Serra Pinto Avimlah, Western Union Assistant Manager, Product Marketing
Having visited family several times with her husband and experienced what life is like in Toronto, Serra Pinto Avimlah knew the city could be their new home. In late 2016, Serra, her husband and two young children made the brave move to leave their jobs, family and friends in Istanbul, Turkey, to find work and build a new life in Canada. And, less than one year later, they’re incredibly happy and proud of all they’ve achieved.
Western Union: You worked with Western Union in Istanbul for eight years and you were able to join our Toronto office fairly quickly after emigrating. How is work life different in Canada than in Turkey?
Serra Pinto Avimlah: In Istanbul, the office was much smaller, only 10 people and we were like a family. We met as a family at family events and got to know each other very, very well. It’s the thing I love most about life in Turkey. It was so emotional and hard for me to leave Western Union in Istanbul because the people I worked with were like part of my family. In Toronto, I work very closely with my colleagues and they are close friends. They were also very supportive, warm and welcoming during my adaptation process – I didn’t even feel I was new to the team.
WU: What was it about Toronto or Canada that made you think you’d like to live here permanently?
SPA: I have a cousin who lives in Toronto and we visited him three times and got to see the city as tourists. We saw that people respect each other here and they respect the rules. No one is treated like a migrant here. Everyone is treated equally. We also liked the education and healthcare systems and the support the government offers for newcomers. When we arrived in Canada, my oldest child was three years old and my youngest was just 10 months old, so we were thinking more about their futures and education. We were so happy, motivated and inspired by the life here so we didn’t look at any other options for immigration.
WU: What challenges did you face in moving to Canada?
SPA: Having two young kids in a new country when you’re all alone, with no parents or family to support you was the biggest challenge. We stayed with my cousin for two weeks before we found a house and he and his family were a great support, but there were many times when we had to solve problems all on our own. I started my job at Western Union in late September, and my husband started his new job around the same time, but I couldn’t find a day care to take my 10-month old until the beginning of October. So for a week I had to drive four hours a day to drop him off at a friend’s house on the other side of the city in the morning and pick him up after work. It was exhausting and hard, but we did it.
WU: What advice do you have for others who are thinking about coming to Canada or are recent immigrants like you?
SPA: There are rules and processes you have to learn about living in Canada, like filing taxes and getting insurance. I learned a little before I moved, but it wasn’t until I was here that I could apply my whole focus on learning everything. I would be awake until midnight after my kids were asleep, researching and learning about these things. And it’s 10 months since I moved here and I’m still learning. It’s a process, an adaptation. I ask friends, relatives and neighbours who have done it before, and I learn from them.
WU: What are you most proud of about your move to Canada?
SPA: I’m proud of myself for making the decision at the right time to move to Canada – when my husband and I are aligned, and my kids are so young and able to adapt so quickly. My kids are incredible – my oldest started to speak English within three months and my youngest has about 10 words so far and most of them are English!
Having a family connection and the opportunity to visit Toronto several times gave Serra a good foundation for building a new life in Canada. Connecting with the Canadian office of her employer back home was also a big help. And making new connections here expanded her support network and helped her understand rules and processes that might have been harder to do on her own.
What helped you make a good life in Canada? Share your stories and learn from other Western Union Canada interns and employees to see if some of their experiences can help you meet your immigration goals. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.