By Ginny Rana
Sarah had been busy looking at schools in Canada for her two children. She and her husband, Bob had recently received their Permanent Residency and were very excited at better prospects that awaited them. Holistic education, superior career opportunities, and better quality of life were the primary considerations. Sarah was especially thrilled while looking at the Canadian schools and could not wait for the day when her kids would begin their learning journeys in one of them. Her husband, Bob trained and working as an IT Analyst in Shanghai was looking up job openings in Toronto. He was in close touch with an employment and settlement agency in Toronto. The agency was helping Bob with employment advice and sharing job postings. The labor market looked promising for IT professionals; he had already applied to a few openings and was eagerly awaiting a response.
Upbeat as life was for the kids and Bob, things did not look equally optimistic for Sarah. Inadequate professional experience and too outdated, Sarah was clearly at a loss for options. Occupied in tending to her family, Sarah had stopped working almost six years ago. True, she was eager to start working again, but how, where, and what were the primary concerns. Perplexed, she spoke to one of her school friends, a faculty member at a post-secondary learning institution in GTA. “Why don’t you go back to school for a start?” suggested her friend.
“Back to school at 39?” said Sarah, “you can’t be serious. I don’t want people to make fun of me.” With that, she put an abrupt end to all discussions on the subject.
The conversation ended but the thought stayed. The next day onwards, Sarah started looking up courses related to her educational background in Psychology. Soon, she found many interesting courses in Behavioural Psychology. The subject had always been Sarah’s favorite and not before long, Sarah was back to school.
At school, Sarah discovered that she was not alone; there were many mature learners just like her. Some were even older! She loved the chance to learn all over again. Busy as she was managing home and college, she had so much to look forward to each day. She was pleasantly surprised at how easily she was able to adapt to hybrid learning without any prior experience.
Intimidating as it had first seemed, Sarah was not only able to keep up with the course commitments but could also devote time to her family. The two-year diploma helped her with fresh knowledge, and she was now up to date with everything in the industry. The final semester had a coop component, which provided hands-on experience in a school setting. Getting a chance to practice her newly acquired knowledge, Sarah felt confident that finally, she was ready to take on the challenges of being a working mom. Not only was she able to gain work experience, but also got the opportunity to know people and form connections. Barely four months after completing her program, Sarah was working as an educational resource facilitator at a community living center near home. Heading back to school has been a life-changing experience not just for Sarah, but for many others.
Going back to school can upscale credentials and boost your resume in many ways
Depending on your career and education goals, you may choose to pursue a certificate, degree, or professional certification. Additionally, there are several part-time and full-time courses; associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees, diplomas, and undergraduate programs to choose from. You may find career-specific programs and enrolling yourself in one of these is the best way to stay ahead in the game. Some such programs include:
• culinary arts,
• computer science,
• business administration,
• medical assisting, and nursing.
An associate’s or bachelor’s degree can be a good idea if you don’t have one or if you took college but didn’t graduate. These degrees can help you qualify for higher-paying jobs. Moreover, there may be courses that were unavailable while you were in school but are now available. These can be a good fit with your existing qualifications. Earning an extra credential can help you move up in your career or shift to a new second career or even a better job role that you may have been contemplating. Not just the latest job knowledge, you also get an opportunity to learn to use the latest technology and enhance digital proficiency.
For a newcomer, starting a new life with a stint at school can have multiple benefits. You learn the latest industry knowledge, use of modern technology, Canadian work culture, workplace communication, and building professional networks. Many programs also offer immigration pathways and can help students find employment in in-demand professions.
Going back to school can be your life-transforming journey. However, it is important to embark on this journey after adequate research in terms of finding the right program and college. While looking at various programs, it is worthwhile to consider future career options that the program may present on completion. To ensure that your program delivers the desired outcome, it is essential to keep a few things in mind.
1. Manage Time
Going back to school and trying to fit it into your daily routine may not be easy. It might be difficult to manage classes and classwork, alongside work and family responsibilities. However, remember that there are several options to choose from. Depending on the time you have on hand, you can choose a part-time, online, or flexible learning program. Many programs also allow you to study right from the comfort of your home.
2. Managing Costs
If you are worried about how to pay tuition and fees, there is good news. Better Jobs Ontario, Canada Student Grant for Full-Time Students, scholarships, and financial assistance are some ways to manage the additional costs. You can also check if your employer offers a tuition assistance program. You can even explore the option to work while you study.
3. Fear of Not Fitting In
The fear of sticking out or not fitting in can be quite nerve-racking for some adult learners. However, learning institutions have a wealth of resources and support to cater to diverse learning needs. Academic advisors, counselors, and peer mentors are some supports most colleges offer. Abundant online support in terms of IT/tech support, assignment/study help, and peer tutoring is available for easy access, even outside and beyond regular college hours.
4. Make Time for Yourself
As adult learners try to balance personal, professional, and learning commitments simultaneously, it is easy to feel burnt out. Try to make time for yourself, take adequate rest, and practice self-care.
Whether it is to finish a degree, upgrade skills, advance a career, or enhance knowledge, going back to school can open a world of new opportunities waiting to be explored. As a newcomer to Canada, it is the best way to get acquainted with the Canadian work culture and master the tricks of the trade.
Looking back, Sarah says, “Heading back to school was the best decision of my life.”
Returning to school has changed so many lives for the better, translating dreams into reality and transforming aspirations into achievements. Just remember, it’s never too late to start!
This article was written by Ginny Rana, an international student pursuing Social Services Worker (Immigrants & Refugees) program at Seneca College. A published writer, Ginny completed her first-year placement at ACCES Employment, North York, and is currently working as a volunteer with Canadian Red Cross. You can contact Ginny at: firstname.lastname@example.org