Beat the odds: Cruising through COVID-19 in Calgary (Part 1)

While the entire world was (is) panicking about COVID-19, we were preparing for our travel to Canada. A lengthy travel, with overnight stays at empty airports and multiple transits. Yet our hearts were full of hope and positivity. Till this day, I believe that our journey was a miracle, orchestrated by the almighty. In spite of spending a couple of nights in two different airports during the pandemic we safely landed at our destination. Just like said by Larry Kersten, “Before you attempt to beat the odds, be sure you could survive the odds beating”.

Though tired to the bone, the moment we landed in Calgary all our fatigue and tiredness surprisingly vanished. We rushed outside to catch some fresh Calgary air. The city we have been dreaming and talking about a lot. Crisp fresh air hit my face and the evening sky was beautifully lit with the setting sun. Calgary was welcoming us with its open arms, as if reassuring us of our beautiful future. With quarantine ahead, we headed home (Airbnb), to stretch our legs and calm the restless minds. We all knew that the actual struggle has just begun and I was aware of that. I needed to be strong. I thought of quarantine as an opportunity to beat the jet-lag, refresh my body and soul to face the new world.

During our quarantine, we explored Calgary from our Airbnb patio and windows. It was early June, the weather was pleasant and cool. Our days passed by learning through online sessions conducted by CCIS, ISC & Centre for Newcomers. They welcomed us and guided us through the post-landing formalities with links and recommendations. Our evenings passed watching Netflix and cooking dinners. Our host helped us with initial grocery shopping. Later, we used online grocery options that delivered right to our doorstep.

Yet before we started our travel to Canada, our preparations for Canada started with the SOPA (Settlement Online Pre-arrival) program. We received an email with our Passport Request (PPR) and the same email also contained information about pre-arrival programs. We were already familiar with SOPA through our friends, who strongly recommended us to register in this program. SOPA helped us in terms of settlement, employment, networking and other essential information required for a smooth and successful settlement in Canada. SOPA helped us learn about Canada even before we landed in Calgary. SOPA is an Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funded program that delivers free pre-arrival services for job readiness, success and retention. With SOPA you get one-on-one orientation, job search support, employment counselling, and workplace culture training, as well as referral to a wide range of post-arrival services upon entry to Canada.

The post-quarantine period was a roller-coaster ride experience for us. Every day was a new experience, from our struggles in getting the essential documents to finding an apartment, opening a bank account and more. There were volunteering opportunities and job success stories. I will be talking more about Calgary and the SOPA Alberta team, who have always been helping, guiding and supporting us. Stay tuned for part 2 of this story!

This post was written by SOPA Alberta Client: Sujatha Gopalakrishnan