Newcomer Stories

Newcomer Story: Walter Galvarino

If you ask Walter why he and his family moved to Manitoba he will say that it’s for their children. During their exploratory trip to Winnipeg, he saw that his three kids would thrive in this city with its pleasant and open spaces, parks and good schools. Today, two years after they made the decision to move, Walter is finding that not only are his kids thriving, but himself and his wife as well.

Walter, his wife, kids, their dog and cat arrived in Manitoba in 2016 from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He remembers his initial encounter with the city’s climate. “When came out of the airport door, it felt so cold. It was two degrees then. After our first winter here, I can now say that two degrees is just like summer,” Walter said laughing.

Learning English

Aside from the weather, there were a lot of other things the family needed to get used to. He worried about how his kids would adapt to the culture and the language. He also worried about finding a doctor, buying a car or getting a job. He recalls a time in their first few months when they were trying to decide which milk to buy. “I saw that there are a lot of options here! There was 2%, 5%, 5.5% . . . so we tried each one and threw out what we didn’t like until we found the right one,” Walter said. “I realize that you start from zero here. Not only in finding a job or learning English, but in everything, like food, culture, friends,” he added.

He quickly realized that that not knowing enough English was a challenge when he actually lived here, rather than just visiting. “When I arrived in Winnipeg, I could only say “hello”. It was so hard for me because I love to talk. I love knowing people. The only way I could talk was through my wife. That part was very hard,” Walter said.

“Studying with EO was perfect for me because I could study in the evening, in my home, in my couch, without shoes. I am in the basement and I could hear my children in the kitchen.”

He started studying English at MITT but later on, he saw that he needed to spend more time with his family. A friend told him about English Online and he decided to register. He emailed English Online’s volunteer coordinator Tatiana Nedelko and asked to be paired with an ESL e-tutor. He was first paired with Michael from Vancouver, and then later with Mary from Toronto, an arrangement that Walter liked. “I think is important to have different tutors from different cities. This way I hear and learn different accents,” Walter said.

“Studying with EO was perfect for me because I could study in the evening, in my home, in my couch, without shoes. I am in the basement and I could hear my children in the kitchen” he added. He also likes the fact that EO has so many volunteers from all over Canada who could teach at different levels. He now shares this positive experience with every newcomer that he meets so that they could benefit from learning from English Online as well.

Take little steps every day. Never stop

Walter worked as a project manager back in his home country. He was a quality services and procedures supervisor and was in the process of earning a counsellor diploma before he left Argentina. Today, Walter works at a flower company that imports from Ecuador and sells to cities all over Canada. On the day of our interview, Walter nearly begged off because he needed to take over his boss who had to leave for Europe. It’s evident that he loves his work. He is grateful that he gets to communicate daily with a lot people in his job because he can continually hone his English skills.

One thing that Walter advises to newcomers is to take advantage of job opportunities however small. He sees that it’s a great opportunity to learn Canadian work culture and English skills. He himself took a job in housekeeping at Delta Hotel and found that the close contact with the customers and other workers helped him improve his language and people skills. “I know it’s hard. You will not always feel happy. But as I always say, take it one step a day. Today, you work in housekeeping, but it is a step so that tomorrow you may get a better job. You never know,” Walter said. “My wife is a psychologist. She studied for a lot of years in Argentina and has lot of experience. When she got here, she worked in a call centre. And now, she has found a perfect job as a counsellor. She is very happy with her job,” he added.

Walter and his wife are already planning their next small steps in the following months. He will take his IELTS test in December and perhaps finish his Counsellor diploma. He is also looking to volunteer with English Online to add to his current volunteer job with the Argentina Manitoba Association helping new families who want to apply to immigrate to Manitoba. His wife on the other hand is preparing to start school to earn her Master’s Degree.

“I know it’s hard. You will not always feel happy. But as I always say, take it one step a day.”

Walter’s other tips:

  1. Never stop learning. Use all the resources the province is offering. There are a lot of programs you can get for free and there are institutes all over Manitoba. You can even study by yourself in your home.
  2. Take your time. It is not mandatory that you have a house and everything on your first year. If you feel pressure, you will lose your focus. Take little steps every day. In this country, everything is possible. You can work, study, you can aspire for anything that you want.
  3. It’s more comfortable to speak with people from your own culture. But I know from experience that if I speak only with Argentinians, my English will never improve. So I always talk to other people. I speak to my neighbours. And then I say, oh no, they speak very fast! But I try and practise. Maybe talk to people on the bus, or go by yourself to see the doctor.
  4. Open your mind and think that you could do it. Be true to yourself. Don’t feel afraid. Don’t feel ashamed. If you make a mistake, just say sorry. Or ask if you don’t understand. There are so many immigrants in Winnipeg. People are used to someone trying to learn English.

Finally, Walter shares this with other newcomers: “Winnipeg is special to families. So take things one step a day, make short term goals. Listen to all stories, not only the success stories, but stay positive. Always think about the future, always saying “I can do this” and work hard to reach your dreams.”

E-Volunteer Story: Samir Hammad – Taking every opportunity to give back

Samir Hammad was a young man when he went to Turkey for a holiday. He was on his own and excited for his 10-day spree. But as soon as he got there, a thief stole all of his money. Stuck as a tourist with no one to turn to, Samir felt lost in a foreign land. When the family who owned the hotel learned about his predicament, they offered to return Samir’s payment for his entire stay. They told him that he can send the payment later after he gets home. This act of trust and generosity made such an impact on Samir that he resolved that from then on, every time that he is presented with a chance to give back, he will do so. And this is what Samir has been doing to this day. This is the spirit that powers the amazing volunteer work he has been doing for newcomers to Canada.

Giving is in his blood

Helping others is actually in Samir’s blood. His grandfather served as a mayor of a city in their home country in 1948. It was his legacy to his family of educated professionals, engineers and physicians to serve and give to whomever was in need. Today, many new Canadians owe Samir a debt of gratitude for his tireless service.

As one of English Online’s most active e-volunteers for five years now, he dedicates 3-5 hours every week to teach English to new Manitobans. Knowing that English proficiency is essential to a successful integration, Samir sees to it that he is responsive and accommodating to his students. His unique style of mentorship focuses on results, prioritizing on each learner’s most immediate goals. But aside from EO learners, Samir also takes on several students who are still in their home countries, sometimes teaching 2-3 learners during the weekends. He helps them prepare for life in Canada and to become proficient in English so that they’ll have a better chance of succeeding when they arrive. He does not limit extending his help to others – whether Arab, Jew, or whatever ethnic background or religion they belong to. He does all this for free.

When Samir started getting questions beyond learning the English language from immigrants, he began thinking of expanding his range and reach. Going on social media was the logical choice because this is where most immigrants are connecting and asking questions nowadays. Samir launched The Arab Immigrants Facebook Page, FB group and a YouTube channel where he posts useful articles, news and links; answers questions; and produces videos featuring anything from overcoming culture shock to the qualifications recognition process. Just recently, he produced a series of interviews featuring successful newcomer entrepreneurs in Manitoba to share their formula for success. He also interviewed professionals who have undergone qualifications recognition to provide information and inspiration to newcomers who are about to go through the same path. In just a month’s time, The Arab Immigrants has gained about 2,300 members and is growing each day.

“Canada is a wonderful country. It is truly a land of opportunity. I am happy to see that my children are thriving and learning to take charge and become leaders. So I want to see other people realize their goal to have a better life too. I consider it a privilege to be able to help out in any way I can and see more newcomers succeed in Canada.”

His newcomer journey

Samir came to Manitoba in 2009. Just like any other immigrant, his own journey had its own share of challenges. However, many serendipitous events made it clear to him that moving to Canada was meant to happen. Initially, as a successful engineer based in Dubai, immigrating was not something he was planning on.

At that time, Samir was at the top of his career with 30 years of experience as an electronics and communications engineer under his belt. His last job title in the UAE was Network and Operations Engineer at SamaCom Teleport Dubai, the largest teleport in the Middle East. He was also Technical Editor for a satellite and electronics magazine for more than 10 years. The only hitch was that, at that time, there were no opportunities for him and his family to become permanent residents, much less citizens in Dubai. As luck would have it, Samir met a Pakistani businessman who told him all about Canada. This started his research about immigrating and eventually, his application for a visa to Canada.

Samir and his family were actually planning on living in Toronto when one of his relatives received a scholarship in Manitoba. Curious, he visited Manitoba and immediately liked the province’s vibe. “The lifestyle in Winnipeg is not rushed. It has a good pace. Everything is accessible especially for someone who hates driving. You can reach any place in an hour and a half or less,” Samir said. So he returned to Dubai and together with his family, came back and settled in Manitoba.

Samir brought his expertise to MB Hydro International where he became a project consultant for four and a half years. Recently, with the downsizing at MB Hydro, Samir has taken a vacation (not really retiring, even when he’s in his 60s) and is now spending more time on his volunteer work.

Working with newcomers

Before working with MB Hydro, Samir had to go through the qualifications recognition process in order to practice his profession despite having decades of professional expertise. “Like other newcomers, I thought that once I had the visa, I can come to Canada and immediately work in my field. But I was surprised,” Samir said. This is why qualifications recognition is among the topics he focuses on in his social media channels today. He is also the current vice president of the Arab Engineers Chapter which is part of EGM, (Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba, the regulating body of the profession in MB), which aims to assist engineer newcomers. The group was formed last year and has been spearheading various activities and social work. “I would like to note that our chapter is open to everyone, not only Arabs. They can join us as long as they are not a member of other chapters,” Samir said.

According to Samir, the most common problem prospective immigrants and newcomers have is knowing where to look for information. He says that many are not familiar with the right website to go to and decipher which ones are reliable (like government websites). And when they do get website links, they need help in understanding the information. This points to the need for more accessible information as well as the importance of having a guide.

Aside from this, Samir advises newcomers to improve their English before coming here. According to him, newcomers should strive to reach an IELTS score of at least 7. “This will help you immensely when looking for career and educational opportunities. If you need to go back to school for advancement or licensing, most educational institutions in Manitoba will accept you if you have a score of 7 and up,” Samir said. He also advises newcomers to avail of government programs. “When you land in Manitoba, join newcomer programs to help you in your settlement and career. There are free programs that can really help you get settled and get a job. You should also join English language programs to continually improve your English,” Samir said. “I myself joined the local Toast Masters Club to learn public speaking”, he added.

Happy to help

Samir has already earned the right to take life easy and enjoy Canada’s sights and sounds. His children are well on their way to becoming successes on their own and as early as now, they are following Samir’s example of service. But Samir doesn’t seem to be slowing down as he continues to volunteer, create more helpful content on his social media channels, and explore ways to be of service to others.

“Canada is a wonderful country. It is truly a land of opportunity. I am happy to see that my children are thriving and learning to take charge and become leaders. So I want to see other people realize their goal to have a better life too. I consider it a privilege to be able to help out in any way I can and see more newcomers succeed in Canada,” Samir said.

Check out Samir’s informative videos here: The Arab Immigrants YouTube Channel
Join his Facebook Group to learn tips about settling in Manitoba: The Arab Immigrants.
To know more about the EGM Arab Engineers Chapter, email egm.arab.chapter@gmail.com or see their Facebook page.

Newcomer Story: Prabaharan Balasubramanian

Praba’s family immigrated to Thompson in 2014. Read how his positive mindset played a big role in his smooth settlement and getting employed within the first month of his arrival in Manitoba. Be inspired by his commitment to lifelong learning as it continues to propel him closer to his dream career.

Praba is brimming with positivity. I met him over Skype but one could feel the warmth and enthusiasm through the screen. I thanked him profusely for speaking to us on a Tuesday morning. You have to understand, many of our clients choose to learn online precisely because of their tight schedules. Praba is no exception. What was exceptional though was his willingness to share his story so that he could inspire other Manitoban newcomers.

From South India to Winnipeg (via Thompson)

Initially, Praba was not interested when a close friend offered to sponsor his family to come to Manitoba. He thought that he was already at a higher level in his career and didn’t really look forward to starting over. However, when he talked to his wife, she was all for it. The family discussed the possibility and eventually applied through MPNP. Their application went smoothly and in about a year’s time, the couple and their two children were bound for Thompson.

They landed in Thompson in 2014 and found the small town welcoming. Praba liked that there were a lot of Indian families there and in a small town, everybody knew each other. What was lacking, however, were social and educational opportunities for his kids. This led to him to set his sights on a bigger city. He started researching about Winnipeg and found some contacts there. In 2015, they eventually moved to Winnipeg.

Discovering settlement assistance and career opportunities

Praba connected with Manitoba Start immediately after moving. He was referred to the Entry Program, a settlement orientation program which he attended for four weeks. “Entry Program taught me so many things I needed to learn not only about Manitoba, but about Canada as a whole. I have attended pre-arrival seminars before we left but Entry Program provided more complete information,” Praba said.

Meanwhile, with the help of Manitoba Start, Praba learned how to craft a Canadian-style resume and cover letter. The Electrical and Electronics Engineering graduate had worked as a sales and marketing manager in his home country but when he saw a want ad for sales and marketing representatives from Shaw Communications, he didn’t hesitate to apply. His career counsellor registered him and coached him through the application process. In the same month, Praba got the job and started right away.

“I am truly thankful to Manitoba Start for their help. They really guide you and coach you from the time you create your resume until you get a job. In fact, they also helped my wife. She is now back in banking, working for Cambrian Credit Union. My wife is now the most motivated person in my family,” Praba said with a smile.

“I am a firm believer in the MPNP program. They give you all the tools to succeed. They hold your hand to guide you through the steps to fully adapt and integrate,” he added.

“When Praba joined English Online his CLB listening skill was 6, speaking at 8, reading at 7 and writing at 5. After a year, his CLB level moved  to 7 in most areas. Now he is working to reach level 8 so that he could start on his path towards earning his Engineering licence.”

99% attendance

Praba has impeccable English speaking skills. This is made more impressive based on the fact that back in his home country, they only spoke Tamil. He said he learned English by watching TV and movies. And now he is continuing to hone his English in preparation for his Engineering licensure. Because of his tight schedule at Shaw, he chose to enroll in LINC Home Study (LHS) with English Online. LHS is a language training program available to ESL learners who cannot attend a face-to-face class in Manitoba. Learners use both the EO and LHS platforms to practise language skills. Students receive a CLB certificate upon completion of the course.

“Learning with English Online has been great. First of all, it’s at zero cost and instruction is delivered to you at home via online means. If you ask my e-facilitator Yuliana, she’ll say that my attendance has been 99%! What I like about learning English with her is that I don’t only learn the basics, like spelling and grammar, but the hidden aspects of language as well, for example using the proper tone of voice, and writing in short sentences,” Praba said.

“Learning with LINC Home Study is enriched because of the available resources on livelearn.ca website. It provides information for every aspect of settlement and integration that newcomers need. It does not only teach you about English, it tells you how to live your life well, how to manage your family. Everything is there. All you need is to do is read and learn,” Praba added.

When Praba joined English Online his CLB listening skill was 6, speaking at 8, reading at 7 and writing at 5. After a year, his CLB level moved to 7 in most areas. Now he is working to reach level 8 so that he could start on his path towards earning his Engineering licence. He is optimistic that after his licensure journey, he’ll be able to get his dream job and become a practicing Engineer. With Praba’s commitment and positive attitude, we have no doubt that he’ll realize these goals.

“I meet many newcomers who are content with their English. After they get their first job, they settle in. They don’t know that having less English skills make them underemployed. Continuously improving your English leads to better career opportunities. It will lead you to have a better life in Manitoba.”

Great, great tips

Praba’s tips to newcomers:

  1. In life, many people will tell you that to be successful you have to be somebody else. But when I got here, they told me to be myself. That’s important. Just be yourself and everything will work out fine.
  2. When looking for a job, don’t think about levels. The important thing is to get your foot in the door. I started as a sales and marketing representative at Shaw and now I have moved on to Technical Support. This is getting closer to the technical side of things which is my line. I am enjoying my job because I am learning new things every day. Open your mind to possibilities.
  3. Networking is important. Get to know people. The hidden job market will open up to you.
  4. Just as our bodies and brains grow new cells every day, we should always keep growing and learning. For example, I meet many newcomers who are content with their English. After they get their first job, they settle in. They don’t know that having less English skills make them underemployed. Continuously improving your English leads to better career opportunities. It will lead you to have a better life in Manitoba. So keep on learning.
  5. Hang on and don’t lose hope. Just keep on persevering.

Newcomer Story: Firouzeh Azhdari-Nassab

Firouzeh smiling

For busy mom and sales professional, Firouzeh, finding time to study English was a problem. When she registered with English Online, she discovered that taking charge of her own learning path was necessary to succeed in building her English skills with her limited time. By doing so, she has gained renewed energy and confidence in her journey toward integration.

Firouzeh has always been interested in English, even as a student. She laments the fact that formal English instruction in Tehran, Iran didn’t start until junior high school unless you studied at a private school. At university, she thought about taking up English or Nursing and qualified for both. She chose a Nursing career but still continued learning English any way she could, even communicating with her son’s English teacher later on to improve her skills. When she moved to Canada, Firouzeh could converse in English but found it difficult to read and write.

Taking care of business

Learning English had to take a backseat when Firouzeh and her family arrived in Manitoba in 2012. The young family moved mainly for the benefit of their two young children. They also set up a business in Winnipeg, a store selling European shoes. Firouzeh became busy with sales and taking care of her family, so the English courses had to wait. After three years, they decided to sell the business and Firouzeh’s husband went back to Iran to explore new business opportunities. Meanwhile, Firouzeh took a job at a high-end furniture shop where she became involved again in sales. It took about a year and a half before she could finally find time to get back to studying. She saw English Online (EO) on a WELARC handout and decided to give online learning a try.

“I want to add that the one-on-one class gave me the confidence to volunteer. After a month of studying, I felt that I had the energy and was ready to contribute something,” she added. “I accomplished a CPR course, got a certificate, and applied for a child abuse registry check. They were all in English and I did it on my own”

Getting lost online and finding her learning style

Firouzeh’s first few weeks with EO were rough. She felt lost online. She was also insecure about her computer skills. It was a good thing that she decided to email Margarita, EO’s Lead e-Facilitator and LINC Home Study Coordinator, about her predicament. Margarita wrote back outlining the many activities she can start with and the pathways she could take based on her learning goals. “I followed Margarita’s advice. I did everything she said. And it helped me learn,” Firouzeh said.

She started participating in Virtual Coffee Chats and drop-in workshops. She also enrolled in the LINC Home Study Program early this year. “I found the right combination in studying LINC with Blaine and attending Coffee Chats with Yuliana. With Blaine, it is one-on-one learning. It really amazes me that he understands every newcomer’s accent. He always manages to encourage each student by recognizing their efforts, motivating us to work harder and increase participation.

“I also attend group chats. I always ask Yuliana about grammar rules. She is an expert at that. She also tells us about other resources and programs, like Lunch & Learn, that could improve our grammar. She is so helpful,” Firouzeh said.

“I have fun attending the Coffee Chats because I meet a lot of people who are determined to learn English. We have fun, share jokes with each other and it is okay. It’s not so serious, and I have fun while learning. It is a comfortable environment. I don’t know why, but maybe that’s the magic of the virtual classroom. Or maybe because, aside from our great teachers Yuliana and Blaine, many people work behind the scenes to make it a good learning environment” she added.

Better English = more achievements

Today, Firouzeh is one of English Online’s most active learners. According to her mentors, her English skills (as well as her digital skills) have had tremendous improvement in just a few months’ time. “Now I could see how far I have come when I compare my writing and my reading comprehension,” Firouzeh said.

“I want to add that the one-on-one class gave me the confidence to volunteer. After a month of studying, I felt that I had the energy and was ready to contribute something,” she added. “I accomplished a CPR course, got a certificate, and applied for a child abuse registry check. They were all in English and I did it on my own,” Firouzeh said proudly. She now does volunteer work as a teacher’s assistant which she enjoys. Recently, she added another feather to her cap when she aced her Canadian Citizenship test. “I think that it is very important to be patient and to keep going. Don’t stop practicing English,” she said.

Never stop learning

Because of her experience at EO, Firouzeh is now a staunch promoter. She finds every opportunity to share with other newcomers how EO has helped her. She tells them to go to livelearn.ca and take advantage of the many online learning resources. “For newcomers (for everybody really), it’s important to keep learning, not only for integration but also for mental health. Continuous learning (English and other topics besides) will prevent you from getting Alzheimer’s,” Firouzeh said.

Another thing Firouzeh advises new Manitobans to do is to volunteer. “Volunteering is really important. It gives you experience, you learn new skills, gain new friends, and improve your English,” she said.

With the continued improvement of her English skills, Firouzeh knows that more opportunities will open up for her. “I can’t go back to nursing yet, but I see the possibility of getting a related job in healthcare in the near future,” she said. To newcomers like her, Firouzeh has this advice: “Just work hard, be patient, keep learning and never stop.”

Newcomer story: Grace Eun Jung Yang

Coming to Winnipeg was the break Grace needed. The life she led in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, was fast-paced and fiercely competitive. Despite having a successful dental practice, Dr. Grace Yang found that the dense population made living there highly stressful. After applying successfully to the MPNP for Business program, she and her family moved to Winnipeg in May last year.

Going for a fresh start

“I have three major reasons for moving to Canada. First, the air pollution is getting worse in Seoul. We had to wear masks whenever we went out. I was worried that it would cause health problems for us like lung cancer, dementia, or allergies. Second, we moved for our son’s education. I know that he will have a good education here. And third, I needed to take a rest,” Grace said.

Grace relates that the workload was heavy, not only for her and her husband, but for their young son as well. It was not uncommon for young students in Seoul to come home from school and then go to a private academy for more classes. This worried Grace as she saw that depression because of poor grades was becoming common. Some kids even commit suicide due to the pressure. Wanting a more balanced life for their son, the couple made it a priority to seek a better environment. Today, they are thankful that their 12 year old has adjusted to school life in Winnipeg. They are seeing to it that he has enough time for play and recreation besides school work.

“Sometimes when I speak English, I’m really afraid of making a mistake. I think that is why many of us are reluctant to speak English. But my tip is not be afraid of mistakes. It’s natural to make a mistake because we were not born Canadians. Just keep learning.”

Optimism, positivity continuous learning and a dash of preparedness

Despite her original plan to relax for a bit, Grace started to work two months after landing in Winnipeg. Currently working full time as an associate dentist, she came to Winnipeg ready. A graduate of dentistry, holder of a master’s degree and a trained orthodontic specialist, Grace began her licensure process in her home country. She then took the required five exams in Canada and passed them all in one take. She is now enjoying her work which leaves time for other things. “The pace is totally different. I have a lot of time to spend with my family,” Grace said. Her schedule also gave her time to take courses with English Online. “I joined EO last April. I participated in Coffee Chats to improve my speaking ability. I also enrolled in the LINC Home Study Program in August,” Grace said. Although she says she has the opportunity to speak often at work, Grace still wants to improve her conversational English. “Even if I’m speaking English every day at my workplace, I only use professional language. I want to learn diverse expressions. When I joined the Coffee Chats, I was able to practice conversational English,” she said.

This is one habit that Grace wants newcomers to have – to always continue learning. “People are afraid of learning English, or of anything new. Sometimes when I speak English, I’m really afraid of making a mistake. I think that is why many of us are reluctant to speak English. But my tip is to not be afraid of mistakes. It’s natural to make a mistake because we were not born Canadians. Just keep learning,” Grace said.

A positive and optimistic person, Grace didn’t really feel that she had major challenges to speak of when they landed in Manitoba. “Many people were warning me that Winnipeg will be too cold. But for me, Winnipeg is not too cold and the people here are really nice,” Grace said. What she did find a bit challenging was the thought of starting her own business from scratch. Thinking of putting up her business without her usual support group can be a little daunting even if she had experience running her own dental clinic for more than 10 years in Seoul. “But I like challenges (and adventures), plus I always look on the bright side,” Grace said.

A great place to live in

Before she takes that big step, Grace and her family are enjoying the relaxed pace for now. One thing that she does long for from her home country is dining at her favorite Korean restaurants. “Even if we eat Korean dishes at home, I miss eating out. That is why I’m listing down all the food that I miss and make sure that I eat them all when I visit my country next year, Grace said, laughing.

In the meantime, the Yang family are also enjoying Manitoba’s natural beauty. “I think my family really likes Winnipeg. There are lots of beautiful lakes, it has a beautiful landscape, and we can see the Northern Lights. I actually saw it a couple of weeks ago from my house,” Grace said. “I also think it’s a good place for new immigrants to settle in compared to large cities. Winnipeg is a great place to live in and it has substantial opportunities for all,” she added.

Newcomer Story: Rediat Mikru

Rediat landed in Canada in June 2012 with big expectations. Coming to Manitoba via the Provincial Nominee Program, she felt fortunate to have been given the opportunity to emigrate from her home country Ethiopia. But despite her optimism, Rediat learned quickly that it takes more than big hopes to achieve one’s dreams.

Settlement challenges

First among Rediat’s challenges was the extreme weather. “I was not prepared to experience wind chill,” she said. “But now I have adapted to the weather. Little, by little, you can adapt,” Rediat added. She also had difficulty finding work at that time and a big factor was her limited knowledge of English. ”Before, I was not able to speak English like I do right now,” she said.

After a year in Manitoba, Rediat got sick. Her health problems prompted her to go back to Ethiopia to recuperate. After four months, Rediat decided to come back to Winnipeg and try again. It seemed that this was the reboot that she needed because when she returned, she was filled with renewed resolve. She enrolled in English classes at the University of Manitoba and looked for work at the same time. She also started volunteering at Siloam Mission. After a while, she started to accept cleaning jobs for some properties. Over and above all these activities, Rediat achieved a milestone in 2015 – she graduated from Grade 12 with top marks. Soon after, she registered at the University of Winnipeg to take up accounting.

“EO is helping me improve my grammar, reading, and practicing my writing. I am learning where I’m supposed to put a comma, the subject-verb agreement, plural form, all these things. Now I’m good.”

Remembering her English words

“My problem is that when I speak and write, my mind translates the words to my native language. I know the words. I have the vocabulary in my head. I understand everything when I read or when you talk to me. If you mention a word, I know what it means. But it’s hard to remember the English words,” Rediat said. She illustrates this difficulty by relating what she experienced during an exam: “I took an exam and studied very well. I aced the multiple choice questions. But when it came to the writing part, I was only able to express a little. It was not good,” Rediat recalls. “But I don’t give up! I continue to practice,” she adds.

This is why she likes learning with English Online (EO). “It reminds of what I have in my mind. Practicing with EO and in my English class makes me familiar with the words,” she said.

The spunky lady actually started learning with EO three years ago when she had heard about online learning at an EAL program. But because of her work schedule, she had to stop. When her schedule permitted it, she started again. Today she continues to participate in Coffee Chats. She also registered for a one-on-one EAL e-tutor. “EO is helping me improve my grammar, reading, and practicing my writing. I am learning where I’m supposed to put a comma, the subject-verb agreement, plural form, all these things. Now I’m good,” Rediat said.

Her commitment to learning English is very evident. Rediat is looking to make friends with a native speaker so that she can practice conversational English constantly. She also takes every opportunity to converse with people at Church or in her community.

Have realistic expectations

Currently, Rediat is looking to shift to a better career while earning her degree. She is looking for a job where she will have a greater chance to converse with co-workers so she can learn English faster. She foresees that this kind of environment will better equip her with the right skills to get her ready for her career in accounting. However, she laments that finding a job in Manitoba is hard. “I hope that more career opportunities will be opened to newcomers. Getting work is hard. When they do not have a job, they only speak their language and become dependent on the government to survive. But if they get a job, they will be able to develop themselves and their English while at work,” she said.

But despite this, Rediat still enjoys living in Winnipeg. “Living in Manitoba is good. I think the cost of living is good. As I have heard from other people, the cost of living in other provinces is very high. Like in Vancouver or Calgary, I hear that the rent is very expensive,” she added.

Asked for advice to other newcomers, Rediat has this to say: “Many newcomers are eager to come to Manitoba and their expectations are big. Just like me, when I came to Manitoba, I expected a lot. At that time, I believed that I could easily change everything. So my advice is not to expect too much. Have realistic expectations. They should be ready for change and plan for the changes. Be willing to start from scratch. Be ready to adapt to Canadian culture – learn English, the culture, everything!” Rediat said.