When Rahwa was a little girl, she was known for always being in a rush. “I remember when I was young, whenever they would send me and my younger brother to get something from the store, it took my brother an hour to go there and come back. It would only take me a few minutes because I was very energetic and fast,” she said.
Today, she is defined by the same energy and quick action. She is a woman in a hurry. After landing in Manitoba two and a half years ago, she has taken several courses in quick succession all the while taking care of her twin boys as a single mom. In her classes, Rahwa says, “I’m always the first to finish my tasks. Even if I miss classes, I am able to make up for everything I missed. I don’t procrastinate,” she said. Her teachers are amazed that she is able to submit all her work and on time. Just last week, the first comment on her evaluation at university was “quick to act”.
But as an English language learner, being in a rush is not always a good thing, as Rahwa discovered.
“There is someone to ask about how to do things. She gives me pointers and shows me that I’m getting better. Somehow I’m getting used to writing now because I know the structure. Irina made me focus because she asks me to write a lot of things. So now when someone tells me to summarize something, I know what to do. I can see that my writing is a little bit better, so that’s a thumbs up for Irina. This is a big motivation for me.”
Upgrading her education and language skills
Rahwa came here through a cousin’s sponsorship in April 2017. She is originally from Eritrea but moved to Uganda to study. She lived there for eight years before moving to Manitoba. Rahwa studied computer science and worked as an office and accounting assistant prior to coming here. After she landed in Winnipeg, she spared no time learning about her new environment and the opportunities open to her. With her cousin’s younger sister sometimes looking after her boys, she went to Manitoba Start to attend some courses. She also took IRCOM’s Saving Circle and Transportation Loans workshops, as well as a program to help her review for the driver’s licence exam. After this, she took an empowerment course for women and mentorship courses at Taking Charge! Inc., where she upgraded her high school education, helping her move up to university. Rahwa is now taking a Web Development course at the University of Winnipeg.
Rahwa doesn’t have much of a problem speaking English but her writing needed improvement. “I always make a lot of mistakes. Teachers correct me but I just keep doing it. I don’t know why,” she said. So in August last year, she took a language benchmark test at WELARC and was referred to LINC Home Study. In two weeks, Rahwa was attending Blaine, Amrita and Iryna’s classes at English Online. She was also paired with e-Facilitator Anastassiya and then Irina for one-on-one instruction. “Irina is really helping me. I can’t even tell you all that she has done for me. Remember I told you about my writing mistakes? For example, I’m supposed to write in past tense but I write it in present or sometimes I used two pronouns instead of the subject. These are little things that she noticed but these are big, big things that are helping me,” Rahwa beamed.
“I also see that when I’m in a rush, I could make mistakes. When I write a paragraph, I don’t go back to it again. Irina told me, ‘you write and then sleep on it. Then come back to it the next day and work on it. Then you will be able to see mistakes and rectify them.’ Now I’m doing that but whenever they give an assignment I still do it quickly on the same day. But then I would have time before the deadline to revise it,” Rahwa said.
Back in her home country, Rahwa learned English on her own. She read a lot of books and was always reading online. When she got an e-Facilitator, she saw how vastly different it is learning with a mentor. “There is someone to ask about how to do things. She gives me pointers and shows me that I’m getting better. Somehow I’m getting used to writing now because I know the structure. Irina made me focus because she asks me to write a lot of things. So now when someone tells me to summarize something, I know what to do. I can see that my writing is a little bit better, so that’s a thumbs up for Irina. This is a big motivation for me,” Rahwa said.
“I like learning with EO because first, you can learn at your convenient time and in your comfort zone. Then, there are also so many topics and from these, you expand your vocabulary. I was also lucky to study with both Amrita and Iryna. Iryna has multiple ideas and she would share them with me as if we are the closest of friends. I used to speak slowly and with a lower voice. People would say ‘again?’ or ‘pardon me’. Maybe I was speaking with a lower voice because I lacked confidence in myself. Working with them, I can see that it has polished my communication skills and I have gained more confidence when speaking,” Rahwa added.
Prepared for settlement challenges
Asked about her settlement journey so far, Rahwa confidently said “To speak honestly, I did not have any challenges. Before coming here, people were scaring me, they were saying ‘oh, it’s winter time, it will be very hard to move with your kids’ or ‘you would not be able to go to school there because no one will look after your boys.’ Because of this, I just prepared myself. I said, if it’s winter, I would have to dress well, bundle up and eat well. The first year I was bundled up wearing four to six layers. The second year I was down to two layers. I just adjust to these things.”
She did admit to one major challenge. “When my boys are sick, that’s the only challenge,” she said. You can’t always rely on your friends or family to take care of your kids. They may say that you are taking advantage of them,” she said. Rahwa prioritizes on the well-being of her four-year old sons but ensures that she is able to catch up with her studies. She is a dedicated mom who is so proud of her well-mannered kids who continually inspire her to achieve success. “They are helping me achieve all this. They are good listeners, they have good manners. Because of them I am able to go through this intense course. I look forward to the time when I’ll be working and focusing on taking care of them” she said.
Advice to other newcomers
“Take time to study English. Some might think that when they come to Canada, it will be like grabbing money from trees. You have to work for everything. When they come here, they should not rush. Learn the English language, find a part time job. If they couldn’t find a job, focus on full time studies and upgrade their education. Have a plan and some goals. Some people who come here just earn their money and send it back home. They don’t invest in their studies. They may think it’s tiresome to study a language but learning is important,” she said.
“I told some of my classmates at the university that I am learning online and I recommend it to some of them. And they say ‘no I don’t need it’. You might think that you don’t have time and you don’t need it but we all need to improve our English. We need to know the Canadian style. I tell them that if I, a single mother can do it, you too can manage,” Rahwa said.