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VideoCast Episode 2: Why Study and Work in Canada?

In this episode, we have Randy Romero and Hoara Vicioso, a couple from the Dominican Republic who chose to come to Canada to study and build a new life. You’ll learn their experience choosing Canada as a study destination, and how it has been transitioning from life in the Dominican Republic, to life in Canada.

– Every time people ask me about how we get here. I always tell them plan is your best friend.

– This is Study and Work in Canada, Tamwood’s podcast on all things international students want to know about co-op education programs in Canada. I’m Tamsin Plaxton, Tamwood’s Founder and President, and an avid member of the Canadian private education sector. Welcome back to Work and Study in Canada, podcast by Tamwood Careers. And I’m really excited today to be joined by Randy Romero and Aura Vicioso, who are a couple from the Dominican Republic who chose to come to Canada to study and build a new life here. And they’re joining us today to talk about their experience of choosing Canada as a study destination and how it’s been transitioning from life in the DR, Dominican Republic, to life in Canada. So welcome Aura and Randy. Nice to have you here.

– Thank you

– Thank you so much for having us, it’s a pleasure.

– Yeah. As we can see from what we’re wearing today, it’s a little chillier here than it is in the DR. I guess that’s one of your big adjustments is the climate change. But let’s talk first of all about you, and maybe you could give a little background about your life back in the DR. And what led you to decide to leave the Dominican Republic and come and study abroad, and then eventually choose Canada as a place to study?

– I was planning to go to a place that I can potentially immigrate, because one thing is when you go and study abroad in a country that maybe you will have to come back to yours because you will not have opportunities maybe to find a good job opportunity and potentially be part of the country through immigration. So, we started to checking places and checking requirements, and which places will give us the opportunity for having first a really good education like Canada, and also at the same time that provide us the steps that we need to follow in order to immigrate potentially. Randy, you wanna share.

– Yeah, but my case was, basically, the same. Being wanting to move out of the Dominican Republic, basically, since forever. And the story I also tell that I fell in love with Canada. I think, it was back when I was 15 years old, possibly. Yeah, I remember that I was helping in a church of a cousin of mine with a camp that they do basically every year. So when, in one of those years, a group of Canadians missioner they went there. So, we basically, was helping and everything. And one of them showed me a magazine with just the beauties of Canada. I remember Northern lights. Saw the bears, the flowers. So how you can see the season of the year I click. So like, I wanna go there and live there forever. And then finalize the goal to move in here and was not kind of like my only option, but one of the options that I had or the possibilities that I was looking for was, basically, a place that I could stay. Just go study something and stay in there. And right now, this is the perfect place for the ones who want to really leave their country and start a new life in a different country.

– Okay, so it sounds like the desire to study abroad was for both of you, it was really driven by the desire to move abroad and start a new life overseas. And Randy, what I heard you saying was that you’ve had a fantasy or a dream of living in Canada since the age of 15 or you are sort of drawn to Canada because what you learned through your research about the opportunities for immigration here. And what were you doing? I think, in chatting with you before the show, I learned that you were both students in the Dominican Republic. Did you finish your higher education here.

– Yes, definitely, we actually graduated in mid 2019, we actually met at the university. In there, we study international relations. So we finished and right after we finished, we basically started the process to come to Canada. We had some knowledge of the field. We’ve gone through a few info sessions. We went actually one in the Dominican Republic directly and watched some videos on YouTube. So, knew exactly what we were gonna face in here when we decided to move.

– Yeah, planning is a very important part of all of this. Every time people ask me about how we get here, I always tell them plan is your best friend. And it’s not just like an empty plan based on what you can imagine. You need to search for the different documentation you need to search exactly where in Canada you will like to go. You need to match like the opportunities, but also with your background and just picturing in your mind what do you wanna do, and plan accordingly. Even after you move to Canada, the planning doesn’t stop. If you want to potentially immigrate, you need to follow perfect steps. In this immigration process there’s not much room to fail. Like you need to plan and have a couple of plans and it’s like a seed you need to go like directly and catch the best of the best. And, I think, that, that was one of the things that help us best.

– Yeah. Okay, great. And you decided to start with private education and you both had gone to university. And what made you choose to go to a private institution? Because you both studied with Tamwood Careers and we’ll talk a bit more about where you’ve gone since then. But what made you choose a private college in Canada, as opposed to some of the other…

– Well, first, it was the curriculum was very good. And if we wanted to move in Canada and follow good steps to do at the end what we want, we need to combine work and study because the dream is not for free, right? So, one of the best things about the curriculum that we catch in Tamwood Careers is that having the knowledge like learning from people with experience, but also having the opportunity to work at the same time. And it was more cost effective. After the whole research we made, it was more cost effective to start our journey with a private institution than with a public one. Also, it was easier, less steps. And after we started, we have great support. And in a couple of months, we were here. Comparing it, for example, with other friends that we met that maybe came from for a public university, they started their path maybe one year or even one year and a half. Because the starting dates also variates it’s not like, for example, in a private institution that you have more intakes. So if you are planning to do something faster and just get here, you can do it any time of the year. In public universities it’s not like that.

– Right, so you both chose to come and do private program at Tamwood Careers. And what made you choose Vancouver? Why Vancouver? There’s other cities in Canada and locations of Tamwood in Canada.

– Me, particularly, it something I always joke about it. I just always say that, oh, I just wanted to be as far as Dominican as possible. So, if you talk to basically all the Dominicans, they always go to Toronto because it’s, basically, what everybody knows. And it’s kinda like chiller in here, not just the environment, but people has a different attitude. Toronto being like a bigger city, faster city. So for my personality, this is something I enjoy most. Not just like the environment in the city, but when you start doing researches about how everything is super close from the city, so you can go to a mountain and just take public transportation and 30 minutes you’ll be there. You can go skiing 30 minutes as well. Something that you cannot get in the other big cities of the country. And as well, that was, I think, that’s something more for her, but the climate in here it’s better, more suitable for us that come from the Caribbean.

– Right.

– Yeah.

– The winters are not as harsh here as they are in other parts of Canada. That’s very true, yeah. So I grew up in Ontario and I went to university in Ontario. And I came to Vancouver fully intending to just stay for a few weeks and go back and start my career in Toronto. And I discovered, you know, the lifestyle here, but I also discovered the climate and it suited me as well. Just not having to shovel snow in the winter was being able to drive to the snow, right? You can have it if you want it, but you don’t have to live in it. So, that’s a definitely an advantage. And so you landed here in February of 2020. Tell me about that. That was just on the eve of the outbreak of COVID. What was COVID-19? What was that like for you being new to Canada, new to Vancouver and arriving just at the start of a global pandemic.

– Yeah, basically, that for us, well, we say that we were lucky because we were, basically, one of the latest group who was able to enter to Canada before the pandemic. So, on our first month of school, everything went south. So we started, we literally just finished our first module and then that was a Thursday. And then next week we started taking online classes because everything was closed. So we came in here or in somehow like difficult situation because that was new for everybody. So it was difficult adjusting to online classes of finding jobs at the beginning was super hard. But at the end that actually helped us a lot because when everything started opening, I think, that we had better opportunities. It was a bad situation at the beginning, but then I always try to look the bright side of everything. So, and I honestly think that we had better opportunities because of that. But what’s difficult adjustment at the beginning. Yeah.

– Yeah, even though it was difficult. I think, one key word here it’s opportunities. Even in the middle of a pandemic, like being in Vancouver was a good opportunity. And it’s something that even match of with your last question about why we came here. One of the things that I like to mention the most is the opportunities. So, you can have there’s many beautiful places in Canada with a lot of opportunities to learn and grow, but, you have to think when I finish my school or when I finish my diploma, whatever, what I’m going to do after. And Vancouver give you, for example, the opportunity to have different job opportunities. You can easily if you want to continue your path studying, you can go for it and do it. Other parts in Canada, doesn’t have maybe that like service-drive economy. Comparing it with Vancouver and even Toronto, you have many businesses that are willing to have people from, you know, entry level positions and start growing there. So, moving to the pandemic, that was one of the main things, while most of the people were in their houses. There’s many places, for example, even supermarkets, even like any type of business work was willing to have people working there because many people was at home. So one of the things that helped us the most was exactly that because we could find. Even though it was a very difficult situation, we planned and we find good job opportunity. And yes, we are still here.

– Yeah, so tell me a little bit about your experience of Canadians. I think, you’d had some probably brushes with Canadians in the Dominican Republic. Randy, you mentioned meeting some Canadians at the age of 15. Probably you would’ve met some tourists, but this is like, you’re now living and immersed in amongst Canadians. How would you describe Canadians, for those who have never experienced life here? What’s a description of a typical Canadian or the Canadian culture.

– For me, I always says that everybody in here it’s super nice. So, if you are used to the people from the north, in general, from North America, it’s a huge difference with between the people from the United States and Canadians. In here, like people is super nice. People is not like in a rush, always that’s in big cities in the United States. So that’s always positive. So people is always smiling. So you can get stopped at anytime on the street and people are gonna ask you anything or tell you like a compliment in a nice way, not in a harassing you or anything. So that’s something that I’ve always say. And it’s when you get here, especially, even better than what I thought and what I have experienced in the Dominican Republic.

– In my case, I never met Canadians before, just when I arrived here. So I, of course, I was searching about like how Canada was like the society and those kind of things. And yeah, it sounds great when you see it abroad, but, actually, once you arrive here and you see how sweet is the people, like, it’s not a cliche, like Canadians are so respectful. So nice. We feel very comfortable. And it’s like very open. We felt since we are arrive and how the people was treating us, we didn’t feel like we were abroad. We felt like we were home and people was so welcoming and anywhere you go. And even one of the things that I like, for example, as a woman is how empowering other woman’s are. Whenever you meet girls or you are in a meeting with different ladies, for example, everybody or all the ladies are so like welcoming and empowering in a good way. And those kind of things are, definitely, really hard to find out there in the world.

– I know COVID put a real damper on everyone’s social life. I had no social life for over a year, but we’re coming outta that now. Restaurants are open, bars are open, you know, all the amusements are open. So, how do you find meeting Canadians?

– So, one of the best things here as Randy mentioned before, is that you can actually find nice things to do. You can do hiking, you can go to different museums. You can actually networking in different environments and try to meet new people. Of course, there’s always opportunities in that area because even though the people is very nice and very welcoming and open to talk to you, that doesn’t mean, of course, that you will find lifetime relation with that people, right? So, I think, you need to put from your part and try to meet as much people as you can and try to connect. At the end, since this is a city very full of immigrants from different parts of the world, everybody is trying to find a niche. Everybody’s trying to find a community. And if you can do some activities, like for example, volunteering, or even in your own community with students, if you can try to connect with them and try to do something outside of class, you can actually create your little group. But at the end of the day, I think, that we all need to be open to those kind of relationships. So you can feel even more in your house in your home.

– You know, I think that’s true whether you come from another country or come from another part of this country. ‘Cause when I’m moved here from Toronto, I had no friends here and it wasn’t like I could make friends overnight even though I was a Canadian. People don’t trust you if you’re not here for a while because they think what’s the point of investing in this relationship if you’re not planning to stay long term. But once they see that you have an intention to stay and if you find common ground. So for me that was sports. You know, I made all my friends through the sports I played and then through work as well. Obviously, start to make friends at work. But yeah, I think, that’s true in a lot of places in the world. It’s you have to put an effort. You have to put yourself out there and it takes courage, you know, to push yourself to meet new people and be the first one to say, hello.

– One thing I learned here in Canada, like I was outgoing back there, but once I get here, I actually find a meaning for that. Here you need to put yourself out there. You need to be open. You need to have like a vivid attitude to the things. Also, to have like this open approach to people. And it’s something really nice because you learn and that even help you to get good job opportunities. Because even when you are in an interview for a job, or even if you are just meeting someone new, the way that you approach that person and the way that you try to open a little bit your inside book and just talk about your own experiences that can help you to connect with a person in just minutes. So it’s really valuable.

– Yeah, that’s great. So have you had a chance to travel at all outside of Vancouver? And are you seeing other parts of the province? I know COVID again, would’ve probably made that a little difficult, but have you made any excursion?

– Yeah, we actually been to Victoria. We traveled there, I think, it was earlier this year.

– Yeah.

– Yeah, and I particularly been to Whistler as well.

– Nice, Tamwood has a college in Whistler. What’s your experience been like?

– Yeah, Victoria it’s super different from Vancouver. It’s kind of like and old city. So a little bit slower than this, but like full of older structures that you a lot of places that you can walk and see. It’s a really nice place can like to retire to live the last years of your life.

– Yeah, or even for example, if you want to have like a take away from the city. Like if you want to escape for a weekend, Victoria is very close, but it’s like you travel back in time. And, for example, in my case, I really like the old feeling. I really like the old European kind of style. And when you get there and you start to doing things like taking the tea or just watching the people crossing next to the river. Like those kind of things that also like since it’s not like a big city. You take your time to go to the places. You walk more and people over there is like very welcoming and they like to talk to you from, like just make any comment to start talking to you. And those kind of things are really nice when you are very immersed into working and study at the same time you can get stressed. But the fact that you can take just a ferry, very close from here and being there in around one hour or two hours and it’s like you get to a new country. I think, it’s a really good trip.

– So Aura, tell me a little bit more about your current situation. I understand you transferred after you finished your diploma with Tamwood Careers, you applied and were admitted into a masters of business program, an MBA, to a private university here in Vancouver. And what made you choose to go on in your studies? Is that part of your immigration process?

– More than immigration process, I think, it’s my more my professional process. So when I was doing my bachelor degree, I always plan to even get to a PhD if I can, right? But I choose to go through the business path. When I started my diploma here, I never knew how much I would like to learn about businesses, especially, international business and management. And I felt this passion. So after the diploma and all the things that I learned here and the connections I made with the professors, I know that my next step will be a master degree and concentrated more in business. Something that also helped me to take that decision is that I am living in a very business-driven society in Vancouver. Vancouver has many opportunities in terms of business, whether if you want to create your own as an entrepreneur or even being part of a new business, that is a starting like a startup. And it’s about to grow, like even with established companies already. You can always find a niche and start growing because, of course, you need to start your path here from zero. Even though if you have some opportunities or sorry, some experience back home, when you get to Canada, you need to start building your professional life in Canada. So more employers can see that you have the Canadian experience that they like so much, right? So, I was searching different plans in business. And public universities have really good curriculums. We all know, but again, if you are studying and working and also you need to be on a budget constantly, right? So, one of the things that also helped me to get this plan, it was because it was even more cost effective and it matched what I like after studying my diploma at Tamwood.

– And Randy, I understand because you two are a couple,

– Yeah.

– you are able to get a spousal work permit that’s allowing you to work full time in Canada while Aura is doing her master’s program. And how difficult was that to get this spousal work permit? How long did it take?

– No, honestly, not difficult at all. That we’ve basically lived together for quite some time. So it’s basically, you just have to show proof of that and we’ve have some like the lease in terms of the house on our names, the insurance of the house in our name and as well, we’ve lived together for a couple of months back in the Dominican Republic and we have proof of that. So, honestly, that part was not difficult at all. We just gathering all the documentation, but not difficult at all.

– How long did it take to from the time you gathered your documents and applied to the issuing of the spousal work permit?

– I wanted to mention that it was for me, we both came here like independent students, not like a couple. So, once we get here and we finish the program, what I did as a student was to make like extension of the study permit. And in my extension, I applied for the work permit for my spouse. So, it was very fast after we applied in around 15 days or less, we got the approval. So, I think, it was a little bit more challenging maybe all the process with the university. With getting accepted first and, actually, getting the extension because after you are inside of Canada, I think, the timing is less and the requirements to do extensions and regularize your status as an immigrant is even faster than if you are outside. So one of the things that we take in consideration was that when we were trying to planning our immigration process. It’s great to get here with a diploma or even a certification. Just to check the place, just to be inside to start your path. After you are here you will have even more opportunities because you will just regularize your status as an immigrant than when you are outside, that you need to gather even more documents and more proof of why you want to come here.

– Right, so getting yourself into Canada with a simple program application, like a diploma or certificate was sort of an easy first step. And then once you’re here, you extended to do master’s. Applied to get a spousal work permit, and that’s allowed you to stay longer. And what’s your intention when you graduate from the MBA program. What do you intend to do?

– Yeah, so I would like to just check if I can get a job opportunity that matches what I’m studying, or at least a place that I can grow and put in practice what I’m learning through this process also eventually immigrate after maybe in around one year more. If you are studying in Canada, you will start getting points. And if you are working, also those are points as well that you can gather to do some immigration path like the express entry. So maybe by next year, since we already have all this experience, we will be eligible for the PR process or permanent resident process.

– Any other advice or suggestions to people that are thinking about studying in Canada, any other thoughts you wanna pass on about the decision to choose Canada, the life here, what they should expect? Reasons to pick Canada over say other English language speaking dest…

– It’s basically what I was mentioning earlier that first you have to have a plan. Planning and you can write everything down or just even memorize the things that what’s your goal in here, and things that you have to do to achieve that goal. You have to gather as much information as possible. Good sources, bad sources, good experience, bad experience. So, you could know, specifically, what you’re gonna be facing once you get here. We’ve seen a couple of cases of people, they say like, this is not what they were expecting. So, but the information is out there. So, you basically, were not searching for the information in the correct places. So, just get as much information as you can. So you could know specifically what you’re gonna be facing in here. And I’m pretty sure you are not going to be disappointed. This is, I don’t know. I just say that I’m living a dream. But my dream might be not your dream. So, but this is a place that, actually, welcomes everybody and has opportunities for everybody. Regardless of your background or belief, thoughts, doesn’t really matter in here. It’s a really open country.

– So, in my case, I think, that you can’t take immigration here for granted. Even though we say it like that, of course, it is not the easiest thing to get or to achieve. However, there’s challenges. You need to be open to that challenges. You need to be open to work. You need to be open to demonstrate the country, the government, your peers, you need to demonstrate them that you, actually, want to be here and you need to win that. It’s not something that they just going to give you just because it’s you and Canada it’s open to you. Welcome everyone. It’s not like that. The Canadian government has a very good process to actually select the people that will come here. And moreover, once you are here and you start your path, there is also another selection process where you have to prove to the government that you actually want to be here, but with actions. You need to do what it takes. You need to work. You need to prove, you need to study. It’s not like you can just come here and just wait for them to give you opportunities. You need to go out there and look for the opportunities and work and earn that. It’s not something for granted.

– I mean, one thing though, I must say is we’re seeing more and more… There’s a real labor shortage in Canada right now. So, if ever there’s been a time to come and put in the effort and work and get the Canadian work experience that would help towards eligibility for immigration, now is the time. We’re just hearing from employers across all sectors. It’s just such a shortage of labor right now. So yeah, a good time to be in Canada looking for work. And Randy, tell me a little bit about your job. You’re working right now, full time.

– Yeah, now I’m actually working for the resort reservation, Whistler. Basically, the company who manage all the operations at the Whistler resort. I started there a little bit over a year ago. And I did my co-op in there. After that I finished and once I got my open work permit, I stayed with the company. As I saw that I could have a good career in there. So, basically, I was doing the same thing that I was doing back in the Dominican Republic or that I started doing in the Dominican Republic, in the customer service industry. And a couple of month back, I think, it was three month and so back, I was promoted to customer care supervisor in that company. So, thank you. I’ve been in the

– Wow, congratulations.

– customer service.

– Yeah, that’s great.

– sector since 2011, 2012. So it’s, actually, I wouldn’t say lucky to continue my path. I don’t like to say lucky because it’s something that I’ve worked a bunch of years of my life. So, that was not out of luck. I was just prepare and I got something that I’ve to continue working in my area.

– Well, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been really a pleasure to get to know you more and learn about your story. And I wish you all the best.

– No, thank you.

– Thank you.

– As continue on your journey here in Canada. That’s all for this week’s episode of Work and Study in Canada. Brought to you by Tamwood Careers. Tamwood is a private education company operating career colleges in Toronto, Vancouver and Whistler, Canada. Tamwood offers popular work and study programs in fields like business, hospitality and tourism, digital marketing, web design, UX, UI, and entrepreneurship. International students who study with Tamwood gain valuable work experience in Canada and start on a pathway to a successful career and immigration in Canada. If you’d like more information about Tamwood and its programs, visit our website You can also check out our videos on YouTube and connect with us on social, at Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.