipeg. “It is everything we expected. We love the diversity and we’re enjoying Winnipeg’s multiculturalism. You see what’s written on those plate numbers? ‘Friendly Manitoba?’ I’m finding that to be true,” Echo said.

Aside from good preparation, Echo advises newcomers to:

  • Improve their language skills – this is one of the major areas for improvement especially if you come from a non-English speaking country. Having the right communication tools is the key to a successful career and integration.
  • Always stay positive – build enough emotional support for yourself. You will need it.
  • Persevere – when applying for jobs, keep trying. According to Echo, it is normal for 10 high quality resumes to yield one interview. But keep at it and your perseverance will pay off.
  • Be patient – if you have enough resources and you can afford wait, don’t settle for a job you don’t want. Be patient and continue applying for jobs that will utilize your knowledge, skills and interests.
  • Network – it is the best way to find and get a job in Manitoba.

Nine months and counting

Asked about her future plans, Echo said that she just wants to enjoy her current role and better help her clients in their job transition in Winnipeg. She is also at the final stage of achieving her Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation, another title to be added to her name (Echo is also a member of the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba). She has achieved all of these and she hasn’t even reached her first year in Winnipeg yet. We can only expect greater things to come from this lady who is not only a planner but a go-getter.

Want to know more about SOPA? You can contact Echo Duan at 1-204-944-0133 ext. 229 or go to their website: Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA).

Newcomer story: Sana Naveed Ahmed

Natalia and Margarita with SanaIt was an excruciating experience for Sana. In her halting English, she recounts her appointment with an obstetrician in Toronto. The first time mom remembers that when the meeting started, she found that she couldn’t quite express herself fully in English. Her husband had to step in and speak for her. Sana realized that English was so different in Canada! The accent and the speed at which people spoke confused her. It was frustrating for her to just listen and nod when she knew it was an experience for her to tell. But because of this incident, she vowed that she will do her best to hone her English skills.

Toronto, Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie

Sana‘s husband owned a gas station in Toronto. They got married in Karachi, Pakistan in 2011 then she applied to immigrate to Canada the following year. In 2013, while waiting for application results, she applied for a visit visa and was granted one. She remembers arriving in Toronto at the height of winter in January. “I was so excited to see snow and experience my first winter, but I didn’t expect it to be so cold!” Sana said.

Shortly after, she became pregnant with their first child. Sana recalls that it was not an easy time for her. Aside from being dependent on her husband since she couldn’t speak English very well, she was on visitor visa and was not eligible for health care coverage. She said that her husband had to spend so much for her check-ups and her delivery (via Caesarian Section). After giving birth, the couple decided that it would be best if they lived with their close relatives in Manitoba. They sold the gas station, packed their bags and moved to Winnipeg in 2015.

While in Winnipeg, Sana wanted to get back on track with her English lessons so she took classes at MITT. She also attended free English as a Second Language (EAL) sessions in church. When her husband got a job in Portage la Prairie, they moved again. It is a great blessing for them that the Portage la Prairie Learning and Literacy Centre (PLLC) is just five minutes away from their new home. She finally became a Permanent Resident in February 2016 opening up more options for free newcomer services.

Despite having moved so often, Sana does not regret coming to Manitoba. “I see that it’s more multicultural here. I don’t hesitate wearing my Salwar Kameez, our traditional dress, because I see many women wearing it. There are also more mosques where we can gather together. I’m more comfortable here,” Sana said.

Learning English as a priority

Talking to Sana, you could hear how determined she is to learn English. For her, learning the language means being self-sufficient and productive. It is also the key for her to practice her profession in Manitoba. “I have submitted all the requirements to be registered and licensed in Physiotherapy. They have accepted my credentials (she has an MA in Physiotherapy). I need to take the IELTS and achieve an overall band score of 7 or better. Then I can write for an exam leading to licensure,” Sana said.

To prepare for IELTS, Sana continues to study twice a week at PLLC. To supplement her English classes, her instructors at PLLC told her about English Online (EO). “I have taken online workshops, virtual coffee chats and the Summer Course. Learning with EO is very convenient! No need for child care, no need to travel, and the lessons are useful. I don’t only learn English, I learn about Manitoba and Canada as well. I joke with my relatives back home that I now know more about Canada than my home country,” Sana said. She continues to study intensively for her IELTS test which she will take in December of this year.

Tips for newcomers

“Definitely learn English before coming to Canada! That should be a priority,” Sana said. She regrets not knowing about newcomer supports like English Online before coming here. Aside from learning English, Sana underlines the importance of having a good support system. “I am lucky that my husband helps me. He is my support. He takes care of our young children (she gave birth to their second child in June) when I want to concentrate on studying” she said.

Aside from these, she also shares the following tips with her fellow newcomers:

  • Learn how to drive and get a licence. You will need your own car, especially if you have young children.
  • Know about free settlement supports and English language lessons before you come to Canada. This will help you immensely in your preparations for settlement.
  • And finally, never give-up! Don’t lose hope. Be patient and always persevere with learning.

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Newcomer Story: Maksim Antipev

New year, new life

maksim and familyMaksim and his family arrived in Winnipeg on December 31, 2015. Together with his wife Anna Antipeva (who was then seven-months pregnant) and their son Ilia, they ushered in the New Year at the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson. “We asked for some food to celebrate the New Year, and I remember that we had pizza!” Maksim remembers. Their arrival to the city was a culmination of a five-year process which began in Vladivostok, Russia.

Long journey to Manitoba

Maksim began their immigration journey in late 2011 when they decided that moving to Canada would assure better opportunities for his future kids. Immigration consultants from Dalvisa Vladivostok, Russia helped him with the application process and other documents. To prepare for his application, Maksim and Anna began to learn English with their Russian teacher Natalia Viktorovna, and in 2012 went to the Philippines (Adamson University, Manila) to continue studying English. After two months, Maksim took the IELTS test there. He then applied to the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) and the following year (2013), came to Winnipeg on an exploratory visit.

Maksim remembers that his 10-day stay in Winnipeg was stressful because he didn’t know anybody in the city. But in spite of this, he was happy when the MPNP officer gave him an invitation to apply after the interview. It took an additional two years before Maksim and his family could move to Winnipeg. In the first year, the letter of approval somehow got lost and was not delivered to Russia. Maksim had to email MPNP to ask about his status. Still, it was his son and his wife’s new pregnancy which sustained his resolve to move to Canada. With the arrival of their Canadian visas, Maksim could only exclaim, “thank you to the Manitoba Government, for giving my family a chance for a good future!”

Maksim remembers that when they arrived in Winnipeg, it was the kindness of strangers that saw them through their first days. “The landlord of the apartment (Dave) accepted us despite not having references nor a job. We were able to move to our new home after staying five days at the hotel,” Maksim said. Soon after moving to the apartment, they became acquainted with a neighbor, who, together with her church friends, gave them household items, such as cups, plates, and cutlery. This signaled an auspicious beginning for the young family.

Early challenges

“In my first few days, nobody could tell me the equivalent of my profession and education here in Winnipeg,” Maksim laments. It was only when he started his sessions with his English Online e-tutor, Augusta Avram that he was able to create a profile and structured online Canadian resume on LinkedIn. “She helped me understand what kind of education I have in Canadian terms, since she had a similar educational system in her country,” Maksim said. During the session with Augusta, Maksim discovered that he had the qualification and skills that can be used not only for Financial or Business Analyst positions, but also for a specialist in the real estate industry. He also learned about Canadian collocations, the meaning of networking, using online tools like LinkedIn and Twitter, and educational resources (Tutoring online) from his e-tutor.

Maksim was actually paired with Augusta for English language training but learned so much more. Previously, he was taking classes at MITT, but because the school was far from his house, Maksim felt that it was not an efficient use of his time. When someone suggested taking online classes with English Online, he tried it and saw that it fit his needs. Aside from saving time (and parking fees), he appreciated the one-on-one instruction. “I liked that I get to talk directly to my teacher. She helped me improve my English faster,” Maksim said.

Another career hurdle for Maksim was learning how to market himself. When he started applying for jobs, it was hard for him to highlight his achievements because it felt like boasting. A highly principled person, Maksim learned that it is important to show your abilities and achievements, but it is equally as important to keep your integrity and honesty.

Canadian Tire, Sears and Safe Way

During his first few days in Winnipeg, Maksim remembers that he did not know where to buy basic necessities. This was mainly because, he says, the names of establishments are not self-evident. “I was confused about Canadian Tire, Sears, and Safe Way. Also, I have been passing by Safe Way and Dollarama near my house but I never knew that they sold food and useful items”, he said. “If you are not familiar with these Canadian brands, you should learn about them before you arrive.”

This is why he underlines the importance of planning and preparation for immigrants. “Take pre-arrival courses, CIIP for example, if possible, six months to one year before leaving for Canada”, Maksim said. He further advises pre-arrivals to create a personal settlement plan. “Researching and writing what you need to do when you arrive, where to settle, and which government agencies to go to before you arrive will help keep you on track. Whatever you write down in your plan, you accomplish. Plus, you have to create your budget, set your financial goals, and monitor what you spend every two weeks,“ he said.

Among the first things Maksim advises newcomers when they arrive is to get a car and a licence. He says that it can be difficult to obtain a license because of the strict rules and the fact that they are different from other countries’ rules. However, “driving a car helps you to be mobile and flexible, which is why it can be an advantage when you are applying for a job,” he said. Also, finding a church, according to him, helps in maintaining a positive outlook. “Back in Russia, I did not go to church regularly. But in Winnipeg, I find that it keeps me anchored in my faith and it reduces stress,” he said.

“One more thing is the government’s great opportunities for our children like child care (with chance to have child subsidy), free school education, Air Cadets, church camps, savings plans for high education, and others. They also extend a lot of support to newcomers while they are establishing themselves, like free English training, employment training, rent assist, career development aid from the Manitoba government, the Winnipeg Harvest food bank, and others. I encourage newcomers to apply for them. I especially appreciate the free health services – my daughter was born at St. Boniface hospital – one of the best hospitals in Canada. I have a lot of respect for the government.”

Appreciating Manitoba

Nowadays, Maksim’s positivity is starting to bear fruit. The day before I spoke to him, he was hired as a Portfolio Administrator at S.A.M. Management. He relates that during the interview, the employer gave greater focus on learning about his character and principles. Something that was perfect for Maksim, who early on felt awkward about marketing himself to employers. He expressed that he is anxious to learn the ropes of his new job, his enthusiasm showing through. Things are looking up for the hardworking young dad.

When asked if he would recommend immigrating to Manitoba to his friends, Maksim was thoughtful about his answer. “It can be hard to find a job in Manitoba because you have to get used to things like making a specific resume format, networking, self-marketing, and online application (which can be slow). But if you feel that you are up to the challenge, then this province is for you. I would say that among the best things about Manitoba is its wonderful environment: the clean streets, animals (squirrels, rabbits), parks in five minutes, open pools, playgrounds for children, good highways, and beautiful lakes. I also like that it has high quality goods and very delicious and soft meat (pork, beef, and chicken). One more thing is the government’s great opportunities for our children like child care (with chance to have child subsidy), free school education, Air Cadets, church camps, savings plans for high education, and others. They also extend a lot of support to newcomers while they are establishing themselves, like free English training, employment training, rent assist, career development aid from the Manitoba government, the Winnipeg Harvest food bank, and others. I encourage newcomers to apply for them. I especially appreciate the free health services – my daughter was born at St. Boniface hospital – one of the best hospitals in Canada. I have a lot of respect for the government,” Maksim said.

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Maksim would like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful people who helped him and his family settle in their new home. According to Maksim, “find new friends, choose right way for the future.”

  • Silvija Ulmanis (UK/Gulf Office Canadian Immigrant Integration Programme)
  • Sasha Chernakov and Anna Shusterman (first acquaintances)
  • Shai and Elena Goren, Olga, Andrey (Manitobans who helped with his car and driving)
  • Darya and Mikhail Koval, Sasha and Ira Loginov (Russian friends who brought us to Slavic Church)
  • Carla and Chris Kleinsasser, John and Margaret (neighbors, Spring’s church)
  • Anna Murray (Neighbourhood Immigrant Settlement Worker Elmwood Community Resource Centre)
  • Victor and Natalia Mogourian, Sasha and Hadya Nezvesciuc (Slavic Church)
  • Corinne Bergenon, Reg, Shanshan (Spring’s church)
  • Jennifer Stadtmiller (WELARC)
  • Yulia Savchuk (Entry Program)
  • Tatiana Nedelko and Erum Imran (English Online)
  • Augusta Avram (English Online e-Tutor)
  • Lianne Tetlock, and Nelia Martins (Manitoba Government)
  • Rany Jeyaratnam, Ha Nguyen, Saima Arshad, Cicely Valel (Success Skills Centre)
  • Liz and Kirk Burcar (New Flyer)
  • Edward Rodzen (Lindex Properties)
  • Sergiy Prymachok (Bison Transport)
  • Eleonora Margolin (Happiness Is… Inc. Child Care Centre)
  • Susan Fehr and Kevin Tousignant (S.A.M. Management Inc.)

Newcomer story: Zainab (Jeny) Ghulam Rasool

Zainab2 “Leaving behind our loved ones was not an easy task. But with the understanding of the seniors in our family, we made the decision to move to Canada,” Zainab said. The Rasool family chose to move to Canada from Pakistan for safety and security. They saw that it is a country where residents benefit from services and are given many opportunities for growth. Most importantly, as parents of three children, Zainab and her husband were looking for a place where they can provide the best education and quality of life for their kids. With the urging of their close friends who have settled in Winnipeg, they made plans to immigrate. In April 2012, Zainab and her six-year-old daughter arrived in Winnipeg.

Today, with her entire family now settled in Manitoba, Zainab is happy to see her kids thriving. Her two older children are currently enrolled at the University of Manitoba, and her youngest child, who is in grade five, is studying at a French immersion school.

“I decided to learn with EO because I am a homemaker and because I was already facing the challenges of weather, culture, and lifestyle. Being online was convenient, easily accessible and flexible. Honestly speaking, at that time, I did not have good computer skills but the EO staff helped me understand the whole system.”

Understanding Manitobans

Zainab recalls that in her first few days in Winnipeg, she had to adjust to the weather, language, and culture. However, she said that “the greatest challenge for me was understanding the accent of Manitobans and how to communicate.”

To help remedy this, she started looking for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Zainab took a CLB test at WELARC and learned about her options. She chose to register with English Online (EO) mainly for convenience. “I decided to learn with EO because I am a homemaker and because I was already facing the challenges of weather, culture, and lifestyle. Studying online was convenient, easily accessible and flexible. Honestly speaking, at that time, I did not have good computer skills but the EO staff helped me understand the whole system,” Zainab said.

Building confidence

At first, Zainab concentrated on improving her English language skills. Eventually, she took courses on improving computer skills, resume and cover letter preparation, and job interview preparation.

“There are so many reasons to like the EO program,” Zainab gushes. “Its system is simple, the facilitators are friendly, and you can interact with people from different origins, nationalities. Through EO, you can sit at home and get valuable knowledge. EO has helped increase my confidence. Now I can communicate in English confidently, without hesitation. EO has also helped me improve my email writing skills and my way of sharing new ideas and information.”

“It will not be justified if I do not praise respected e-facilitators Blaine Roberts, Iwona, Stephanie Stetefeld, and Yulia because of their patience, positive attitude, and friendly way of teaching. Erum Imran and Blaine are working hard to make all of us autonomous learners. I am also in close contact with e-volunteer coordinator, Tatiana who is always there ready to help everyone,” Zainab said.

To date, Zainab has become one of EO’s most loyal learners. She has been with EO for almost four years now and continues to sign up for learning activities. Six months ago, her involvement with the organization reached a new level when she signed up as a settlement e-volunteer. Volunteering with EO affords her the opportunity to share her experience with newcomers and practice what she does best – help others. Zainab was a counsellor for women in her community back when she was in Pakistan.

“Based on my experience, having proper information is the best tool to solve a problem. I advise newcomers to know more about Manitoba – the lifestyle, weather, culture, system, and others. They should not hesitate nor feel shy about asking for information. EO is one of the best sources of settlement information and guidance. I advise newcomers to register with EO and avail of the free service”, Zainab said.

A dream come true

With her communication skills continuing to flourish, Zainab took a big step towards realizing a dream. In January 2015, she enrolled in a Certificate Program in Applied Counselling at the University of Manitoba.

Zainab, who has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, had always wanted to pursue further studies. This was not possible in her home country as advanced studies were not easily accessible to everyone. Last year, while attending a seminar at Manitoba Start, she met a representative from the University of Manitoba who advised her to enroll in the program. Today, she is well on her way to becoming a certified counsellor. “I am hopeful that I will get my certification in 2017. Then I will be a ‘certified counsellor’. That day will mark a great achievement in my life,” Zainab said.

In the meantime, she continues to study and volunteer with EO as she completes her program at the U of M. But as early as now, she has set her sights on ways to give back to the community the best way she can. Zainab is planning to volunteer as a counsellor in various agencies after she acquires her certification. “My future plan is to serve the Manitoban community as a certified counsellor. They are my people,” Zainab said.

Newcomer story: Mervi Nishantha Gunatilaka

Mervi's fam photoLike most newcomers, Mervi Nishantha Gunatilaka and his wife decided to immigrate to Manitoba because they wanted what was best for their children. “We wanted to move mainly to find better education for our children. University education in my home country is very competitive. There are a limited number of places available. I decided to go to a country that will expose them to a better educational environment with better living conditions,” Mervi said.

His concern for his kids’ future pushed him to see their plans through even if it meant leaving his burgeoning career behind. Mervi had just been promoted to Chief Engineer at the Ceylon Electricity Board. This was a culmination of 10 years of hard work. He started as area electrical engineer and worked his way up to project engineer, then finally the chief post. But love for his family won out and with the support of a friend, he applied to the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program and hoped for the best.

“Settling in a new country is a challenging task. We have to undergo many transitions. Mental anguish happens when we do not get culturally expected results. But if we study, understand, and be better prepared for them, we can face challenges easily.”

Licensing and other concerns

While still in Sri Lanka, Mervi wanted to prepare for their new life as early as he could. Once he received his provincial nomination (which allowed him to apply for a permanent resident visa), he started searching for resources to help him. He came to learn about the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) on the internet and participated in an online orientation. “During the CIIP, I learned about the different institutions in Manitoba. I wrote to Red River College asking for more online orientation. Red River College recommended English Online (EO) and suggested that I follow EO activities. That is how I learned about EO,” Mervi recalls.

Mervi says that he has availed of almost all of EO’s services. “English Online connected me with an e-tutor to improve my English. My English tutor was a Canadian-born, retired gentleman. We did 10 one hour online sessions for 10 weeks. That was very helpful.”

Aside from an e-tutor, Mervi also availed of the services of an e-mentor. “Another great help for me was my e-mentor. He helped me learn about the engineering field in Manitoba. I learned that electrical engineering is a regulated occupation and that I would need a license. This helped me prepare even before I came to Manitoba,” Mervi said.

He also participated in other activities like the virtual coffee chats which he says helped him learn about Canadian life, culture, and settlement. Moreover, it connected him with other services he needed. “During one virtual coffee chat, I came to know about the Immigrant Centre. I registered with them and they provided me with valuable online pre-arrival sessions for many weeks,” Mervi said. To this date, Mervi continues to be an English Online learner, attending workshops, courses, and coffee chats in his free time.

Preparation and perseverance

Mervi and his family landed in Winnipeg on March 10, 2016 and have started to build their new life in the city. The greatest challenge facing him right now is finding work as a professional in his field. Rebuilding a 17-year career is not an easy task, and despite being highly skilled and experienced, he would need to achieve a P.Eng (professional engineer) qualification which will allow him to work as an engineer. But with Mervi’s preparation, perseverance, and openness to learning, he is well on his way toward meeting his goals.

“Settling in a new country is a challenging task. We have to undergo many transitions. Mental anguish happens when we do not get culturally expected results. But if we study, understand, and be better prepared for them, we can face challenges easily,” Mervi said.