Newcomer story: Rediat Mikru

Rediat landed in Canada in June 2012 with big expectations. Coming to Manitoba via the Provincial Nominee Program, she felt fortunate to have been given the opportunity to emigrate from her home country, Ethiopia. But despite her optimism, Rediat learned quickly that it takes more than big hopes to achieve one’s dreams.

Settlement challenges

First among Rediat’s challenges was the extreme weather. “I was not prepared to experience wind chill,” she said. “But now I have adapted to the weather. Little, by little, you can adapt,” Rediat added. She also had difficulty finding work at that time and a big factor was her limited knowledge of English. “Before, I was not able to speak English like I do right now,” she said.

After a year in Manitoba, Rediat got sick. Her health problems prompted her to go back to Ethiopia to recuperate. After four months, Rediat decided to come back to Winnipeg and try again. It seemed that this was the reboot that she needed because when she returned, she was filled with renewed resolve. She enrolled in English classes at the University of Manitoba and looked for work at the same time. She also started volunteering at Siloam Mission. After a while, she started to accept cleaning jobs for some properties. Over and above all these activities, Rediat achieved a milestone in 2015 – she graduated from Grade 12 with top marks. Soon after, she registered at the University of Winnipeg to take up accounting.

“EO is helping me improve my grammar, reading, and practicing my writing. I am learning where I’m supposed to put a comma, the subject-verb agreement, plural form, all these things. Now I’m good.”

Remembering her English words

“My problem is that when I speak and write, my mind translates the words to my native language. I know the words. I have the vocabulary in my head. I understand everything when I read or when you talk to me. If you mention a word, I know what it means. But it’s hard to remember the English words,” Rediat said. She illustrates this difficulty by relating what she experienced during an exam: “I took an exam and studied very well. I aced the multiple choice questions. But when it came to the writing part, I was only able to express a little. It was not good,” Rediat recalls. “But I don’t give up! I continue to practice,” she adds.

This is why she likes learning with English Online (EO). “It reminds of what I have in my mind. Practicing with EO and in my English class makes me familiar with the words,” she said.

The spunky lady actually started learning with EO three years ago when she had heard about online learning at an EAL program. But because of her work schedule, she had to stop. When her schedule permitted it, she started again. Today she continues to participate in Coffee Chats. She also registered for a one-on-one EAL e-tutor. “EO is helping me improve my grammar, reading, and practicing my writing. I am learning where I’m supposed to put a comma, the subject-verb agreement, plural form, all these things. Now I’m good,” Rediat said.

Her commitment to learning English is very evident. Rediat is looking to make friends with a native speaker so that she can practice conversational English constantly. She also takes every opportunity to converse with people at Church or in her community.

Have realistic expectations

Currently, Rediat is looking to shift to a better career while earning her degree. She is looking for a job where she will have a greater chance to converse with co-workers so she can learn English faster. She foresees that this kind of environment will better equip her with the right skills to get her ready for her career in accounting. However, she laments that finding a job in Manitoba is hard. “I hope that more career opportunities will be opened to newcomers. Getting work is hard. When they do not have a job, they only speak their language and become dependent on the government to survive. But if they get a job, they will be able to develop themselves and their English while at work,” she said.

But despite this, Rediat still enjoys living in Winnipeg. “Living in Manitoba is good. I think the cost of living is good. As I have heard from other people, the cost of living in other provinces is very high. Like in Vancouver or Calgary, I hear that the rent is very expensive,” she added.

Asked for advice to other newcomers, Rediat has this to say: “Many newcomers are eager to come to Manitoba and their expectations are big. Just like me, when I came to Manitoba, I expected a lot. At that time, I believed that I could easily change everything. So my advice is not to expect too much. Have realistic expectations. They should be ready for change and plan for the changes. Be willing to start from scratch. Be ready to adapt to Canadian culture – learn English, the culture, everything!” Rediat said.