A week ago, I had an exciting conversation with an old friend of mine, Harriette Laroco. Harriette and I met in college at the University of the Philippines (UP). In 2013, Harriette and her family migrated to Canada, specifically in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her mom got Permanent Residency via Express Entry and was able to bring the whole fam.
Check out our conversation below where Harriette shares her experiences on moving here to Canada, studying, early career, and job hunting.
On integrating into the new culture
How easy was it for you to integrate into the new culture when you moved here to Canada?
“It was a little easier for me given that I attended an international school in Manila before heading to UP for college. Therefore, western culture is quite familiar to me. It also helps to have a community when you move. We had family friends who helped us when we were settling in, and of course, tapping to the large Filipino community here in Vancouver.”
On studying and early career
When Harriette left the Philippines, she had not yet finished her undergraduate degree. She had to take another program in a Canadian college, and she chose the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Diploma in Chemical and Environmental Technology, a two-year diploma program that is heavy on practical and hands-on learning.
What are the reasons why you chose to take this Diploma Program?
“I know I want to work in the environment-related field, but I am not sure I want a full degree (Bachelor’s) yet. This diploma program has a good curriculum, and the school (BCIT) is well-known for producing job-ready graduates. They also have certain university-transfer agreements which can be handy when I decide to pursue the full Bachelor’s.”
In Canada, pursuing a two-year diploma program is a popular path for students who want to start working and gain practical experience, rather than stick to a four-year bachelor’s degree right away. Similar to what Harriette experienced, this gives flexibility and room to explore what they really want their long-term career to look like.
On job hunting
Harriette’s diploma program had a practicum component where she interned in an established Environmental Engineering firm here in Vancouver. However, she still must apply for that role and had to go through the competitive hiring process. Given that the program she was doing was popular, she had to stand out among the large pool of aspiring interns. When asked what helped her land that first official role in her early career, she mentioned having prior work experience, either paid or volunteer experience, counted!
"I could not stress this enough. Canadian companies generally look for those with experience working in Canada. When I was a new immigrant, it was hard to get that Canadian Experience but what I did is do a lot of volunteering. I volunteered in three non-profits and there I gained work experience, references, and the network to grow my career."
Message to fellow Filipinos who are aspiring to migrate to Canada
As a closing, I asked Harriette what is her message or advice to fellow Filipinos who also want to live in Canada. She said:
“I guess, it is to be open to learning and gaining new experiences. It is quite different here in Canada. Sometimes there will be culture shock. But be open to meet new people. It may be difficult at the beginning but there will always be help whether that be on your work, on schooling, or adjusting to life here. Most important, find time to reflect on yourself, and on your goals, and then go for it.”
About the Interviewee:
Harriette Laroco is a Filipina, born and raised in the Philippines. She moved to Canada in 2013. Currently, Harriette is working in the Quality Control (QC) Lab as a Support Associate of an established Canadian company. When not working, she loves to explore the great outdoors of British Columbia with family and friends.