Vidya Saha: For the love of learning
November 14, 2013
“Opportunities won’t come knocking on my door. I have to go out and explore them.”
So says Vidya Saha, who exudes positive, inspiring energy as she settles into her new life in Canada.
She arrived from India just over a year ago (September 2012) “for the betterment of my children’s future.” She encouraged one of her sons to apply to the University of Guelph at the same time as other family members were completing their applications for permanent residency. She fondly remembers that the university accepted all her son’s credits from a year of studies at Delhi University, which allowed him to enter U of Guelph in second year. Another son with a graduate degree in engineering is now gaining Canadian experience in a job related to his field.
As her sons find their way in Guelph, Vidya, a school teacher with 17 years of teaching experience, is actively exploring opportunities that build on her passion for teaching. After working in a “survival job” during her first three months in Canada, she realized that she “wasn’t going in the right direction,” and decided to complement her international education with a Canadian diploma. Vidya enrolled in a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) program in Mississauga, which she’ll be completing in November. And the busy woman is also taking interpreter training through Immigrant Services – Guelph Wellington!
But she’s also clearly passionate about volunteering, which she feels is helping her gain Canadian experience and build a social network. She has been involved with Project Wisdom (a program hosted by Immigrant Services that focuses on senior immigrants’ issues), for which she staged a play at the University of Guelph called Old is Gold. And starting November 9, she will be conducting yoga classes at Immigrant Services (926 Paisley Rd) on Saturdays from 3:30-5:00 pm, and providing English practice opportunities at the same time. She was also a volunteer yoga teacher at the YMCA-YWCA for three months, and recently translated a Robert Munsch story in Hindi on video for the Guelph Public Library.
Vidya’s social personality is obvious when she is asked what advice she would give to other newcomers: “Go out and talk to people, mingle.” She also feels that immigrants shouldn’t compromise and do work they don’t want to do just to survive. But this means, she says, that immigrants should get to know more about Canada before taking the final leap. “Do your homework well before you land,” she advises. While Vidya acknowledges that life hasn’t been easy since she arrived, she also says that “nothing good comes easy,” and that immigrants should always seek information about services and opportunities rather than isolate themselves.
Vidya sees lack of language skills as the biggest barrier for immigrant integration, which explains her interest in pursuing TESL and interpretation training. She has some advice that applies equally to both immigrants AND various levels of government in Canada: “Invest in language instruction.” Immigrants need to invest time and effort to learn English well, and governments need to invest in more language training services.