Stepwest Stories – Maider from Spain and her Study & Work experience in Canada

Let’s meet our next Stepwest star. Her name is Maider from the Basque Country (Pais Vasco) in Spain and she is currently completing her study & work program in Vancouver, BC. Follow along to hear about Maider’s story directly from her. Enjoy!

Hello everyone! My name is Maider Aban and I am from the Basque Country which is located in the North of Spain. After finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management at the University of the Basque Country, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, but one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to have work experience abroad! That is why I ended up doing my work experience program in Vancouver with Stepwest. Let me tell you my story from the very beginning!

How to get a work permit for Canada as a young professional

At my University back home, everyone had the chance to do a study exchange for 1 year as part of your degree. Canada was always my first option! I heard a lot about how there were many job opportunities as well, so I thought it would be perfect to gain professional work experience! Unfortunately, my university did not have an agreement with a Canadian University, so I had to choose another country to do my exchange. In the end, I decided to go to Warsaw in Poland!

I got the chance to travel around Europe, and it was a great experience. This University exchange was the reason why when I went back to Spain, I had already decided that I wanted to live abroad after finishing my degree, this time not only to study but also to work, so Canada came back to my mind again!

First, I started looking for University programs and Master’s Degrees in Canada, but the prices for international students were way higher than what I had in my budget. I found out that as a Spanish citizen, I could apply for a Working Holiday under International Experience Canada and get an open work permit, so I was super excited!

The only problem with that was there were a lot of people applying for this work permit and waiting for that would just be a matter of luck! I did not want to put my future on hold and just sit at home waiting for an invitation to apply for the working holiday. I was determined that I wanted to have my work experience in Canada!  That was when I found out about Stepwest and saw that I could work while studying in Canada for a more affordable price. I also saw their client reviews online, so I found my plan for Canada!

How to start an application for a College Co-Op program in Vancouver

My plan was to study and work in Vancouver through a Co-Op College program for 12 months. I was really interested in the program as it not only provides an opportunity to study Business Management, but I could also gain international work experience in Canada.

The program allows me to study during the first 50% of my stay in Vancouver, while also working up to 20 hours a week. The other 50% of my Co-Op Diploma program would allow me to work full-time (commonly known as Co-Op period in Canada).

I thought this was the best option for me because it allows me to work to gain some money to pay for the living expenses in Vancouver during my whole stay. Furthermore, I would spend more time working than studying, since after 6 months I would have a full-time job that covered all of my expenses in Canada.

After my decision, Stepwest helped me throughout my entire application process. Even though I had a previous experience abroad, it was in Europe where we didn’t need work permits or study permits, so everything that was required to come to Canada was new to me! I even needed to complete Biometrics and until that moment, I had no idea what that was.

They answered all of my questions and provided me with everything I needed to do to come to Canada. Communicating with Stepwest was very easy and even though we mostly communicated through emails, they guided me step by step and made me feel comfortable during my study permit application. I felt that I could reach out to them every time I had a doubt and I would have an answer on my email inbox almost immediately!

Since I followed their instruction very carefully, my application process was very fast and easy. In just a few months, I was ready to start my working experience in Canada!


How to get ready to start studying and working in Canada.

I arrived in Vancouver in February 2019. At first, I need to say I was a bit scared since this was my first time travelling alone outside of Europe. The day after my arrival, I had my orientation at the Stepwest office so I finally was able to meet the team that had been helping me in person! That moment gave me peace of mind since it is so much better when you get to talk to them directly!

That day I got everything I needed: my new cellphone number, free student bank account, Social Insurance Number (SIN), etc… everything I needed to start working in Canada!

Also, the benefit of coming to Canada with Stepwest is that they will help you from the beginning of your Co-Op Diploma program with job placement. That’s when I met Cassandra, one of the Placement Specialists at Stepwest, in order to help me find a part-time job.

The first week was the hardest for me. I lived in a student residence, and I was sure I would find friends instantly and we were going to have fun together right away. But, it was not as fast as I thought! Since I arrived a week before my program start date, it was very challenging for me, but the Stepwest team completely understood and they were very supportive, constantly checking on me to see how I was doing. I feel cared for and comfortable since I know if anything happens, I can just contact them for help.

I was excited to finally start my first day at the College, that was a game-changer! I met so many friends from India, Mexico, Colombia, Vietnam, Bosnia, Philippines, Ecuador, … At first, of course, everyone is a bit shy, but the teachers helped us a lot, as they always made us work together in groups since the first day, so it was way easier to talk to people and to get to know them. Since we were all in the same situation, it was so easy for us to get close to each other. After just knowing them for a few days, we were already hanging out after class so I finally felt I found my place in Vancouver!


How to live and work in Vancouver as an international student

My first job interview experience in Vancouver was at a cute macaron shop on Granville Island, but I did not get the job as they were looking for someone with more availability to work. Still, it was a good experience for me to see how job interviews work in Canada. My second interview was at a bakery for dogs and my third interview was at a flower shop in Kitsilano, a super cool area of Vancouver that you can not miss!

Both interviews went well, and I noticed that I was becoming more confident in answering all of the questions in English. The bakery shop hired me to start working with their team as a sales associate, and I was excited to start working in Vancouver!

Vancouver is a multicultural city. You can find people from all over the world, be open-minded and you will make so many amazing friends from all over the world! I would totally recommend everyone to come to Canada through Stepwest, whether it is for the Study & Work program in Vancouver or for their Working Holiday programs, just because of how personal they are. I was happy to finally see on my own that all those online reviews about them were there for a reason!

There are so many programs like the one I am doing in Vancouver, so it is easy to get overwhelmed with information, but my advice is to follow your gut and choose the one you are feeling most comfortable with! Choosing Stepwest was awesome because I have them here in Vancouver during my whole stay – I can go see them, email them, call them… instead of needing to contact an agency back home all the time. Best decision ever!

My advice to everyone planning to do a work experience in Canada is that the first week or even the first month is going to be challenging and difficult, but I promise you will soon meet friends that will support you and everything will become easier. Now, I am so excited about spending my summer in Vancouver and keep working to be completely fluent in English and make many memories during this whole year I have ahead of me in Canada!

Hopefully, I have inspired you to be brave and take the step of moving to Canada to do an experience like mine! See you in Vancouver!

Study and Work in Vancouver

If you are interested in doing an experience in Canada like her, feel free to connect with us! We will be more than happy to hear your story, what your plans are in Canada, so we can make sure to explain how we can help you get those goals! Contact us now to start your international work experience in Canada!