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A newcomer’s journey: Adjusting to life in Canada through YMCA Immigrant Services

20 September 2019 - by Sarah Cowan
Moving to a new country can be daunting. Finding employment, settling into a new community, leaving family behind, and learning a new language — newcomers are faced with these challenges and more when they come to Canada.

For Nazanin, who immigrated to Canada from Iran in June 2018, everything became a little less overwhelming when she turned to the YMCA Language Assessment and Referral Service.

Here’s how she says it helped her improve her English, communicate more easily, increase her chances of finding a job — and even find activities she didn’t know she was looking for:

I felt anxious about my first appointment, but all my worries washed away as I walked into Toronto Consumers YMCA Immigrant Services. The staff were very friendly, which made me feel relaxed and comfortable.

Once I completed the written and verbal assessment, my assessor told me about schools and course offerings close to my home. She also introduced me to a newcomer specialist, who answered all my questions about jobs and life in Canada.Nazanin sitting in a chair

Receiving Job-Specific, Advanced English Training through the ELT Program

I was encouraged to sign up for the Enhanced Language Training (ELT) program, which is an 8-week class that helps immigrants strengthen their English. But it taught me so much more than words. I learned about Canadian customs, behaviours, and rules — key things people need to know to succeed with a job search and, eventually, at work.

The program also includes a six-week volunteer placement, which I completed at a secondary school doing administrative work in the main office. This position expanded my network and connections in Toronto. It also gave me Canadian experience to add to my resume.

Gaining volunteer experience at the YMCA

In addition to my placement, I started volunteering weekly at the Toronto Consumers YMCA Immigrant Services.

The staff were so friendly and patient while training me. They were always available to answer my questions and teach me new skills.

And I earned yet another line on my resume that helps me demonstrate my strengths and skills.

Getting active at the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s Health and Fitness Centres

Once my language training was taken care of, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s free 7-day pass for the Health & Fitness Centres. We tried many of the classes available at the North York YMCA, including yoga, Pilates, and CycleFit.

I am very grateful for all of the YMCA’s support in helping me improve my language skills, gain volunteer experience, and become more active.

Nazanin now works for YMCA Immigrant Services and plans to be a lifelong YMCA Health & Fitness member.  

Have you recently moved to Canada? Book your English or French language assessment today to join free language classes!


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