What To Do in Your First Week in Canada

I landed in British Columbia as a landed immigrant. I was automatically given the permanent resident status so there may be extra steps for people that are TFWs or on student visa.

1. Get you SIN or Social Insurance Number – during the first week, you must have this already. This is very important especially if you want to apply for a job. So before anything else, get your SIN. More info: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/sc/sin/

2. Enrol children 16 and below to school– this is very important. Each province has their own age limit so check that one out. The school year starts in September and ends in June. Even if you’ve arrived here during the middle part, you are still expected to enrol the child. If you’ve arrived around April, I don’t think the child can still catch up with the lessons. Talk to the school counselor on what you should do. There are times when sitting-in in class is okay. 

3. Get a phone– I got mine during my fourth week but I guess it was fine. However, it was a pain everytime I apply for a job because I’d have to use my mom’s number for the resume. It’s better if you have your own phone so in that way you can easily call the employer and they can easily have a hold on you. 

4. Find a job– Finding a job is not easy if you’re looking for a very high-paying job. If you go to supermarkets, they actually are looking for some workers. What you need is a connection and finding an entry-level job can help you with that. And of course, you want money. 

5. Look for support offices in your place– In Fort St. John, they have S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and they actually helped us start with something here in Canada. They were the ones who referred me to NLC for English as Second Language course and referred my dad to employment connections and other offices which offers lots of opportunities to find a job. Each place has their own offices like these so take time to ask some people about it. 

6. If you’re planning to proceed directly to university/college, call and email colleges and ask for requirements and such to be able to enrol– like for me, I was planning on taking up Practical Nursing so I have to take the SLEP exam and get a grade of 64 to be able to be accepted. Each school and program has their own requirements so it’s better to ask them what you need and if you need to take up ESL. 

7. Walk around the area you’re currently living and be familiar with it– This is for you to be well acquainted with the area you’re currently living. Also, memorize your address because this is very important including the postal code. If you’re city is small,  like mine, walk anywhere and remember the important land marks and bus stops. 

8. Be familiar with the Public Transit/Bus– if you’re from the Philippines like me, then expect that the public transit is very much different. They follow the bus stop rules and they have bells to ring. This is also needed if you don’t have a car and wants to go anywhere. Also, the bus can also help you be more familiar with the place. Here in FSJ, the bus usually changes number so I get to ride just one bus but different routes and I took that as my way to tour the city. 

9. If you’re 19+ above, get your driver’s license– I think the minimum age depends on the province so check it out. If you’ll start from the L (learner’s), you basically have to wait for 2-3 years before getting you Class 5 license which means that you can now drive alone. For those who’ll have to get a Learner’s license, you still have to take the knowledge exam then wait for 12 mos to take the road test for the Novice  License then 24 mos for the Class 5. For 19 y/o and below, there are more things that you have to do because you’re still a minor like having a professional sign a form. I know cause I’m still below 19. Check your province’s laws about this. 

10. Make connections– they can help you in finding a job. Just tell them in a casual way that you need a job and at times, they can refer you to a job opening in their work. But don’t just rely on them for the job, do your research too. 

I landed back in 2013 but these tips are still relevant. These are just some of the basic things that you have to do the soonest after you’ve landed. Of course, read up on your province’s requirements for more information. Welcome to Canada!

Originally posted at underscoreamerl.

Canada vs Philippines High School Education (upgrading)

When I moved to Canada, I already anticipated some difference in the school systems between the two countries. Before moving on to formal post-secondary education here, I had to upgrade some core high school subjects: Math, English, Biology and Chemistry. Academic upgrading is when you take up some high school courses in a local high school/college/university.

I was one of the last few graduates who did not get to experience the new K-12 that the Philippine government had recently implemented. This meant that I only had 10 years of basic education from grade 1 to fourth year in high school. I did not experience senior high nor junior high, only four years in high school.

When I moved to Canada, I already anticipated some difference in the school systems between the two countries. Before moving on to formal post-secondary education here, I had to upgrade some core high school subjects: Math, English, Biology and Chemistry. Academic upgrading is when you take up some high school courses in a local high school/college/university. Some of the reasons could include:

  • the student needs higher grade than what s/he currently has.
  • higher GPA is needed to get into a program.
  • It’s been years since the student has graduated from high school and s/he needs to take it again for his/her desired program
  • an immigrant where his/her high school qualifications aren’t at par with the Canadian system.
  • Blew up the diploma exam and now has to get better grades (because there’s no diploma exam in upgrading!)

These are some of the reasons of a lot of my classmates in upgrading. I have classmates who just graduated in high school and some who are over 30 years old just figured out what they really wanna do or finally have the time to do what they want.

Back to the topic, what’s the difference between my high school education in the Philippines compared to my high school upgrading courses in Canada? To make things clearer, I’m doing my upgrading in a college (tip: college and unviersity are different things in Canada). I’ll try to compare it using only the courses that I’ve taken namely  Biology (0120&0130/Gr 11&12), Chemistry (0120&0130/Gr 11&12) and English (0130/Gr 12). I took Math (30-1/Gr 12) but I won’t include it since I had four Maths in high school: Elementary and Secondary Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. I feel like it’s sort of unfair to compare just one Math upgrading course to four different Math disciplines. 


BIOLOGY

Biology was very interesting. I’ve done Bio in second year of high school. I remember memorizing different bacteria, families and parts of a plant. I remember genetics (it was in the 2nd grading and my fave topic until now) and planting corns without fertilizer (we produced tiny corns). One of the highlights of our Bio class was dissecting an earthworm. We were quite disappointed that we didn’t dissect a frog like some schools probably do. Our teacher told us that it wasn’t allowed anymore and we have to just settle with the earthworm (we had a fat, long one). Needless to say, we found soil in the earthworm. 

In Grade 11 Bio, some of our lessons consisted of respiratory and circulatory system. It’s not surprising to me considering that I already did my Anatomy and Physiology course in college before but it’s the fact that we took this in detail. I don’t remember much doing this in high school. We might have but not in enough detail that we have to memorize the parts and functions of the respiratory system or which chamber does oxygenated blood goes. I DID THAT IN COLLEGE!

When I moved on to Grade 12 Bio, we did much more complicated stuff. We did the nervous and endocrine systems. Aside from all these hormones that I have to get familiarize again, we also had to memorize it and know which affects which. Our second experiment is by far the most exciting experiment I’ve done for all of Bio. WE DISSECTED A FETAL PIG. YES! We didn’t do a frog, we had a pig. Apparently, even some high schools do it. They buy off a pig (killed/died humanely) and have us cut it open and look at the different body systems. We were able to identify which one is a pancreas or how squishy it actually is. We also have genetics as one of our topics and thank goodness I still remember Punnet square. But I don’t remember doing a dihybrid cross nor doing a sex-linked trait (might/might not have done it in high school). 

ENGLISH

I did English pretty much since I started going to school. Therefore, I didn’t have much problem in my English upgrading. For this course, we barely did anything orally in front of the class. We had 2 or 3 reportings then the rest of our oral grades is just from our seat. Since our class is more focused in writing, we did a lot of essay assignments and made our own poems. We had classes held at a computer lab where our teacher blocked any web browsers to avoid Googling (but thank goodness I have a phone). It was actually my English teacher who caught a lot of my writing mistakes such as tenses and punctuation, something that no one has done yet even after reading some of my essays. 

Compared to my English upgrading, we did a lot of oral practice in my high school English. It was in fourth year high school that I finally started to have less fear on going up front and talk to the crowd because of the various speaking exercises that we did. Even though we’ve been doing declamations and orations since first year high school, it was my fourth year high school teacher who really pushed us to think fast and talk flawlessly (I’m still working on the “flawlessly” part). 

In both English courses though, we had to make a final written output. For my high school English, I had to a term paper and successfully defend it to graduate (my topic was about conformity). For my English upgrading, we had to make an essay about a foundation or philanthropist “who makes the world a better place” (my essay was about Gawad Kalinga). 

CHEMISTRY

I did Chemistry in 3rd year high school. I remember answering “Dihydrogen monoxide” for H20 and our teacher said it was wrong because it’s just supposed to be water. I asked this question in my Grade 12 chem teacher and she said it’s “sort of” acceptable but not much actually uses it. 

The one experiment that I can remember from my high school chemistry was titration. We had this burette and flasks and fancy chemicals that we’ve barely used. We were so excited to titrate and was disappointed one titration after another as we kept on overshooting our solution. Actually, this is the only experiment I remember. Probably because some aren’t as memorable as this one. A lot of my high school Chem lessons came back to me as I do my upgrading. But maybe because we only had one Chem course in high school that almost half of the lessons that I learned in Chem upgrading is new. 

In Grade 11 Chem, we learned how to name compounds, something that I also learned in high school Chem. The first few lessons were a breeze, actually… Grade 11 Chem was fine. A lot of the lessons were not new to me except for some like identifying the nonpolar/polar compounds and stoichiometry problems. I was able to get good marks in this course because I feel like a lot of these were review. In addition, we also did cool experiments which included titration! This time, I was able to get the perfect peach colour that we want. There were also a lot of boiling and dangerous chemicals that were able to handle. I felt like a mini scientist!

Grade 12 Chem is different though. Lesson started off easy, enthalpy change then moved on to more stoichiometry questions then voltaic/electrolytic cells then organic chem stuff (of course there are some more lessons in between). The experiments includes some corrosive materials and lots of boiling. At one point, I BROKE A MERCURY THERMOMETER! I was so scared and nervous because I thought my teacher would scold me. But she didn’t! And I asked her if I have to pay for it and she told me not to worry because it was an accident. They only charge those who were obviously playing. Phew! I remember breaking a cover slip in high school Bio and I had to replace it.

The coolest thing that we did though was making Nylon 6,6. I felt like a little kid while mixing the chemicals and trying to pull out some strands. A few days ago, I was browsing through our lab manual for Grade 11 Chem when the last page included making soap. MAKING SOAP! I’ve made soap before, IN COLLEGE! And here it’s in the Grade 11 course. 


The biggest thing that’s very different in my Philippine high school experience compared to my Canadian upgrading is of course the language. However, being taught in English isn’t really new to me. My high school see to it that our subjects are more or less taught in English. This is one of the reasons why I was able to adjust fairly well in the new educational environment. 

It may be overwhelming at first because this is an entirely different environment. However, you’ll find that many of the teachers are actually very approachable and you can always visit their offices if you need extra help.

originally posted at underscoreamerl.