Our Spotlight on Success series focuses on immigrants who have utilized their skills, experience, education, and personal qualities to succeed in Canada. This month we are happy to feature Joulaika Buchan, MSW, RSW.
Joulaika currently works as a program manager in a community-based healthcare agency in Toronto, Canada, and credits her flexibility and commitment to professional development and continuing education as the cornerstones of her success.
Joulaika was born and raised in Aruba and decided in 1999 that she wanted to move to the United States as an international student. After applying for several scholarships and merit-based tuition reimbursements, she told her family about her plans. As a woman in her early twenties, Joulaika shared that her family was supportive, but largely thought her ambitions to live and work abroad were “a phase…that I was living out some adventurous youth.”
Nevertheless, Joulaika boarded a plane to Chicago to study Applied Science and never looked back. “When I landed in Chicago I did not know anyone and I did not have any place to live, so I started looking at the newspaper for an apartment and took things as they came.”
As an international student, Joulaika knew that she had a certain timeline on how long she would be able to stay in the United States and spent a lot of time thinking about what her next move would be. “I wanted to have more decision-making power in my life and in my career and, based on my research, I knew that even with an associate’s degree, I would benefit from gaining additional certificates and education.”
Joulaika applied for a bachelor’s program, also in Chicago, and continued with a master’s program after that. As told to WES Advisor, each course of study broadened Ms. Buchan’s scope of interest and helped her determine what her ultimate career path would be. By researching different fields of work and exploring alternative carer pathways, Joulaika was able to find out which certifications and skills would make her the most employable in her areas of interest. “For example, I read a lot about quality assurance, and knew that I could use that skill and certification in any company, in any community, whether I went into the medical field or the community service field.”
Around the time her student visa was expiring, Joulaika took a trip to Canada. “This trip was partially a vacation for me, but I was also interested in seeing some of the best practices that were being applied in Canada in my field of study.” Applying on a whim to another educational program in Canada, Ms. Buchan was once again on the move as an international student.
One of the things that stands out most from her time as a professional in Canada is the importance of not only asking how you can be helped by those around you but how you can help others achieve their goals as well. “The less I viewed people as resources and tools, the more meaningful connections I made that genuinely helped me in my educational and professional life.”
Joulaika also shared with us that being flexible in terms of where she wanted to settle was an essential piece of her career pathway puzzle.
“You know, I moved across the world to pursue my dreams, and I was not going to let a specific city define my success. I looked at the specific field I was interested in, and then looked at which geography held the most opportunity for me. If you want to succeed, you cannot be hung up on having to live in the biggest city, or where you know the most people. That is not realistic, or in service of success.”
This is a theme that came up frequently during our conversation—the need to be flexible and make informed decisions based on research rather than solely based on advice from family and friends.
Having called Canada home for over seven years now, Ms. Buchan is happy with both the personal and professional connections she has made in her chosen country. “I can confidently say that I have established myself in my field and that I am a respected voice in my profession. I wish I could tell you I am surprised at how far I have come since getting on that plane in Aruba 20 years ago, but I knew my hard work and determination would get me exactly where I wanted to be.”
Even as we finished our conversation, Joulaika was getting ready to go to a training session as part of her continued professional education. Never one to slow or settle, we look forward to seeing Ms. Buchan’s next move!