In the fall of 2014, three months after learning to cope with the shock that continued to surface following my arrival on this continent, I decided to join the English Language Training (ELT) program offered at Sheridan College. ELT is a federally-funded 10-week program that helps people who are new to Canada to find meaningful work. It provides participants with advanced-level English training and educates them about workplace culture in this country.
Prior to coming to Canada I worked as a writer, journalist and PR/communications professional in India after completing a Master’s degree in Mass Communication. I decided to move to this country because of the wonderful opportunities it presented in lifestyle and career. I was fascinated by what I learned from my Canadian friends who visited India on their yearly holidays, and decided to set on a Canadian adventure. My aim in joining the ELT program was to meet, network and learn from industry professionals in corporate communications in Canada. It also seemed like a great way to make a few new friends.
“I was fascinated by what I learned from my Canadian friends who visited India on their yearly holidays, and decided to set on a Canadian adventure” – Vinaya Gopaal
I walked into my first class apprehensive and thoughtfully silent. I looked around the room and observed that the group was more diverse than I had expected. The atmosphere was rich with cultures, languages and differences; and unusually deficient in the number of Indians attending – for I don’t remember ever being the only Indian in a large group!
Though I was a working professional in India, the ELT classes made me realize that I lacked exposure to diversity on the scale that is typically found in a country such as Canada. Learning to interact with different cultures, age groups, genders, and value subsets, quickly became my motivation to attend class. Although various institutes and organizations offer this program across Canada, Sheridan’s youth-centric environment and energy makes it especially appealing to middle-aged professionals like me.
The program often reminded me of a volunteer experience that I was involved in during my college days in India. Back then, I was part of a youth organization that helped under-privileged children. As part of my role, I was instrumental in helping them gain the confidence needed to chart a career for themselves by encouraging them to develop soft skills like communication. Understanding, accepting and celebrating differences in one another was the prime lesson that volunteers learned through this experience. I realized that the ELT program shared the same mode of recognizing and respecting differences in people, through learning to contribute and collaborate within and outside the classroom. As much as the experiences differed vastly in nature and scope, I recognize that at the core, they had a lot in common.
“Although various institutions and organizations offer this program across Canada, Sheridan’s youth-centric environment and energy makes it especially appealing to middle-aged professionals like me” – Vinaya Gopaal
With the classroom portion of the ELT program now behind me, I have begun my latest adventure as an intern in the Communications Department at Sheridan College where I’ll be interviewing international students to help tell their stories. While I’ll certainly draw on my skills as a journalist and communications professional, I also know that the lessons I learned about diversity and the confidence I gained through the ELT program will put me in good stead to succeed in this task.
Pictured at top of page: Vinaya Gopaal
Written by: Vinaya Gopaal, Projects Coordinator in the International Office at Sheridan.