Gemma's Journey to Becoming a Canadian Citizen (UK to Canada)
Welcome to our first guest blog post! Today, we spoke with Gemma from Off Track Travel about her experience travelling abroad and living in Canada. Gemma originally came to Canada in 2011 on a Working Holiday visa through the International Experience Canada (IEC) program (see our video on IEC tips here). Since then, she has travelled from coast to coast with plans to settle in British Columbia. Without further ado, we’ll let Gemma tell you more about her experience of coming to Canada.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born, what did you study in school, and what do you do for a living?
I was born in the beach city of Brighton, UK and grew up near Southampton in Hampshire. I returned to Brighton to study Political Science at Sussex university after a gap year spent travelling the USA, New Zealand, Australia and China. I have worked a variety of jobs over the years but nowadays I'm lucky to be able to call myself a travel blogger.
How did you decide to come to Canada?
I met my Canadian boyfriend in New Zealand back in 2009 while visiting friends that I had met during my gap year. We hit it off instantly and stayed in touch online after I had left New Zealand. Six months later, Jean Robert moved to the UK and we happily lived there together while I finished my degree. After I graduated, we had to make the hard decision of what to do next. Canada seemed like the most straightforward option as I could get two one-year open work permits via the International Experience Canada Working Holiday program.
What’s your immigration story?
I arrived in Canada in November 2011 on a one-year working holiday via the IEC program. I later applied for my second and final one year IEC work permit while in Canada (for British citizens, the program is now limited to one two-year participation). My next step was applying for Permanent Residency via the Common Law sponsorship route. This took just over a year to be approved and I became a Permanent Resident on April 11th 2014. The final part of my journey began when the citizenship rules changed in October 2017 and I was now eligible. I officially became a Canadian citizen on May 15th 2018. I am so thankful and happy to be able to call Canada my home!
What were your first few weeks in Canada like?
Different than I had imagined! We arrived in Vancouver in the middle of November, startled by the chill after three months travelling around Europe. All I had heard about Vancouver was that it rained a lot, I wasn't expecting it to be cold too! Aside from that surprise, we soon realised that we'd need to find jobs quickly. The cost of staying in Vancouver was high, to say the least. Taking that Europe road trip just before the move wasn't the best idea for our finances!
How did you get settled here?
After a week in Vancouver, we had to get out. We're not city people in the slightest and we had the vague notion of perhaps working at a ski season. Escaping to nearby Vancouver Island, we explored Victoria and Nanaimo before falling in love with the Comox Valley. We ended up staying for almost three years, leaving after the end of my third ski season at the local resort.
Where do you live in Canada and why?
Since first arriving in Canada back in 2011, I've moved three times within British Columbia. For the last nine months, however, I've been based in New Brunswick. My boyfriend's family live here and we decided it was about time to visit after over six years in Canada! At the end of the summer, however, we will be returning to BC. The Maritime provinces are beautiful but, for our preferred lifestyle, West is best! We love the short, mild winters and outdoor recreation opportunities in BC.
What do you like most about living in Canada?
I love the endless opportunities for work, travel, and outdoor adventure. To live in such a big country just continually fires my imagination and wanderlust. Even six years on, it still blows my mind that I can get in our van and drive for a week and be in the same country. And, of course, Canada is just stunning from coast to coast to coast.
Why do you like living in a multicultural country like Canada?
Life would be boring if we were all the same! Everywhere I travel in Canada is always a little bit different and I have no doubt that is due to multiculturalism. Right now I am living on the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick and it has been such an interesting experience to live in a predominantly French community. This is especially true as my French still needs a bit of work!
Where can our readers follow your journey?