Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Skills Connect for Immigrants

For no particular reason, I felt quite happy yesterday.

In the afternoon, I went for a Skills Connect for Immigrants talk to see how I may get guidance on returning back to health care. [Note: There is also a queue to get into the program, currently a 8-10 weeks wait.] Thereafter, I shopped for mundane stuff -- socks, hair dye, tampons, and facial moisturizer. Followed by a volunteer talk and English charade games night at a settlement services agency. Nothing special or concrete to improve my current life circumstances.

Yet somehow I felt happy. Happy enough that I danced in my room to music from my mobile phone upon reaching home at night. Happy enough that I had a surge of energy to check emails, read blogs, surf the internet, check/update Facebook and am still awake at 6am after staying up the whole night!

Ah, the wonders of emotions and emotional energy. Ups and downs as always.

p.s. Another nursing friend, whom I got to know from Singapore, has just arrived in Toronto.

[Addendum on 11-Jul-2011]
9 weeks after my application to join the "Skills Connect for Immigrants program" was submitted, I was assigned an Employment Counselor. I am happy to say that, as luck would have it, my supportive counselor also switched career herself (from banking to employment services).

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Migration & settling-in: A progress review

For the past 2 weeks, I was feeling a little down. The spike in colleagues departing from my workplace and some incidents at work put a dent to my usual chirpiness. Added to that, as the 6th month milestone of migration drew near, I started running through my mind a progress review -- and the result was underwhelming.

I had expected to achieve the following within 6 months.

V Local friends: I had been blessed for the new friends who have entered my life since my arrival in Canada. Although, regrettably, only a few of these are born-and-bred Canadians. Nevertheless, I like that people here in Metro Vancouver take to making new friends easily.

X Canadian income: I had expected that I would be able to land a stable interim job that earns me enough Canadian dollars to cover my monthly expenses here. Unfortunately, not. Almost every job that fetches above CAD 15/hour requires some kind of Canadian or B.C. certification.

X Career: I expected that I would embark on my chosen career in Canada sometime between 6 months to 1 year. However, my prolonged indecisiveness over which career path to take has delayed my progress. Add to that the long queue to get an appointment for the Internationally Educated Nurses' Substantially Equivalent Competency assessment and the wait for the results. The delay is now further compounded by the duration of training required for my chosen path and the twice yearly intake for the limited enrollment course. I had expected that only short-term (e.g. 3 months) or part-time training is required. Unfortunately, my expectation was not based on reality. In addition, I would have just missed the spring enrollment as I have several prerequisites to fulfill. Thus, I will have to wait for the fall enrollment.

X Living accommodations: I figured that once I embarked on my chosen career in Canada, I would be able to afford renting a studio with my own kitchen and toilet. And preferably a studio near my workplace. Or at most a shared living space with one other like-minded and easy-going roomie. [Given my peculiar pet peeves.] Guess that has to wait, given my limited Canadian income and my plans to move near the nursing school in fall.

V Getting around: Thanks to the good public transport infrastructure, I am comfortable with getting around Metro Vancouver.

V Credit rating: I wanted to start building up a good credit rating as soon as possible, in preparation for my long-term plan for a home mortgage in B.C. I recently applied for my 2nd credit card in Canada. My application was approved with a decent credit limit. Guess, that means that I'm meeting my target of creating a good credit rating while on my 1st credit card.

? Love life: I was thinking that a change of environment and being forced to make new friends will help me expand my social circle... and hopefully that may bring in potential for a new love life. So far, other than a few unpromising dates, nothing has quite happened. Plus, my concern over my budget has also kept me worried about spending money unnecessarily on dating. [Note: As a modern woman, I believe in going dutch or taking turns to pay for dates, unless the man is much wealthier than me.]

So I was feeling a little down, until yesterday night.

By chance, 3 born-and-bred Canadian colleagues mentioned to me yesterday that they had or are considering joining nursing. I don't know why it cheers me up. Maybe that they are nice colleagues -- and that gives me the impression that I may work with nice Canadian nurses in future? Or that one mentioned how hard it is for her to get into a nursing course. Thus, in my mind, I am really lucky to have a clear "short-cut" that takes only 1 year of training.
P had finished high school a year ago. She considered applying for nursing then but did not send in her application in the end because she wasn't sure of her career directions. Now, a year later, there is a 2 year wait-list to get into an LPN course in one of the reputable community college. The other reputable community college has such a long wait-list that it isn't even taking in any new applications. As for the private colleges, the tuition fees are around CAD25K for the LPN course and P isn't sure if the private colleges' qualifications are recognized. I asked P why does she not try for RN courses in the reputable local universities. P explained that she would need to take 1 to 2 years of college credits before she can apply for RN courses in a university. And even if she were to complete the required credits, she is not guaranteed enrollment into an RN course because the competition for admission into a university RN course is even steeper.
That night, I called my friend JX to share what I learned from P. JX also worked as an RN in Singapore before landing in B.C. about 1 month earlier than me. She is awaiting for Alberta's nursing board's report of her IEN SEC assessment. As JX puts it, we are already very lucky and have achieved much in the short time that we are here -- especially since we did not know much about the reality in Canada before we arrived. In addition, thanks to our past RN training and experience being recognized in Canada, we have a short-cut to entering the RN profession here compared with the locals. [Note: I like chatting with JX, she is able to spin such positive perspectives. Plus, having originated from China, she is an experienced migrant given her previous move to Singapore.]

Having come to terms with my Career (and indirectly Canadian Income and Living Accommodations) status, I asked JX if she has anyone to recommend me for my Love Life status. Interestingly, she wanted to introduce someone (another immigrant) to me previously. However, she thought that I may prefer a born-and-bred Canadian and wasn't sure if she would be intruding into my private affairs. Thus she did not broached the subject back then. And so, we had a good discussion on what I am looking for in a spouse and what we observed in the marriages around us (including JX's own marriage). [Note: This brings to mind a humourous yet down-to-earth book I read, "How to shop for a husband".]

After I hung up the phone, I gave myself more credit in the migration and settling-in progress review.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

6th month's expenses

My total expense for the 6th month (1st to 31th March) is around CAD1,247, broken down as follow.

Amount (CAD) : Category

Once-off expenses

* 104 : Emergency Response Bag contents1

Yearly expenses


Monthly expenses

* 500 : March room rental
*  39 : Mobile phone bill
*  61 : Medical Services Plan
* 110 : Transport - Monthly 2-Zone Farecard
* NIL : Transport - Others
* 155 : Food/groceries
* NIL : Clothings
*  31 : Household Items (including toiletries)
*  87 : Recreation/Entertainment/Restaurant2
*  17 : Meals/Drinks
* NIL : Personal Grooming & Make-up
*  16 : Stationery/Postage3
*  36 : Others (Lottery, Souvenirs, etc)4

I tried to rein-in my expenses this month, given that I have yet to achieve a balanced Canadian cash flow. However, I still bust my budget on some expenses.

Note 1: In preparation for a potential volunteer assignment, I purchased items for an "Emergency Response Bag". These purchases were not in my original budget. In addition, I am still short of a few more requisite items, which may add another CAD 50 to my future expenses.

Note 2: I am happy to be selected for a community theatre project. Each community participant (like myself) would receive CAD 1,000 in total honorarium over the duration of the project. My sub-group of 3 held our first 4 meetings over restaurant meals. As a result, my Entertainment expense has busted its budget. Fortunately, going forward all 3 of us has agreed to cut down on such expenses by meeting over tea/coffee instead.

Note 3: Tax returns for 2010 are due by 30-April 2011. Luckily for me, a friend who is a community tax filing volunteer did my taxes for free. [Addendum 10-Apr-2011: The B.C. tax forms contains policy/terms that I am not familiar with as I am new to B.C. Thus, to me, it seems much more complicated than the Singapore tax forms.] For an immigrant filing Canadian federal taxes for the first time, only paper filing is accepted. Thus, I sent mine using the Canadian Post registered mail service, at CAD 10.

Note 4: Within 3 weeks of the arrival of the new store director manager at my workplace, there was a spike in the staff turnover (i.e. resignations and/or transfers to other outlets). Based on one colleague's count, I reckoned that the spike represents around 10-15% of the store's staff. Informal gossips cited dislike of the new store director manager or his policies, visa expiry and personal plans as reasons for the departures. Although it was not my duty, I felt compelled to buy farewell cards for those whose departures I learned of before they were gone. I just felt that it was only decent that every staff should leave with something to remember the good times we have had -- no matter that it is just a simple card with parting words from fellow colleagues.