My name is Agnes Gruszecka and I came to Canada in 1997 from Poland. My professional training is in architecture – urban design.
Upon arrival, I spoke Polish, German and Italian but no English whatsoever.
I had two small children with me, a one year old and a three year old. My husband had already rented an apartment for us, but unfortunately he had to leave for the United States on business soon after I arrived.
At that time, the only words that I knew were a few computer commands, like ‘window’, ‘open’, and ‘exit’, and of course the regular ‘hi’, ‘bye’, ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. Not enough for a mother that needed to take care of two kids in a foreign country.
My husband’s business trip was stretching to almost a month and I was desperate. I needed to learn English fast because even a simple trip to the grocery store was a disaster waiting to happen.
When my husband returned, he invited over a friend and his wife. We got to talking and I eventually shared my problems with her, only to discover that she was enrolled in a LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) class. They even had childcare assistance at the school. That was great news and I signed up at the school the following Monday morning.
At the beginning, I went to Level 1 and was moved to Level 2 after only a few classes. That was a scary and challenging task, because the very first few days I sat there, having no idea what my teacher was saying. Every day she asked me, “Do you understand?” I just shook my head no, and yet she told me, “Don’t worry, you will.” She was right. Two weeks later I could understand almost everything. It was an amazing transformation.
I continued learning through all the levels that were available, but I still wanted more. It was tough, but essential, as it was preparing us for future job interviews, résumé and cover letter writing and perhaps most important, placing us in a work environment for a company as a co-op student.
The first company I was placed with wasn’t exactly what I expected and I ended up going back to school. My next placement was “The Sernas Group”, an engineering company that employed many fields of work and a place where I felt that I could fit in. I wanted to be part of it. At first, I worked in the engineering section, as a junior CAD drafter. My skills allowed me to prove that I had what the company needed and I was hired after my co-op period ended. The people were very friendly and understanding, helping me with any problem, whether it was computer or language based. That alone has always made me think twice of leaving such a friendly environment.
Since that time, I have worked for a variety of departments within the company. Five years ago, I finally settled in the Planning Department. I prepare draft plans of subdivisions and entire neighbourhood plans. I get great satisfaction in knowing what I am designing will be built in our everyday cities. This is the position I was looking for from the very beginning. Now I am a senior design technician. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but it suits me well. I am grateful to the Oshawa LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) program for teaching me the necessary language skills I needed to obtain and enjoy this job.