Moving to Canada on an IEC Visa
I have recently passed the one-year mark of my time in Canada on my two-year International Experience Canada (IEC) visa. A year seems bonkers to me but at the same time not so much, as during that year, I have done quite a lot since moving to Canada.
Before I delve in, this blog is not about the application process involved in moving to Canada. TravelVeganWithMi did an excellent job in explaining the visa process so go check it out!
This blog is more a review of my experience so far, and my thoughts on the whole packing up and moving half-way across the world idea.
Moving to Canada: Why Canada? Why move?
The first month of my time here in Canada, specifically Toronto, was a rude awakening for me. Up until the point of moving I lived a pretty easy life.
I was working two jobs since leaving university, one at a radio station where I got to work side-by-side with some of the stalwarts of Irish broadcasting and another part-time job as the editor of a trade horticulture publication which enabled me to hone my skills in copywriting and editing, and the managing director of which gave me my head start into this world of blogging.
My job as a producer in radio was ending at the end of 2018 which I knew about for quite some time so I was looking at 2019 and thinking what it held for me.
My girlfriend and I had travelled through Eastern Europe with an interrail pass for three-and-a-half weeks in August 2018 and something about that trip clicked with us and began a deep desire to explore as much as we could.
We both had done a work and travel visa for three months in New York City while still in college but that seemed more like a college tradition and experience more so than a “travel experience”.
So we knew we wanted to go away, and go away for a couple years at least, and that’s when we settled on moving to Canada, and in particular, Toronto.
Toronto seemed accessible through a variety of working visas, modern, economically sound, and my sister had previously done the exact same visa.
Moving to Canada on an IEC Visa: First Impressions
So on March 18, 2019, I boarded the plane after many months of preparation and savings to begin my new, temporary, life in Canada
From the get go it seemed like things were not necessarily going our way: rude check-in staff, forgotten meals on-board our flight – small things but can make a difference. In fairness to the air stewards, they did the best to accommodate us.
After paying an astronomical amount for our taxi to our Airbnb, and lugging our bags up way too many steps, we finally could catch our breath in what was to be our new home for two weeks.
It was March, so Toronto was still shaking off the last remaining snowfalls and ice clumps that appeared around the city. Everything was brown and dead. So things seemed a little bleak but we were still on high spirits. I had been to Toronto before visiting my sister during the summer so I knew it wasn’t just going to be all brown and dead.
House and Job Hunting
We very quickly were brought to reality after meeting with our realtor. Naively, we were under the impression that we could secure an apartment or “condo” without a job, based on level of savings and the fact that we were job hunting. Nope!
We came out of that meeting a little scared, albeit a little determined as well, but it was clear to us what we had to do: get a job, or else our whole “moving to Canada” adventure was over.
Back in our Airbnb we were a little defeated, with a very difficult task at hand. We had two weeks before our Airbnb was up and we’d either have to find another Airbnb, further digging into our savings, or, perhaps, we’d have secured a job and an apartment in that time.
We sat down every morning with Indeed, Monster, LinedIn, ZipRecruiter, and a host of recruitment websites open, filling in details, signing up, adding our resumes, adding cover letters specific for each job we applied for, contacting recruiters… it was a busy time; in fact, it was almost like having a full-time job in of itself.
On the weekend we used the opportunity to apply for jobs that came out on the Friday that we might have missed but to also have a break. While we might have time on our hands during the weekend there was very little disposable income which we could spend enjoying ourselves.
When it came to food shopping, we penny pinched in every way we could, becoming frugal with our money and keeping everything very basic.
Michelle is vegan so we had separate specific items but broadly shared the shop. We lived on a diet of a 3kg bag of frozen vegetables, rice, a 2 kg tub of pasta sauce, pasta, a jar of curry paste, potatoes, porridge, 12-pack of eggs, bread, coffee, milk, and bananas. I treated myself to a CA$1 bar of No Name chocolate, and a bag of Takis fuego (the best crisps in the whole world hands down). On Friday we got a six-pack of Heineken.
It was a bit tough from time to time but looking back, it was an experience that I wouldn’t change. At 5pm when the typical working day ended, we finished up applying for jobs. Knowing that we had put in a good days work applying for jobs made the chocolate and Heineken taste that much better. And, at the time, it was the run up to Game of Thrones Season 8 being released, and our Airbnb had On Demand television, so our evenings were spent binge watching GOT. It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.
Through our persistence both Michelle and I had phone interviews, face-to-face interviews, and all types of interviews throughout the first 10 or so days of us being in Toronto. We felt the pressure as it was made clear to us both directly and indirectly that Canadian companies typically take a long time to hire for positions.
I found this claim to be both hit and miss. I found that when it came to jobs that I was a good candidate for, the company was pretty quick in responding. It was more the jobs that weren’t going to hire me were the ones that took a long time to reject me (not that I was necessarily expecting a reply at all if I was unsuccesful).
The funniest thing looking back is that I got an email a solid five months after applying for a job that I was usuccessful in securing the position.. ehh, you don’t say?!
Either way, the Friday, four days before our Airbnb was up, I had managed to secure a full-time role at a wonderful company which I am currently working for and enjoy very much – both from a professional development standpoint and also the fact that they’re just really nice people who take care of their employees.
Let’s go apartment hunting
As it was approaching the Friday that I was offered my job, Michelle and I sat down and decided that we needed to secure another Airbnb for a further two weeks.
As it stood on the Wednesday I believe, I had my upcoming interview but not much more than that, plus even if we were to go apartment hunting on the Saturday, there’s nothing to say we’d find one we’d like and that we’d be able to move in on the Tuesday!
So we had to bite the bullet and we secured an Airbnb for another two weeks. We felt that, considering we were getting interviews that it was only a matter of time before we secured something strong enough to go apartment hunting.
We moved into our new Airbnb on the Tuesday after I received my formal job offer. While moving was a pain dragging our bags and cases a good twenty minutes, we were a little relieved that I at least had secured a job.
It was finally time to go condo hunting. We reached out to our realtor months before we had actually arrived in Toronto. She was amazing at sending us an updated list of condos fresh on the market, fitting our criteria, and within our budget.
Getting these emails for months helped us narrow down certain buildings and areas that we liked and wanted to live in. We sent her a list of apartments that we wanted to go see and she organised a viewing day.
All in all we saw around seven condos. A lot of them had strengths and weaknesses but there were two that we really liked. One was bang smack in downtown core of Toronto in between the financial and entertainment district. And another was a little further South towards the water and a bit more to the west.
We were a bit anxious on whether we would get the condo or not. As you can imagine, we’re almost a week into our second Airbnb, with a finite amount of funds, not looking to spend another $1,000 on temporary accommodation… we needed this to work out.
One thing that didn’t help during our waiting period was the fact that we were in a basement apartment, with one window and a terribly low ceiling in the bathroom. The routine morning bang of the head while taking a shower did more to wake me up than coffee though in fairness.
After a day or so of worrying about whether or not we would get the condo, followed by another couple days of sending certified cheques, buying tenants insurance, and filling out all of the necessaary files, we were delighted to know that we had secured the condo that we loved.
The feeling of relief was immense. The feeling everyday that there was a countdown clock above your head, ticking down the days until you run out of money and won’t be able to find a place just evaporated.
For once we could begin to get excited about the prospect of living and working in Toronto!
One Year On
Since moving into our condo on April 13, 2019, the following year has flown by. I am working full-time and I am also still working part-time for the horticulture publication back home. Holding down two jobs, one in a different time zone and attempting to write a travel blog as well has been challenging to say the least. It’s taken me a long time to work out a schedule and fit into the lifestyle.
We’re now at the stage that we can do fun things, take mini-trips, have friends come visit, and more so really just feel settled after moving to Canada.
Looking back it has been one hell of a journey so far, from personal development to meeting life’s challenges head on; getting my first credit card to getting tennant’s insurance there’s been a lot of growing up in one year.
For those reading this and thinking about moving halfway across the world, or even just to a neighboring country, I say do it. If it’s one thing this experience has thought me it is that you discover what you’re capable of and you learn a lot about how you deal with adversity and challenge when you put yourself out there.
Perhaps these experiences are exactly what every person goes through in life at this age, and it is just my turn to experience it, the only difference being separated from your friends, family, and a safety net by thousands of miles.
Friends and Family
The travelblogger in me revered the idea of living and working in another country and the naivety only saw the good parts, which, is for sure, I believe, a positive way of thinking. But it is worth it to look at the negatives as well, at least to give yourself a sense of what is entailed in actually moving to Canada or any country for that matter.
Like I said, the travel blogger in me only saw adventure but when you do actually take that step abroad you leave a lot behind. Friends and family are two of the most important things in life and to leave them behind is a big step and change for anyone.
The fact is that you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t miss your friends and family but for me there came a point where I needed to do something different, see the world and explore. Travelling is my passion and it’s what I save my money for. It’s why this blog exists and it’s why this blog has content.
What’s great is that pretty much wherever you go around the world, you are likely to find a community of people from where you’re from; finding these communities is a great way of fitting in and making new friends.
For me, there’s nothing better than broadening your horizons, meeting new people, and seeing the world. Perhaps it’s a consequence of getting older, but the fact of how quickly time flies is one that I didn’t much enjoy becoming enlightened to. While scaring the pants off me, it also helped me realise that time does fly-by, we don’t have long on this earth, and we should make the most of every opportunity.
I have done a lot since I’ve arrived here and I’m looking forward to writing all of the stories, sharing the photos, and being proactive on social media again. I have written about Toronto before when I visited previously but now after living here it’ll be great to write some different themed stories.
We’ve had friends come visit, taken mini-trips and got to know our new home very well over the past few months (it was great to finally not have to spend any more money on condo furniture) so I can’t wait to start producing some blogs on what this city has to offer.
With an adverse beginning to the adventure and through all the worry of being penniless with no place to go, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about moving to Canada.
Coming to Toronto? Be sure you don’t miss out on the perfect day trip to Niagara Falls!