Our Living In Canada Series Features Chinedu Ejiofor and Immigrant from Nigeria who decided to return to school upon immigrating to Canada to ensure he has a fulfilling career in Canada. His journey is one with determination, focus and hard-work. It all paid of well for Chinedu and we are happy to share his story with you all.
1.) When did you come to Canada and why?
I moved to Canada in February of 2015. My wife had moved here 2 years prior, so after we got married in 2014, she sponsored me here via the spouse/family sponsorship program.
2.) As a new Immigrant in Canada and what major challenges you faced?
I would say I was a bit lucky to have had a support system in place (my wife and her family were already here), so the challenges were minimal. However, as is a common experience with newcomers, you often always have to start your economic journey with “any” job you can find.
Also, I had to work 3 jobs at some point, just to make ends meet and save up some capital we needed for some stuff. I worked just 2 jobs for the most part.
3.) Why did you decide to go back to school?
Canada is a country where anybody can become anything they desire as long as they are ready to work for it. The system is somewhat consistent in categorizing economic rewards with specific qualifications and skill sets. I knew what my maximum earnings would be if I continued working in a warehouse and what it would be if I sought additional knowledge/skill sets. The data is available and besides, the amount of time spent at work is the same. Why not make it have more financial value?
Also, it is always better to have a job that requires my intellect more than it would require my physical strength.
4.) You decided to go to a Saskatchewan Polytechnic and not a university, why?
My initial intention was to do another Public Health Masters here but then I had to do a lot of research about different careers, their relative job availability, the possibility for growth, and career advancement. Getting a higher paying job was a huge consideration as well. Most of my research was done on Alberta career and learning information services; https://alis.alberta.ca/.
I chose to focus more on my first love (Engineering) and found that there are more job opportunities for people with Engineering Technology Diploma than there are for Engineering Bachelor Degree holders, especially in Saskatchewan.
My second reason was the fact that Universities are generally more expensive and take a lot more time to complete (about 4 to 5 years) and I am not that young anymore. I was going to get a loan anyway, there was no reason to go too deep in student loans.
Thirdly, Saskpolytech has a unique co-op Education system (for some courses), that connects students to local employers, where you can work (intern) as a student and make good more and get real industry experience while going to school. I also found out that 80-85% of graduating students get retained at places where they intern.
Fourthly, when I decided on a course (Electrical Engineering technology), I observed that a technologist fresh out of school will earn more money than an Engineer (EIT) fresh out of school. The Engineer after becoming a Professional Engineer (P.eng) however starts to make more money in the long run. Engineers are mostly salary-based while Technologists are mostly paid by the hour and have greater chances of working overtime while they make a lot of extra money too.
5.) What was it like studying, being a husband and a dad?
As a narrative, this part is the burning that usually happens to raw materials like gold, crude oil, and diamond before they become valuable. I had to keep working to keep up with everyday bills for the time being. My wife was also studying for the most part. When she completed her program in my last year and by God’s grace got a job almost immediately, it helped a whole lot.
I would typically go to work straight from school (which was about 50 minutes out of town) and one semester I had to work night shifts. I would get home from work at 06:45 and leave for school at 07:15 and come home at about 17:30.
For my academics, I simply tried to use every single minute that I had wisely. Every school work was treated as if they were due almost immediately. Not a lot of socialization was done during those school years.
My wife was immensely helpful. She filled in the majority of the gaps my frequent absence caused and when she started working her new job, I didn’t have to work too many hours anymore.
6.)What has life been like after school? Tell us about the employment opportunities you got.
My program had 3 internships in between semesters. I was blessed to have had placement for all three. The last employer I interned with, had hired me full time before I went back to school to complete my last semester. On completion of my education, I started working full time for them and have been there to date.
I didn’t have to look for work after school.
7.) Advise a new Immigrant coming into Canada
This is a tough one but I’ll point out a few personal lessons:
1. Be intentional about what you want to do with your life here in Canada, try not to always wing it. You can become almost what ever you dream as long as you are ready to work for it.
2. As much as it is important to take advice from people, some people simply project their weaknesses, failures, and fears on others; especially on newcomers. I once worked with an immigrant colleague who described to me how it was impossible to complete school here while holding a job at the same time. He was so certain I wouldn’t make it to the end with a job let alone with kids. I got a lot of discouragements along those lines but I knew what I wanted and went for it.
3. Seek information and draw your conclusions based on your personal goals and don’t be afraid to push yourself.
4. Don’t leave your house with the racism card every day. Not everyone or everything is racist here. Always be open to taking genuine opportunities to better yourself if you don’t get what you want or think you deserve (entitlement spirit no good).
5. As an immigrant, especially a person of color, you will most likely have to work twice as hard or speak twice as loud (sometimes) before you are heard. No room for mediocrity. A-game always.
6. You are most probably judged by a different standard. Clean up your character as much as you can.
7. Lastly, there is nothing wrong with small beginnings and minimum wage life as long as it’s a step to a better place for you. Even if you are content with the minimum wage life too, there is nothing wrong.
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