IEC: International Experience Canada

My IEC Experience began back in late 2014 with the announcement that the first round of visas would be released in late January.  I think I remember this correctly – 2015 participants, let me know if I’m wrong.

So, the day the visas would be released was only announced two days before, so you can either rely on yourself to spend every day from around the 10th January checking the  IEC website or you can turn to a great and incredible forum – Experience Canada, or a more recent discovery, the IEC Facebook group.  Both are really supportive and exciting environments where all of us (soon to be) expats get together and talk everything from health insurance, to application panic, to hey – check out the blog I wrote about my experience!

When the day finally came, I was lucky that I’d already prepared everything – putting a resume into the CIC prescribed format is one of the most antagonising things I’ve ever done.  Cue visions of the visa processing office putting their fingers between my spaces and wondering what level of security risk radical I was for tapping the spacebar twice after finishing a sentence instead of one.  I would recommend that if you know you’re going to apply, keep as many documents as you can handy and prepared at all times.  Dropbox is a godsend! Especially because I was at work when the quota opened.  

I understand that the IEC 2016 application has changed this year so the experience wasn’t so akin to trying to buy hotly anticipated concert tickets, the Canadian government adopted a more pool style recruitment method – please do let me know how that was though!

Anyway, I’ve decreed myself a firsthand expert on the following: the application experience, the arrival, the apartment hunt, the job hunt (some tips for being unemployed here), opening bank accounts, home internet and a phone, then the actual life experiences like, the value of a dollar, making friends, culture shock, the surprise language barrier and homesickness, sports, places to go in Toronto and how to find out about places to go in Toronto, managing the weather, the Beaches, the Island, the postal system, the public transit, things people will ask you, things you should ask them, books that make the expat life easier and finally the food.  So, this is a fully fledged, blog series aimed to be published over the next 8-10 weeks or so (life depending) about how to move to Canada with a slight definite focus on the experience of Toronto.

So, sign up & follow along for all of the insider info and little guiding light to lead you on your way.  Also, absolutely comment any questions you have, I’m pretty much an open book about whole process! 

Lost Sock Memorial Day: 09/05/16

I remember you. Pink. Fluffy. For years you guarded 5 of my most precious digits with all of your might.  In return, I showed you my part of the world. Peaking above my ankle high boots you saw so much.  Walked with me through so many life events.  Mpink socky first year of university.  My first driving lesson.

I don’t know what happened to you that day.  I don’t even know what day it happened.  It is your sorrowful secret to keep.  All I know is, one day I took you off my right foot, never to place you there again.

Was it the washing machine? That has taken so many of your kind. Are you lurking in some crevice within it? Damp. Cold. Singular. Was it Smudge? The little white West Highland Terrier? Small and unthreatening to me, a menace, a kidnapper to you.

I know you must be somewhere. I know you are lying somewhere, maybe filthy, maybe clean, maybe with a couple of holes in. Maybe faded.

Your counterpart was unfortunately lost in the Great Clear Out prior to the Great Move. It is a harsh reality that without you he was completely useless to me. Trust that we both waited for you as long as we could.  He in the “odd sock” bag, I, struggling through winters wearing different pairs of your kin.  Again, the inconvenient truth is that eventually I simply did not have room for singular socks in my house, nor alas in my heart.  The pain was ultimately too great to bear.

However, today, on this, Missing Sock Memorial Day, you are remembered. You, and all of the pink, fluffy, black, trainer, stripey, holey socks I have left behind.  Thank you for all you did for my feet. The three of us (my two feet and I) are eternally grateful for your sacrifice.


A Brit Abroad: Moving from the UK to Canada with a Little Music

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell the epic adventure tale that is my recent immigration to Canada.  Originally I thought it could take the style of a checklist or a barrel of hints and tips, but have since decided to embed those a bit.  I’m hoping that this will be a little more entertaining than: “Now you need to buy health insurance – don’t forget those winter sports!”

I’d like you to click play on the song below – not yet, I’ll tell you when. The piece is part of The Planets by Gustav Holst and is entitled ‘Jupiter: Bringer of Jollity”. Just so we all know where we’re going on this journey, I have no idea how to appropriately describe music – so if you’re the equivalent of a connoisseur in the classical department, one thousand sorry’s to you.   If you don’t like classical music, be assured that it’s not drone-y or full of scrapey strings.  It is the kind of song I listen to to get through the last 7 minutes on a treadmill, a song I have listened to at 4am while trying to complete my dissertation, and on reflection, it is a piece of music that completely sums up my move across the Atlantic. I’m going to somewhat attempt to walk with you while we go on my immigration story.  I think this piece of music might help with getting you to feel how I felt.  Maybe I’ve actually, finally cracked.  I get that this might be a bit experimental so please do let me know what you think!

I’ve tried to think of the best way to do this – and  have decided that every now and then I’ll give you a little time stamp of where we’re at in the music feathered with extra links. Huge apologies if you find there’s too much writing for the time or vice-versa.

Hit play now.

During the first minute and 10 seconds, we’re heading from that initial thought all the way to the Departure Lounge at Gatwick Airport.

It’s very exciting.  So exciting.  You have to make a list.  A very long list of what you need to do, including the purchase of insurance, closing all of your accounts in the UK, forwarding your mail, telling your landlord, quitting your job.  But right now, that’s just a thought.  It’s on the list. It can seem quite daunting.  You slowly start to think about this move in real terms, the logistics.

0:24 – Then, it suddenly becomes real and it’s happening. You’re actually packing up and cleaning your house (thanks mum) and headed back to your childhood home for two weeks of goodbyes, quality time and panicking.  There will definitely be a lot of panicking.

You will find yourself, at some point, sitting amongst a pile of stuff you have accumulated from so many years of not having to be worried about fitting your whole life into two large suitcases. You also begin to have existential ponderings about material possessions and their emotional ties – you decide to bring “Ducky” the little white duck with a blue nose that you received from a dear friend during a hard time, although there’s not really any room for him.

Eventually, the night before rolls around and you practice forcing your suitcases into your uncle’s car.  They squeeze in.  You get to the airport and are first in line for check in.  There’s time for a quick breakfast and then the most difficult part of all: saying goodbye to your mum, your dad and your sister. This is when you start blubbing.

1:11 – However, there isn’t much time for that right now as you need to get sorted and ready to head through security.  It’s quick and although you are seriously laden down with your most important life possessions, it’s still relatively smooth.

And now for the duty free. You walk past the vodka, the sunglasses, the perfumes, all of the British memorabilia you could ever dream to buy, but decide you cannot because the past few days have been an admission that you own too much already.

1:30 – Your attention turns now to the task at hand.  No-one is making sure you’re on that plane.  Except you.  Where is my gate?

1:40 – The gate information arrives. You meander through the fanciest airport shops in the general direction of where you are due to leave the UK for longest time you’ve ever left: Gate 25.

1:50 – At this point, you’ve been by yourself for about an hour and a half and you’re feeling pretty comfortable.  It is a confident walk toward the gate, as if you do this walk daily as part of the commute.  You’re still nervous, but the excitement level is definitely rising fast.

2:09 – You’re 10 minutes into walking and realise you’ve just now gone past Gate 4.  You increase speed in the fear that you are about to miss a flight that is still almost an hour and a half away.  Gate 25 feels like it’s half way to Toronto.

You finally find the gate, sit down and feel frantic.  Have I missed the plane? You keep checking out the large, glass window to make sure that the plane hasn’t left without you and the 300 other people you’re sharing this experience with.  You hear the announcement that boarding is slightly delayed, become convinced you’ve met Nikki Grahame from Big Brother and feel generally uncomfortable and nervous.

2:31 – Then they announce that there isn’t going to be any tea of coffee on the flight.  It is an 8 hour flight. -.-

2:40 – Boarding begins and you’re patiently waiting for your turn to jump on the giant hunk of metal that will take you across an enormous ocean.  Terrified.

2:52 – The queue is too long and disorganised and you think you’re going to miss the plane.  By some unearthly miracle, you don’t.  You board. That confidence from earlier is back.

3:02 – You find your seat, sit down and meet your fellow passenger.  Unfortunately I don’t remember Keith’s actual name, but he was friendly and from Hamilton.  You give him your headphones because he didn’t have any.

3:12 – Take off.  You feel an overwhelming sense of achievement.  Who really knows why, all you’ve done is successfully boarded a plane. But I think it’s a culmination of the crippling fear, the leaving behind of almost everything and everyone you know and you really just feel brave. When we pass the coast you are brought back to road trips with your parents and leaving the county and saying “Goodbye Gloucestershire, Hello Worcestershire” except this time it is “Goodbye Britain, hello Atlantic Ocean”.  After this touching moment you remember your crippling fear of sharks and look down at all of that water.  You quickly decide to forget this fear, and not to worry about dealing with any potential shark situations until they arrive.  The flig2013-12-27 17.36.53ht is mostly uneventful, with the exception of Keith sleeping for 5 of the 8 hours and the experience of a desperately full bladder.  The food is as always enjoyable and although looks like rice, tastes exactly like the potato style meal you had on your last flight. The man in front of you keeps putting his seat back but the anger of this is quelled by the discovery that you too can put your seat back.  This is acceptable because you are at the very back of the plane. Occasionally, during the 8 hours you are brought back to the gravity of what you are doing.  The only way I can really describe this is how brave you feel and how proud of yourself you are.  You are so excited at the prospect of the unknown.  No, Canada isn’t really much different from the UK, but the distance is huge and who knows what opportunity is waiting there for you.  Even though you’ve visited before, it didn’t feel like this.  It didn’t feel so monumental.  You finally have the opportunity to watch The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and, as was expected, it is excellent.

4:42 – We start to land, and what has just been a big white expanse becomes trees and bigger sections of white where lakes and rivers are.  As you descend further you can see the CN Tower and the Toronto Skyline.  Take some deep breaths and don’t forget to suck on those soft mints you bought so your ears don’t hurt and pop horribly.

5:02 – TOUCH DOWN. You’ve moved.  You live in Canada now. You can’t help but beam from ear to ear.

5:13 – Here, begins a series of lines.  The first one is at the spot check for passports.  Keith and I chat about the dangling ice (whose name escapes me at this moment). Then you lose Keith and jump in the visitor’s line.  Have that blue folder with your life in it handy.  The border guard is nice and directs you to yet another line.  The 3rd line is quick and small.  You get to be processed by the jolly sounding lady, who takes a look at your landing letter and although you were told to have numerous bank statements and proof of insurance ready, she does not ask to see it.  She issues your visa and tells you it’ll be $30 to replace. Written on your visa you are reminded not to work in the sex industry – all right.

Now comes the 4th and final line.  Service Canada to get my SIN (the equivalent of a National Insurance Number in the UK) This line is again, relatively quick, but the process is a little slow because the computer of the gentleman who’s helping you keeps deciding to crash.  He passes the time by making some light hearted jokes about you being a witch.

6:10 – You pass through into arrivals and your bags are not on the conveyor belt.  My whole life was in those.

6:22 – This becomes a great success because some other poor schmuck has had to lift the 50kg of possessions off the conveyor belt and in a pile near other neglected bags (puts weight lifting chalk away).

You pick up your bags, try to determine some kind of method for carrying two suitcases, two handbags and a life folder.  A final border guard asks to see the passport you have already efficiently put in your life folder.  Some awkward shuffling and dropping of bags ensues. You crinkle your newly printed visa at some point during this process.  The gentleman takes a passing glance at your passport and you are free to go.

7:00 – You’re through the door into arrivals.   You give the wonderful Canadian you’ve been sweeting up for a couple of years a quick kiss and all of your luggage before making a beeline for the Tim Horton’s line where you order your first French Vanilla. Typically, it burns your face off, but is worth it after 8 hours of no caffeine.

7:14 – Your luggage, your Canadian, your shiny new visa, your French Vanilla and you head out of the airport and into the car park, there is lots of snow on the ground and it’s very very cold.  But you’ve made it.

7:25  It feels pretty amazing, the excitement of a new home, a new job and new friends is on the horizon and you just feel epic.