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Immigrant Success Story: Tunde’s Journey to Canada

Wednesday | December 11, 2019 | by Tunde Omotoye

journey to canada

Tunde Omotoye is a Senior Business Operations Analyst at BMO Financial Group.

He worked in Lagos, Nigeria, for nearly two years as a Human Resources Associate. He then travelled to Toronto to study human resources management, hoping to find a job after graduation and permanently settle in Canada.

In this blog post, Tunde explains how he went from being an international student to a successful professional in Canada.

Sitting at my desk in downtown Toronto, I often think about how I got where I am today. I recall my former job at a sausage factory, where I spent eight hours a day on my feet. Back then, I also had a night job as a traffic controller, outside in the cold, because I wanted to work my way through school.

That was the inauspicious beginning of my Canadian dream—not exactly what I had imagined a few months earlier, when I excitedly picked up my student visa in Lagos.

But it was part of a long journey that ultimately took me where I needed to be. Below, I will tell you my story, with the hope that you will find examples that guide your success in Canada.

First, I Pursued a College Degree in Canada

I decided to attend college in Canada in order to guarantee that I was making the strongest possible professional choices. My career in Nigeria was beginning to pick up, but I wanted to see what else was out there.

I remember being thrilled by the prospect of studying abroad, but I also felt uncertain. I had made my travel plans on short notice, so I was not financially prepared to pay tuition fees. But I had been accepted to one of Ontario’s best and fastest-growing colleges, and I was not going to turn down an opportunity to study in Canada.

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I arrived in Toronto with only $2,000 CAD—enough to get settled, but insufficient to cover my school fees. After attending my first week of lectures in January, I realized it was too hard for me to focus on school because of the weather—which was extremely cold—and the sudden culture change. Everything was strange and new to me. I needed time to get acclimated.

In the second week, I went to the admissions office and requested that my enrollment be deferred for four months. I explained to the admissions officer that I was experiencing culture shock. It was necessary for me to understand the system and the people. I needed a life outside of school, without being under a lot of pressure. Additionally, I wanted the opportunity to save money to pay the remainder of my tuition fees.

Next, I Had to Find Work

That same week, I registered with an employment agency. Soon, a potential employer called me for an interview.

I thought that it would be easy to find a job, thanks to my human resources experience and bachelor’s degree from Nigeria. The reality, however, was different. I was told I would not find a job in my field without a diploma and professional designation from Canada.

Instead, I got the job at the sausage factory.

On my first day at the factory, I asked myself if I had made the right decision to move to Canada. In fact, my previous role in Nigeria was probably still available. However, despite my doubts, I believed that if I persevered I would overcome the challenges of settling in a new country.

Thankfully, I made friends at the factory who showed me around the city, giving me hope that I could learn more about Canada.

With the money I earned at my first job, I was able to cover a good portion of my school fees. I was also gradually adapting to my new culture.

Four months later, I resumed school and felt much more comfortable. That was when I took my second job as a traffic controller. On weekends, I cleaned robots at a Toyota manufacturing plant in Cambridge, Ontario. My earnings helped cover part of my second semester tuition fees.

My spirit was tired, but not broken. I had a goal, and that was where I kept my focus.

Then, It Was Time to Move Forward

Because of my good grades and my human resources experience back home, I got an internship at a large insurance company called the Co-operators. They offered an opportunity to work at their company headquarters in Guelph. This is how my professional career path in Canada truly got started.

In my day-to-day work, I made every effort to add value. My skills and competencies were fully utilized, and I soon started working toward a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation. Although I had earned enough to nearly pay off my college fees in full, I kept my weekend cleaning job. I wore a shirt and tie on weekdays during my internship, and cleaned with a mop on weekends at Toyota.

By the end of my internship, I was able to pay off all my tuition fees. I passed the CHRP exam and became a certified HR professional in Canada.

By then, I had a postgraduate work permit that allowed me to work. Because I had shown excellent work ethic throughout my internship, I was offered a full-time position with the Co-operators.

Finally, I Obtained Permanent Residency

About a year after I began working full-time, I applied for (and received) permanent residency (PR) in Canada.

World Education Services (WES) has a great process for reviewing academic documents and providing an international credential assessment. After receiving my credential evaluation report from WES, I was able to state on my résumé that my Nigerian degree is equivalent to a Canadian bachelor’s degree. This gave me the confidence to start thinking about what my next steps should be in my career.

I always wanted to work in Toronto. Eventually the right opportunity came up: a higher role with more responsibility and a bigger portfolio. Today, I am employed at one of Canada’s “Big Five” banks as a Senior Business Operations Analyst working in Technology Operations.

Where I Am Today, and How I Give Back

Getting up in the morning and heading to my office job in Toronto, I sometimes think about the days at the sausage factory and the nights I worked as a traffic controller. I cannot help but smile.

I began to post on Twitter that I was available to help other immigrants and newcomers navigate their journey. Additionally, I do this work on a “pro bono” basis (which means I do not accept payment for my assistance).

Today, I help newcomers by:

  • Reviewing their résumés
  • Providing suggestions on how to prepare for interviews
  • Advising them on career pathways
  • Telling them about valuable resources to help navigate the Canadian labour market

I am happy that so many immigrants have shared their success stories with me, and I hope to continue helping as many as I can.

My Final Tips for Newcomers

Here is my advice for international students and professionals immigrating to Canada:

  • Sort out your school fees first before immigrating.
  • Arrive a month or two in advance to give yourself time to adjust.
  • Do research on certifications and licences related to your field, since regulated professions might be different in your home country than they are in Canada.
  • Take the initiative to meet people in your industry, so you can learn about job opportunities and developments in your field.

I know from personal experience that migrating to a new country is not always as easy as we think it will be. But I wish you all the best and I believe that you, too, can also succeed in Canada.

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Tunde Omotoye

Tunde Omotoye is a Senior Business Operations Analyst at BMO Financial Group. He is also a WES Ambassador.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).