Hello! My name is Karina and I am from Castelldefels, Barcelona. I went to live in Vancouver, thanks to the fact that they approved my Working Holiday Visa, just before I turned 36. I wanted to work here for a while and then return home with some international experience and an advanced level of English, but I fell in love with the country and … I’m still here!
How long have you been living in Canada?
I have been living in Canada for 1 year and 8 months, I arrived in June 2019. Before I came, I thought I would stay for less time and had told my parents I would be back by Christmas. I even requested a 1-year leave of absence from work because I was so sure that I would return, but in reality I haven’t been back since I left. I hope to go home soon because I do miss my family and friends.
I decided to come to Canada because I wanted to improve my English in a country where it was the official language and I imagined myself living in a place like this, with a good quality of life. In addition, Canada has incredible landscapes and mountains that had always caught my attention, such as the Rocky Mountains, which for me are a wonder of nature.
I guess the final push came at the end of 2018. I worked in a company with people from different countries, where many meetings and projects were in English. The company paid for our English classes but I couldn’t see that I was making any progress. If I wanted to evolve within the company, or have better paying jobs, I had to improve my level of English. So, I applied for the Working Holiday Visa in Canada and the invitation arrived shortly after, when I was still 35 years old. I was very lucky!
Which Canadian cities have you lived in?
So far I have only lived in Vancouver, and for a couple of months in Whistler, both cities are in the province of the British Columbia (BC). I chose to come to BC because the climate is more pleasant than in the rest of the country and because it has sea and mountains; in summer I can go to the beach, the lake or hiking, and in winter I can go skiing or hiking with snowshoes.
In Whistler I had a brilliant time and I met many people, although the environment was a little young for me, most were in their “twenties” and I was already turning 36. In Vancouver I feel more comfortable because I can interact with people of all ages, it is multicultural, there are a lot of things to do, I am still in contact with nature there, and there are many job opportunities.
I would not rule out exploring other provinces in the future. I would love to live a season in Montreal and study French .
Which neighbourhoods in Vancouver have you lived in?
The two apartments I have lived in were on the East Vancouver side, near Commercial Drive. It is a somewhat bohemian area, with good restaurants, a good connection to Downtown and good supermarkets where I can find everything I like: European, Latin, and Asian products, and organic fruits and vegetables. There are also several Community Centres (reasonably priced public sports and leisure facilities) that I like to go to.
When looking for accommodation I also looked around the West End, Main Street and Kitsilano; neighbourhoods to consider when you are a newcomer.
Can you tell us about the best and worst of Vancouver?
For me, Vancouver is a city that has it all: a healthy lifestyle and many job opportunities. You can practice lots of sports, both in summer and winter, but you can also lead a more city life if you want, and it is super equipped to be able to cycle everywhere. What’s more, the education is very good; I have taken English courses here and they have seemed better than many I have done in Spain.
The bad? There are people who consider it a very rainy city, but I like the rain. What I do find is that Vancouver is quite expensive, although it has never been difficult for me to make ends meet.
Any advice for finding accommodation in Vancouver?
Finding accommodation in Vancouver is not difficult if you look around a bit and ask questions. Many people use their country’s Facebook groups to find an apartment. In my case I wrote on the “Spaniards in Vancouver” page and was contacted immediately by people looking for a flatmate. In the end, I found apartments through the website “Craigslist” and the Facebook group “Vancouver Rentals & Roommates”.
How was your first year of a Working Holiday Visa?
My first year on the Working visa was quite an experience and a big change in my lifestyle. I went from living in an apartment with a friend in Spain to living with people from other countries and, of course, I spoke English all day. The weekends also changed for me, especially in summer. In Spain it was more about going to the beach, barbecues, or beach bars and here it is more about going to the lake, the beach, camping in a national park or hiking. It is a different way of living, more healthy, more active, and more in touch with nature.
What other visas have you had during this time?
When it was clear to me that I wanted to stay, I began to consider my options. I immediately had to discard the programs for up to 35-year olds, Young Professionals and CETA (program for Europeans with more than 6 years of experience in a qualified job). Being 36 years old, everything was limited to either LMIA, if a company sponsored me, or studying a Co-Op related to my profession, in order to have a study visa and work permit at the same time.
In the end, I got an Open Work Permit through my partner. He obtained a closed Work Permit with his company through applying to the French Mobility Program, since he speaks French. Now we are in the process of applying for Permanent Residence.
Have you studied in Canada?
I have studied a couple of English courses, one on grammar and another on being a Content Writer. I also took special classes to pass the English test for Permanent Residence, the IELTS. I needed a 7 in order to get enough points for the PR via Express Entry.
What have you worked as and how did you get it?
My first job was in hospitality, as a hostess in a hotel in Whistler. I got this job from Spain through an agency interviewing on Skype. They knew that my English wasn’t the best, but they hired me partly because of my age, and because I had years of work experience and they wanted a mature person on the team.
After gaining a little experience in the country, I have since worked as an Executive Assistant and Administrative Assistant. I got my first job because a Spanish girl shared the advert on Craigslist. The second, through recruiters on LinkedIn. The truth is, being over 30 and having years of experience helps you to find a job in Canada. Here, they highly value all of your background, both what you have studied and what you have worked as.
How much have you received for each job you have had in Canada?
In hospitality I charged the minimum for the province of BC, at that time it was $14.35 Canadian dollars per hour (before taxes), but the good thing was that I received tips. Here many people decide to work as a waiter because the tips are very good, you can easily triple your salary with them. After working in an office, I earned between $19 – $21 per hour. They still consider me as a junior profile because I don’t have much experience in Canada, but as soon as I have that I will be eligible for better salaries.
What advice would you give for finding a job in Canada?
The first thing is to adapt your CV to the Canadian model and customise the Cover Letters to each job. In addition, really highlight the things you have done in previous jobs, they look a lot at experience and skills. It is also important to prepare letters of recommendation and contact information from at least 2 previous jobs, here they ask for that information and they will communicate with them by email.
Have you travelled in Canada? Would you recommend a special site for us?
In Canada, I have travelled as much as I could, especially within the province of British Columbia. In summer I have been camping and hiking lots in provincial and national parks: Garibaldi Park, Chilliwack Lake Park, Sasquatch Provincial Park and Yoho National Park. I have also been a couple of times to Vancouver Island, I loved Tofino, Ucluelet and the boat tour I did to see marine fauna. It’s impressive to see whales in their own habitat!
I have also visited the province of Alberta twice, doing a Road Trip through the Rocky Mountains. I have seen these impressive mountains and them snow-capped in the autumn, with all the autumnal season colours. The truth is that I can’t get enough of the Rockies and I want to go back in the summer.
What do I recommend? All of the above and everything I have pending. As soon as I can, I plan to go to the Okanagan Valley and Yukon Province in summer and winter to see the Northern Lights. Also, a Road Trip through Canada, crossing the country from Vancouver to Montreal. Such a desire to travel!
What’s the funniest situation you’ve found yourself in in Canada?
Well, it’s not a funny situation, it’s more rather curious. I was very surprised to have a better level of English than a couple of people I met from Quebec. I thought that everyone here spoke English and French, but then I discovered that they speak mostly French in the province of Quebec. For a moment I was proud of myself knowing that I spoke better English than some Canadians.
What advice do you have for people who want to travel to Canada?
If you have any doubts you can rely on people who have been here for a long time and agencies like YouTOOProject, they can give you good advice. Also, you should take a good look at all your visa, work, and study options, especially if you are already over the age of 35.
How much money do you think someone who wants to come to Canada should have saved in their bank account?
They will always ask you for a minimum amount of money to enter the country, whether you come with a study or work visa. Although you can find work quickly, it is important to have enough money to be able to pay your rent and other expenses for a few months. So, to be okay, it is recommended to have about $5,000 Canadian dollars for the first 3 months, at least that is what I brought.
Any other tips?
Of course! Never think that you are too old or it’s too late to go live, work or study in another country. That there are many people like me (or us) who emigrate to another country after 30 and then wonder why we didn’t do it earlier.
If you think your future is in Canada, go for it! That age, or not being able to get the invitation for the Working Holiday Visa, does not prevent you from living this experience, look for alternatives!
Consider that life takes many turns. You may come for a few months (like I had intended) and then want to stay. So, it is good to provide all your information to the government from the beginning, either for your study or work visa. Keep in mind that everything is registered in the system, so be clear and keep a copy of the information you are giving, it will help you a lot when you apply for future visas.
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