Canada is a New Life
Country of Origin: El Salvador
Current City: Portage la Prairie
Silvia was born and raised in rural El Salvador where her parents and four siblings continue to live there. While she was in her country she graduated from university with a degree in Business Administration. Silvia lived there until she moved to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba Canada, where she lives with her beloved husband Leo.
When did you move to Canada? & why did you move to Canada? How was your life like in your country of origin before you moved to Canada?
I moved to Canada on August 26, 2016, and I came to join my husband to start a new life together. It is such a beautiful life!
My life back home was amazing because I have always been a lucky person. After my high school, I got an intern job for three months, and right after I graduated, they called me for an interview and right away, they offered me a job as a receptionist for seven months. Thereafter, they offered me another position as an administrative assistant for two years. Then, I was promoted to an administrator position, a role I held for four years. I was working while going to university so, after six years, I resigned. I resigned to concentrate on my studies because it was so stressful working at night and going to school in the day.
I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration in 2013 and right away, I found a job at a radio station where I worked as an administrative assistant. Later, I was promoted to sales position which was based on commission. This was a great time in my life and for my family, because I was able to support my parents and make improvements to the family house. I am always grateful to God for all the opportunities I have had.
In 2013, I received a Facebook request from a guy I had known when we were young but had lost contact. We reconnected, started messaging, chatting, and reminiscing about our childhood. After chatting for a long while, this guy planned to visit El Salvador to visit his family and me. We decided to go on a beach date, we talked a lot and practiced my English at the same time. On December 25th as a tradition, we go to church for Christmas celebrations. While we were in church, I knew this guy was the man for me. The man I have been waiting for, the one I was going to marry. Before I reconnected with this guy, I used to pray for protection over my future husband, and I asked God for a sign to know when I met him. Here we were, in church, and I knew he was the one. Since that day, we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend. But, before we started dating, my boyfriend had to go to my parents and ask them for permission to date me. In 2014, we got married in a church and my husband came back to Canada alone. I had to wait for two years to reunite with my husband. That was a very long wait but, we knew were going to be together forever eventually.
I got my permanent residence after I applied and my husband came back to El Salvador to pick me up so that we can travel together. This was a very exciting and sad moment at the same time. I was excited to join my husband but, sad because I was leaving my family. I had always lived with my mother and father so, it was hard saying goodbye to my family. You know, as a girl, I always knew that after I got married, I would leave my parents, family, and join my husband. However, when that time came, it was not as easy as I thought. My parents always depended on me, I come from a big family of three brothers and a sister. Before my husband and I left for Canada, I asked my family and friends to write me letters with the wishes they had for me as keepsakes. This was very special for me and I came to Canada with many letters to read whenever I missed them.
My husband is so special because he tried to make me feel happy; he knew it was going to be difficult for me in the first months here in Canada and far away from my family.
What was your first impression when you arrived in Canada?
I was so happy and grateful to be in Canada, it was like a dream. It was not yet wintertime but, it was so cold. My husband’s friends came to pick us up and they brought a sweater for me to wear.
When we arrived in Portage la Prairie, the houses, the trees were all different. The streets were clean, there was no traffic compared to San Juan Opico la Libertad. I was used to the traffic back home because I used to commute to work from San Juan Opico la Libertard to San Salvador, it took me two hours by bus and one hour driving each way.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you moved here?
Language: I studied English in El Salvador but I never practiced it. The first three months were the most challenging because I could not speak to people. It was hard to communicate even when I knew what I wanted to say, I was afraid to say something wrong. But, I got to realize how good people are here in Canada. People help you. People are kind and reassuring to make me feel comfortable and not ashamed or alone. But, you can not experience that until you talk or interact with them.
Helping my loved ones in: When I left El Salvador, I knew that I would want to support and care for my family the very best I could. This means that I had to find employment in Canada as soon as possible. Even though my husband loves me very much, I could put all this responsibility on him.
So, I needed to find a job. My husband took me to the Portage la Prairie Literacy and Learning Centre (PLLC) for English classes where I met Don Boddy. Don asked me questions to register me, my husband always answered for me and thereafter, I started attending English classes. The classes helped me in so many ways and I finally I was not feeling alone or sad anymore.
I applied for volunteer experience with PLLC for five hours a day and given that my husband was at work and we didn’t have any children, I wanted to keep on doing the tasks I used to do in El Salvador and learn English along the way. I learnt a lot and met so many people from different countries all over the world. I now have friends from different countries. Three months into my volunteer work with PLLC, they started a work experience program, they offered me an office administrative assistant position, and that was the key to all the opportunities that followed.
Given that it was a part-time job, it was not enough to take care of things in El Salvador. So, one day, I found a job post from Red River College in Portage la Prairie and I saw that I met all the requirements and could do all the duties but, I was worried about my English. I still applied and luckily, I got the job after two interviews.
It was hard for me to leave PLLC but, I knew Red River College was going to be a great opportunity and everyone at work was happy for me. People being happy for you because you got a new job was really strange and new to me. Back home, people would be mad at you but not happy that you were leaving. When I started my job at the Red River College, it was such a hard transition, and I started doubting myself and my capabilities. I faced a few obstacles and opposition from some people but there were others who supported me and encouraged me on. I persevered and at the end my term position, my boss told me that she did not want to let me go because I had made a difference and she never had someone like me before. I was now confident because I had the experience and after three days of leaving Red River College, I got another job with Avena Foods Limited where I am working as an Administrative Assistant and Logistics Coordinator.
Was there any support from the community to help you integrate? If yes, what were they? If not, how did you survive?
Since I came to Canada, my main support has always been my husband. He has helped me with so much, introduced me to many friends, and comforts me when I miss El Salvador
Portage la Prairie Literacy and Learning Centre (PLLC) helped me with my English and I got my first job there. Don Boddy used to work there and he helped me so much, and he is my friend I can always call whenever I need help.
My friend Luis Luna did all my paperwork and when I came to Canada. Hi family welcomed and they are like family to me. They speak Spanish so they help me to understand life in Canada in better and speak my first language when I am with them.
What do you miss most from your country of origin?
I miss my family most and my country because El Salvador is such a beautiful country with beautiful beaches. It is a little country with so many great things to do. I also miss singing to my family and friends.
Since coming to Canada, have you visited your country of origin? What was your first impression of going back? How did it feel?
No, we tried going last year but it was so expensive. Visiting home does not mean only buying air tickets, you need money to spend, and El Salvador is very expensive. El Salvador uses American dollar which is stronger than the Canadian dollar. But, we are planning to go and visit this year in March, now that we have US visas, it will be cheaper for us to travel through the states.
Any future Plans?
My husband and I are trying to start a family. We have been trying but, we hope soon we will be able to have our own children. I know our families are praying for us so that they can be grandparents. We are also thinking of buying a second house so that our families can come to visit us.
What steps did you take to achieve the occupation you are currently in or previously held before you retired?
Through volunteering and English classes, I was able to apply for volunteer experience with Portage la Prairie Literacy and Learning Centre for five hours a day and after three months into my volunteer work, they started a work experience program. They offered me an office administrative assistant position, and that was the key to all the opportunities that followed.
How has your life changed since moving here?
Oh yes, my life has totally changed. I now know people from different countries and background and when you start interacting with other people, you start seeing the world and things from a different perspective.
I am, also stronger than before and I face all challenges with a renewed sense of understanding. I have transitioned into the role of a wife and I am in charge of our home and very supportive of my husband.
What advice would you give to newcomers in Canada?
Do not be afraid to take on any job or to make mistakes because you are new. I conquered my fear, I did the job I was scared of taking on, so can you!
Here in Canada, you can be and do whatever you want or imagine as long as it is legal. Be confident and trust yourself in that way, you will be able to help others. Sometimes, you might feel like it is not easy but, with perseverance, you can do it.
What advice would you give to people back in your country?
With technology, I feel it is easy to always be in touch with your family. I always tell my family that I love them. Do not forget your family; it is the best you are going to have.