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Estefania: From Argentina to Quebec

Estefania is originally from Patagonia, Argentina. She isn’t sure why she originally picked Canada to complete an exchange program after graduating from high school, but she knows she fell in love with the country, and more specifically Quebec.

Coming back down South after living up North was hard and something was missing from her life. She eventually came back to Canada on holiday, and once again, it felt right.

She will return to Quebec soon for the third time but as a landed permanent immigrant. As a young professional who speak Spanish, English and French, she should fit in pretty easily!

1) Why did you decide to immigrate to Canada?

The first time I landed in Canada, I was a 18 years old exchange student with the Rotary Club. I could choose three destination countries and my first option was—of course—Canada. I‘m not sure what made me pick Canada at the time, but yet it was my first choice.

I was selected to go to Lévis (Quebec), a francophone city. My experience during that year (2006) was incredible positive and I got to know and love lots of aspects of the québecois lifestyle. When I came back to Argentina, I was not the same and, honestly, I never got used to our way of living again. This is why I decided to go back there on holidays in 2009-2010: I needed to figure out if what I was missing in my life was Canada. My second stay in Canada was truly as positive as the first one and I knew that that was where I wanted to live.

I think my immigration story is a lot like a love story: I fell in love with the country (or the province, since Quebec is quite different). I’ve always felt like I didn’t quite belong in my home country, and hey, who says that I have to live here because that is where I was born?

I came back to Argentine and started the immigration paperwork. I am now 23 and I’m ready to go.

2) Did you find the immigration process difficult?

I did all the immigration paperwork by myself and I found it quite easy—everything is online. A lot of paperwork is required but it’s all easy to obtain. Both the Bureau d’immigration du Québec and the Canadian embassy were willing to answer my emails when I had questions. The whole process was fast: it took me 8 months to get my visa.

3) How to you prepare to look for a job in Canada?

Since I would like to go on studying in Canada, I’m not really concerned about finding a job in my field (I’m an English-Spanish translator). I would like, however, to work in a field where languages are a must, like tourism or teaching. Since the famous “Canadian experience” is so important, I’m not too picky about my first job. I’ve been sending out my resume since I got my CSQ (November 2010) and I mostly get the same response: your résumé is very interesting, but we need you to be here right away.

4) Where did you learn French/ English? What was your second language level when you first came to Canada?

I started studying English in a private language school when I was a young girl. By the time I arrived in Canada, my level of English was very good and I was very confident with it.

Since I was going to Quebec, French was all that mattered, and they let me know that: I received a letter from the president of my hosting Rotary Club suggesting that I should start learning the language to have a better and faster integration. Well, I did so. I took a 6 month-long course with a private teacher at the Alliance Française. When I arrived in Quebec, I could communicate fairly well, but I didn’t understand the accent. With time, I realized that my decision of studying the language had paid off because I learned it really fast.

5) What was your biggest culture shock when you first came as a student?

I guess my biggest cultural shock had nothing to do with the winter (I was ready to experience a true winter, with snow and ice involved). I was really surprised with how clean the streets and public building are.

Recycling caught my attention, too: I thought it was tiring and pointless and I was proven wrong. As a matter of fact, when I came back to Argentina, it was hard for me not to do it.

6) What haven’t you gotten used to yet in Canada?

Social life is too organized: if you want to meet up with someone, you have to schedule it like 2 or 3 weeks ahead. Spontaneity is almost non-existent. Though, I have to admit that people were more spontaneous with me because they knew that for Latinos it’s culturally accepted.

7) What do you expect from immigrating to Canada?

This experience for me will mean independence and growing up and I’m more than ready to start living it. I think Québec City if the perfect city for me because it is big, but not huge, and I’m really looking for a quieter place to live in (I currently live in Buenos Aires).

8) Do you find life expensive in Canada compared to your home country?

Overall, life is cheaper in Canada. There are certain things that are cheaper in Argentina, like public transportation and meat.

9) Are you planning to apply for Canadian citizenship when you will meet the requirements?

Yes, when I meet the requirements, I’ll definitely apply for the Canadian citizenship! First of all, Canada allows dual citizenship (in my case I guess I’ll call it “triple” since I’m also Spanish). Secondly, having a Canadian passport makes traveling (especially to the U.S.) a lot easier and allows us to get certain positions in the government. And last, but not least, I would like to fulfill my duties and responsibilities as a citizen through voting.

10) What advice would you give to someone from your home country interested in immigrating to Canada?

Primero que nada les diría que estudiar el/los idioma/s del país receptor, sea cual sea, es muy importante para lograr una integración rápida. Traten de hacer contacto con otros inmigrantes, ellos ya pasaron por esto y seguramente estarán dispuestos a ayudarlos. No comparen constantemente sus países con su nuevo país, puede ser incómodo y molesto para muchas personas. Mucha suerte!!! Si quieren escribirme, pídanle mi e-mail a Zhu.

First of all, studying the language(s) is really important to have a fast integration—no matter where you are going. Try getting in touch with other immigrants: they have been through this and they will surely be willing to help you. Don’t constantly compare your country with your new country—it can be awkward and annoying for many people. Good luck!!! If you want to get in touch with me, ask Zhu for my e-mail address.

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