Home Settlement Firsthand tips: Immigrants share their learnings for newcomers to Canada

Firsthand tips: Immigrants share their learnings for newcomers to Canada

Firsthand tips: Immigrants share their learnings for newcomers to Canada

Newcomers moving to Canada would surely benefit from advice from those already here and establishing themselves. This article contains insights and lessons learned by immigrants and refugees whom we met at Toronto Newcomer Day 2024 earlier this May. Their tips will help smoothen your integration and settlement experience in Canada.

Don’t discount the importance of English and French

Canada’s two official languages are English and French. Don’t discount the importance of being fluent in at least one of them if you want to grow and thrive here. If you come from a country where English or French is not your first or second language or isn’t used often, it is best that you take up classes before coming to Canada, or sign up for lessons after you arrive. Language classes are available free of charge for newcomers to Canada.

Alexander Munoz and his partner Joanna (as seen in the above image) came to Toronto from Colombia two years ago, and know first-hand the importance of learning English. “I would say to any newcomer that learning the language is very important since most people here speak English – it is a second language for most people in Toronto. It is very important to learn English, as everyone here communicates in that language…this is the reality of the situation,” said Alexander. “As newcomers, there are not many opportunities you can initially pursue if you do not know English,” added Joanna. 

Also read: Ontario newcomers, learn English or French with Collège Boréal’s Adapted LINC / CLIC Adapté program

Brian Solis Aguilar, who came from Mexico eight months ago, was of a similar mindset when sharing advice for newcomers to Canada. “You need to know English to succeed – the importance of speaking English is sometimes overlooked by newcomers. If you know English, it becomes much easier to find work, you become more independent, and you are not overly reliant on the help of others,” he explained.

“Even if you do learn basic English from your homeland, keep in mind that you may need to take up an intensive program here in Canada if it is not your first language,” added Angela Gonzalez, who also came from Colombia two years ago.

Make the most of services available to newcomers to Canada

Many services are available free of charge to newcomers to Canada, courtesy of the various levels of government and the various community and settlement agencies in the country. These help immensely in reducing the pressures of settling in, and make it easier for you to plot your next steps in Canada.

“The government offers you very good services as a newcomer, and I encourage everyone to explore them,” said Maria Quintero, who moved six years ago from Venezuela. “You get excellent services in education, childcare, recreational activities, community support, and language training, which helped me when I came to Canada as a newcomer.”

Prepare for a high cost of living

While there are many positives to living in Canada, one of the challenges you will face is a cost of living that is significantly higher than what you might be used to back home. The various free services provided by the government do help offset these costs as you settle in.

Mohammed Hussein, who moved from Bangladesh a year ago, currently shares an apartment with two friends so he can save on rent. “But my advice to newcomers is to prepare yourself for the expenses you can incur here – house rents and the cost of living are very high,” he advised. 

Hussein is currently enrolled in English language classes and plans to set up a small business once he’s done. “The Canadian government is so good to us,” he added. “They provide us excellent service. They provide us an allowance every month until we find work, and enable us to learn English so that we are better equipped to work.

Finding a job can be a time-consuming process for newcomers to Canada

Newcomers need to also be mentally prepared that finding a job in Canada can take time. Depending on your background, you might need to address skill gaps in your education, explore volunteering before you find paying work, or get certified in your profession. While this can be overwhelming, the New Canadians website is a one-stop resource for newcomers to Canada to learn about how to establish yourself in your new home. The site has articles on settlement, education, networking, job search, language skills and much more.

“One of the biggest challenges you will face as a newcomer is gaining work experience in Canada: for example, if I am an engineer in my country, in Canada, you are not an engineer…you are new, so you need to learn the skills and gain the experience needed for Canada,” said Alexander and Joanna. 

“The process is long – you need to develop your education, volunteer, and then use that experience to find a job,” they added. “In some ways, this feels like a contradiction, because Canada is a very modern country, but there is no option to go through these processes, which are necessary for every newcomer.”

Brian Aguilar added: “Finding work in Canada is complicated: when you apply for jobs, you are often told that you don’t have the required experience, and it is a challenge to get that experience.”

Also read: Explore the bridge training programs by COSTI for internationally trained individuals

That being said, however, things do work out once the initial challenges are overcome, said Steven Acenas, who came to Canada from the Philippines with his parents and brother nearly a year ago. “At first, it was so hard to catch up with many things here, but now, things are going along well,” he said.

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