Newcomer Story: Monica Del Pino Meller

Monica Del Pino Meller“When I started working, I had to stop attending English classes during the day. I tried attending school at night, but I needed someone to take care of my daughter. My husband was also working and a baby sitter would be an additional expense,” said Monica Del Pino Meller.

This was a dilemma for the young mom because learning English was a top priority. She saw English as a gateway to learning about their new home and a necessary skill to get her back to teaching. Like any newcomer, Monica feared new things and was also worried about the welfare of her child when they landed in Winnipeg.

When she discovered Live and Learn a few months ago, she knew that it was the program for her. The classes allowed her to study at home whenever she had free time and even while taking care of her child.

Falling in love with Canada

“I visited Canada a couple of years ago, and from that time on I fell in love with this amazing country,” Monica said. In 2010, Monica was one of the delegates to a summer Youth Camp at URJ Camp George in Ontario. There she had her first experience working with Canadian kids and felt the great sense of community spirit. When she and her husband decided to emigrate from Cuba, it was only logical that Canada was their first choice.

“We chose to leave for different reasons, mainly economic ones. We decided to move to Manitoba because I was looking for a small city. I don’t really like big cities like Toronto or Quebec. We also found that they were looking for professionals, for skilled workers here. So my husband I applied,” she said.

When they arrived in Winnipeg six months ago, the couple discovered many programs that taught them about various aspects of everyday life in the province. “In Manitoba, they really spend a lot of time and money getting newcomers settled in the city. There are so many programs that taught us about laws, economics, what to do in emergency cases,” Monica said. This assuaged many of their fears about settling and finding their way around Winnipeg.

“Live and Learn is perfect for parents like me who have work and have to take care of kids. I’m really comfortable learning online but I’m aware that it can be hard for some people. But I definitely recommend Live and Learn even for people who can attend school. You can find really good materials here. You have a lot of information, you even have seminars! In my opinion, it’s great! I definitely recommend it”

Learning English at night

Monica holds a degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Havana. Before coming to Manitoba, she was a computer technician and a teacher in Cuba. She found fulfillment in teaching computer education to elementary students, which is why her goal is to get back to teaching. She realized that the first step would be to hone her English skills so that she could achieve her career goals.

At first, Monica and her husband enrolled at MITT for English classes. But when they started getting jobs, they could attend only at night. This led to another problem: unless they hired someone, no one was left with their five year old. Monica decided to quit the class since her husband needed English instruction more than she did. It was a good thing that Monica discovered Live and Learn while surfing the net. “At first, I read the articles and self-study materials. They were so helpful and it’s great that I can learn anytime I chose. After this, I registered for Virtual Coffee chats,” Monica said. She has since signed up for the LINC Home Study program for one-on-one English classes.

“Live and Learn is perfect for parents like me who have work and have kids. I’m really comfortable learning online but I’m aware that it can be hard for some people. But I definitely recommend Live and Learn even for people who can attend school. You can find really good materials here. You have a lot of information, you even have seminars! In my opinion, it’s great! I definitely recommend it,” Monica said.

Moving forward in her professional and personal life

After two months in the call centre, Monica applied for a job at a corporate training solutions company. With her IT and teaching background, Monica was perfect for the position of training specialist. However, she expressed apprehensions about her English during the interview. She needed more time to hone her English in order to teach. The company saw Monica’s value so they offered her an administrative job. This will allow her to stay in the company while she worked on her English and eventually move up to a teaching role in the near future.

With a rosy future ahead of her, the spunky and cheerful lady is loving life in her new home. She says that adjusting to life in a new country can be difficult at first, but it all works out in the end. “I remember that time when we plugged our car into a block heater for the first time. We did it well in advance but when we tried to start the car, it wouldn’t. We checked everything and asked help from our friends. Someone even tried to use jumper cables but it didn’t help. Finally, we called CAA. We waited and they arrived at 11 pm. Imagine how we felt when they told us that the problem was that we used the wrong cord to plug the car in! There were two cords and we wasted a whole day because we chose the wrong one. So now, we always plug in both cords just to make sure,” Monica said, laughing.

She can now look back at this incident with humor and take it as a learning experience. Her positivity is probably why, in a matter of a few months, she was able to carve out a clear career path and is quickly moving towards her goals. She is loving Manitoba with its responsive programs and the beautiful scenery all around, whether in summer or winter. More importantly, she is happy that her daughter is adjusting well and of course learning English faster than her parents.

Asked for tips for other newcomers like her, Monica has this to say: “Be prepared for winter. Also, adjust to Canadian culture, not the other way around. For example, the culture at work. Back in Cuba, you can ask your co-workers really personal questions. It’s normal. But here, you cannot. And that’s alright. You have to make an effort to adapt to rules and the culture of the people around you if you want to succeed and fully integrate.”