Stepwest Stories – Mariel from Mexico and her Study & Work experience in Canada

Stepwest Stories is back, and this time with Mariel from Mexico as our Stepwest Star during her study and work experience in Vancouver. We have decided to let her tell you her story in her own words. Enjoy Mariel’s Stepwest Stories takeover!

Hi everyone! Let me begin by introducing myself, my name is Mariel Jaime Vargas and I am a 26-year-old from Mexico. After visiting several countries in the world, I decided that Canada was my favourite which is why I chose to do a study and work program in Vancouver, through Stepwest! I am excited to share with you my journey coming to Canada!

The Beginning of my Work & Study Experience in Canada

Three years ago, when I was studying my Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Management at Universidad Estatal De Sonora (UES) in Mexico, I got a scholarship from the Mexican Government to go to Canada to study English at the University of Calgary. When I came to Canada for the first time to study, I immediately fell in love with the country and decided that I would love to come back to Canada in the future, not only to study but also to gain some professional work experience.

After finishing my study program in Calgary, I went back to Mexico and finished my Bachelor’s degree in Tourism Management. I started working as an Event Planner for the Government of Mexico, where I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the corporate field. I also started saving money and looking for the best option for me to come back to Canada.

I began my own research on how to do my study and work process for Canada including applying for visas, work permit, study permit, etc… I was getting a bit overwhelmed with the information. I also found information about University Programs in Canada including Degrees, Masters, College Programs, Co-Op Programs, etc…

I really did not know what it was and how much money I would need if I wanted to have work experience in Canada. Frustrated, I decided to open the Canadian Government website and saw that Stepwest was one of the Recognized Organizations by the Government of Canada. I looked up Stepwest online and saw all the amazing reviews they had from previous clients, so I decided to send them an email and that’s how it all began!

The Process of Coming to Canada to Gain Professional Work Experience

I sent my email to Stepwest and in less than 24 hours I was already talking to them in Spanish! I wanted to work in Canada as a Mexican citizen, but I did not have the budget to pay for a University Program (approx. CAD 15,000 per year). That’s when she recommended me to study and work in Vancouver through a Co-Op College Program for 12 months!

Since I was in touch with them, they have been really helpful and super easy to work with! They always tried to make me feel comfortable during my application process! I actually became an expert on what needed to be done in order for me to work and study in Canada. They would not allow me to pay for my College Co-Op program in Hospitality Management until they were 100% sure that I knew exactly how my process to go to Canada would work! They gave me a lot of confidence, which made me feel I made the right choice. Now studying and living in Vancouver, I have met and shared experiences with classmates and other international students who are also doing Co-Op Diplomas in Vancouver, and I further believe I made the right choice with Stepwest! I even saved some money as Stepwest offered me a special promotion on my study and work program!

With their guidance and suggestions, I felt secure and trusted them to help me with my application process. Since Working Holiday (under International Experience Canada) is not an option for Mexicans since 2014, I decided to do one of their College Co-Op Diplomas in Vancouver, which would allow me to study and work during my time in Canada.

During the program, I will be studying key areas of Hospitality Management, including Leadership, Social Media Marketing & MS Office suite, Service in Food and Beverage Operations, Front Office Operations, Housekeeping Operations, and International Hotel Management.

My study and work permit application process for Canada was very quick since I followed every step carefully. As a result, it took me 3 months to prepare for my work experience abroad, which I was so happy about! I just could not wait for my new professional adventure in Canada to start!

Arriving in Canada to Begin my Co-Op Diploma in Vancouver

I arrived in Vancouver, and had my orientation at the Stepwest office right after. During my orientation at Stepwest, I got everything that I needed on the first day: bank account as a student in Canada, SIN Number (as I needed it to start working in Vancouver), Canadian cellphone number, etc…  That’s also when I finally met in person: Brianna, Carolina, and the rest of the Stepwest team!

The following Monday, I started my Hospitality Management Co-Op Diploma program which has two parts: 50% of the program I will be studying, while also working 20 hours a week. The other 50% of my Co-Op Program, I will be working a full-time job (commonly known as Co-Op in Canada).

When I was deciding on which program I should choose, I thought a Co-Op Program was the best option for me, as it allowed me to study and work in order to earn extra money and pay for my living expenses in Vancouver.

The good thing about coming with Stepwest is that they helped me since the very beginning of my Canadian experience with part-time job! That’s why I met Stepwest Placement Specialist, Cassandra, on the day of my Orientation. She was the one helping me to get a part-time job in Vancouver!

Cassandra was very helpful and got me a job interview the next day! My first job interview in Canada was not like what I expected. Of course, I was nervous and because of my schedule it did not work out, but it was indeed a great experience to learn more about how job interviews work in Canada, as an international student!  Even though I did not get the job, Cassandra quickly helped me, by arranging my second job interview at one of Vancouver ‘s top Japanese restaurants! They hired me as a hostess, and I was so thrilled to be able to find a part-time job in two weeks of being in Vancouver! I no longer needed to be worried about finding a job on my own in Canada.


Learning About Different Cultures While Working in Vancouver

Canada is a multicultural country. So, since I work at a Japanese restaurant in Vancouver, I get to learn a little bit of Japanese culture, language and work ethics. I needed to adapt myself to both Canadian culture and Japanese culture which is very interesting for me, as this is not something I would experience in Mexico! This work experience in Vancouver has already taught me how to offer excellent and good quality service in any workplace!

One time, I was introduced to a Japanese co-worker, and by instinct, I went to hug him because, in Mexico, people hug when they meet each other. The friend who introduced us told me not to do that again, and just give him a handshake next time. Then, I found out that Japanese people do not hug when they meet each other. From that moment, I always keep in mind to not hug people that I just meet, in case they have a different culture from mine! This experience always makes me laugh at myself.

My advice if you are planning to come to work in Canada!

I have been studying and working in Vancouver for 2 months now and I have to organize my time wisely since I need to study for exams, do homework and presentations while working at the same time. The key is just to stay focused and organize what you do while studying and working! In addition, you will be looking forward to starting your full-time Co-Op Work Experience in Vancouver which keeps you motivated!

My advice for people who want to come to Canada is to be brave and open-minded since Canada is a multicultural and welcoming country. You will meet people from all over the world while completing your Co-Op Program in Vancouver, which is an affordable way to study and work in Canada. These programs will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Canadian labour market, improve your professional network and gain international work experience! I now have the opportunity to use this knowledge and job experience in my professional career back in Mexico.

Thank you for following my journey to Canada. I hope I can inspire you guys to chase your dreams, come study, gain work experience and succeed in Canada’s best city, Vancouver! See you in Canada!


Interested in following Mariel's footsteps?

We can help you if you are dreaming of coming to work in Canada! You can participate in our in our College programs in Vancouver. Contact us now to start your Canadian work adventure!