The adventure that is my new life in Calgary, Alberta began in the fall of 2022. Moving from Mumbai, India to begin alone in a place where I had no support system to rely on was scary. When I connected with SOPA, I expected to get information and resources. I did not expect the bonus of connecting with a warm, encouraging group of people. It was a surprise I’m incredibly grateful for.
Right from my first online meeting with my intake counsellor, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. What will always stay with me is the patience and care they took while helping me navigate the transition. The responses to my (very many) queries and worries were thoughtful and detailed. In retrospect, SOPA was a perfect introduction to what I think being Canadian is: kind, open-minded, caring and multicultural.
At the beginning of my job search, I knew that my interpersonal, language and organizational skills would work to my advantage. My past work experience was rooted in linguistics, ranging from translation and administration to teaching. However, I realized quickly that I would need to add a few vital arrows to my quiver: Canadian communication skills, a strong network, a good reputation in Canada, and a broader skill set.
The courses helped me define and highlight my skills to fit Canadian expectations. As a South Asian, talking about myself in individualistic terms is hard. The facilitators and course material helped me shake that habit. They taught me how to showcase my achievements in my resume and during interviews.Alison Rebello, SOPA Alberta
This is where I found SOPA’s pre-arrival courses so valuable. They gave me an insight into what to expect even before getting onto the flight. When I took my first steps in my new home, I recalled lines from the course material; I remembered my intake counsellor’s encouragement. The courses helped me define and highlight my skills to fit Canadian expectations. As a South Asian, talking about myself in individualistic terms is hard. The facilitators and course material helped me shake that habit. They taught me how to showcase my achievements in my resume and during interviews. Interestingly, the courses also fit right in with the very Canadian notion of continuous learning. It was an excellent way to get my feet wet before I took on bigger learning experiences fearlessly.
SOPA also helped me connect with CRIEC who in turn got me in touch with my mentor. I can’t stress how important it is to have someone to explain the nuances of Canadian culture and reveal the secrets to a successful immigration journey; online research can only take you so far. In addition to SOPA’s counsellors and facilitators, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from CRIEC’s mentorship coordinator as well as my CRIEC mentor.
Armed with the insights gleaned from their lived experience, and the theoretical knowledge from SOPA’s courses, I put into practice what I learned. First, as a SOPA volunteer, and now, in my job as an administrative assistant and bookkeeper at an accounting company. Did I ever imagine myself doing what I’m doing? Not really. But that’s probably because I should have imagined bigger. Canada has provided me with the space, literally and figuratively, to explore opportunities beyond the scope of anything I might have allowed.
Which brings me to the most significant lesson the good people at SOPA and CRIEC taught me:
Be ready to pivot but keep your eye on the prize. The key to succeeding is to have an open mind to all opportunities while never losing sight of the final goal. It won’t be a straight line but an incredible adventure.
Written by: Alison Rebello, Program Assistant Volunteer, SOPA Alberta
As part of her pre-arrival preparation, Alison completed the SOPA program and is now volunteering so that she can pay it forward.
Having recently moved to Calgary, she is in the process of discovering her new home and its people. You’ll often find her striking up conversations with complete strangers because she believes everyone has an interesting story to tell. By sharing her learning and experiences, she hopes to ease the settlement process for other newcomers.
Read Alison’s other great posts:
What is SOPA?
Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA) is an Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funded program that delivers free pre-arrival services for job readiness, success and retention.