Catalina Serna is a current client of Skills for Change. We discussed her experience as a newcomer in Canada and the Canadian Communication in Workplace program that she is completing from Skills for Change.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am originally from Columbia and I have been in Canada for 2 years. I have been in Ontario for two and a half months with my family. I lived in Saskatoon this past summer & moved to Ontario in September. I am enjoying the weather here. Saskatoon was much colder! I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration & I made my career in the tourism field since my degree was focused on tourism. I worked with the tourism office in Columbia for 8-9 years and I really enjoyed working in this field. It’s a beautiful career with chances to travel and from my perspective, I helped communities thrive and help them get out of unsafe conditions.
2. Can you share a bit about your journey to Canada?
We decided 5 years ago to immigrate to Canada. We started our research and decided it would be best for me and my husband to come as a permanent resident. Shortly after, we moved to Saskatchewan since we received a nomination from the province.
3. What was your life like in your home country?
In Columbia and most of Latin American countries, we have very big families so everything is centered around family with food, friends, and being close to each other in our culture. I was born and raised in Bogota which is the capital of Columbia and have been close friends with my elementary school classmates. I have 19 cousins from my mother’s side & 21 cousins from my father’s side! So it’s always a big get-together for anything! We don’t need an excuse to get together!
It was really good to grow up in this environment with a lot of people who love you. I attended private school and right away finished and went to university. Private Universities are more common in Columbia. As soon as I finished university, I went right into my career.
4. How did you get involved with Skills for Change?
I am a searcher by nature so I am always browsing everywhere around me and on the internet. One night, I was scrolling through Twitter and I saw a post from Skills for Change. I started to read and learn more about the organization and I reached out. I got a call from Lynda who is the Information and Referral Counsellor, Immigrant, Refugee and Settlement Hub. She was so warm and welcoming to me.
I was having a moment of ‘What am I going to do?’ with my husband working and my kids off to school. Lynda helped me a lot and got me to start on the Communication for the Canadian Workplace program on November 16. I am halfway through the program. I think it’s amazing. Josee, ELT Program Instructor/CLB Assessor, is fantastic, not only because of the way she teaches but she’s also very supportive when we discuss what challenges the students are facing. She also likes to learn about the cultures of all the students. To have that kind of environment where you share and hear various experiences is very valuable for me. For me, I feel that I am in the right place.
5. Is there any particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
With my journey moving to Canada, the most impressive moment was when we received acceptance to Canada. It was good yet challenging but it was exciting!
6. What are you most proud of in your life?
I am proud of my career back home. I’ve had the opportunity to help vulnerable communities in my country in regards to tourism. I understand tourism is a way to develop communities in terms of the economy and I’ve seen how these communities and families recover from unsafe conditions. Now, they’re successful in the tourism industry with their businesses and that feeling is priceless. I’ve always told my team that in this industry, we’re building our country and that is something to be proud of every single day of my entire life.
7. What inspires you?
Because of my personal journey and growth, definitely seeing other newcomers grow and be successful. Not in money or having your own house way but success in the way you feel as you are, how you relate with others, or seeing people be happy with themselves is always inspiring to me.
8. What’s the best advice you have received in life?
It was something I heard recently: ‘It’s right to fail, it’s okay to be in a hard moment. You can allow yourself to be in a down moment. But you will see the light at the end of the tunnel and see the strength to stand up and keep walking.’
9. Can you tell us something interesting about you that not many people know of?
When I was in my first semester of university, I was very amazed because of the real world but my university was also located in downtown Columbia. I led a campaign to donate to a library for the community next to our university.
10. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I want to highlight the work Skills for Change does for a new client. When it comes to the organization, in the last 3 weeks of the language program, I could feel and have a real sense that Skills for Change is helping people. And I really want to highlight our instructor Josee Gillette’s work. She is amazing as a person in class but also she’s very supportive. As mentioned before, I come from a very big family and some newcomers don’t have a chance to always see their family. I can call them from time to time for support. With Josee, I felt that reassurance that I was going to be okay and that it’s part of the journey which is something I really appreciate.