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Meet Johanna: International Learning

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

1. How do you like your job/business?

I love my job at the Merrick Preparatory School in Merrickville! I am proud to help international and local students getting a better education and achieving their goals. With an international school, it’s so cool to see our Canadian students as well as our students from abroad kind of grow up together. It’s such a joy seeing them prepare for university and, of course, succeed when they eventually head off. It’s almost like a “mini Canada” because this country is so diverse and we at Merrick Prep have so much diversity with our students, too.

2. How is working different in Canada compared to where you were born?

There are several different aspects: Germany has an advanced employment security, for example. Which means that you can’t be easily fired over there. Also, there are differences when it comes to vacation time, sick days and the overall health insurance – Germany offers more than Canada. However, I love this country and its working environment. It’s a different pace here. I love it! I also find that Canadians are more open to learning on the job and even changing directions, and that’s something I really enjoy working with. Some people decide to switch jobs and careers at 45, and that’s totally acceptable here. I think it’s great that you can change your mind and your career path without being judged, to find what you love and what fits best for your life. It would be a lot harder in Germany.

3. How do you like your coworkers (past or present)?

I am and have always been very lucky with my coworkers. It’s fascinating and exciting to be around such a diverse group of people. For me, this is what makes Canada so special. There are many people from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and so forth. Everyone is always so open-minded and kind. I can say with confidence that I’ve worked and continue to work alongside so many incredible people. The education industry in general has a wonderful workforce and I enjoy connecting with all of them.

4. Was there anything that surprised you about the Canadian workplace?

My perspective may be limited because I only worked for small companies. The sense of belonging is something I really enjoy. Here in Canada, it goes beyond the standard work environment. However, I was surprised how difficult it is to build strong friendships. People have a great time at work, but if you want to spend time outside of work, it’s harder for newly immigrated people to connect because people that are born and raised here already have their established circle of friends. In smaller towns, it seems to be even harder to get into those inner circles. In my case, all my close friends are immigrants themselves or have also moved to this area.

Another thing that surprised me is the amount of vacation time in Canada. It is very limited compared to where I come from and doesn’t offer much opportunity for growth. A third surprise was the feeling of insecurity that comes with being sick. As there is no employee protection or pay, I worry about falling ill. Again, something very different from where I come from.

5. What has been your favourite job?

I am passionate about my job in Admissions/ Recruitment. My first couple of months, I worked in the dorms at my previous school. My husband and I had 10 boys living with us, which was a lot of fun. I miss working so closely with the students as well as seeing them during weekends or their free time.

My favourite job is my current one. It’s inspiring to see young people have the courage to study abroad. Watching them grow, become successful and shine is amazing. It is also very rewarding to assist young people in exploring the world, stepping outside of their comfort zones, trying new things, meeting new people from all around the world and building strong friendships. Knowing that they are supported and cared for while they explore who they are and what they want to do with their lives, makes me love my job even more. It is amazing to see them feel home and that Canada – Merrick Prep becomes their second home. That is why every day I am encouraged to bring new students to the school who will get the same chance.

Last but not least, I love being able to work within a multicultural inclusive environment. I am happy to meet people from so many different backgrounds and have become friends with some of them over the years. I enjoy making connections, I’m very social, and it’s one of my favourite aspects of the job.

6. What was job searching like for you?

Since moving to Canada, I only had to do it once. It was unexpected and it was very difficult. Germans are not as adept at selling themselves, which makes it harder. So, for me it was difficult to sell my education and experience, especially when I was hired.

Job search is hard. I felt that you don’t get a lot of responses to applications, and when you do, they’re not what you’re looking for. In small communities, it seems to be even more difficult to find work as there aren’t a lot of positions available unless you want to commute. Also, the financial income may not be what you want, especially for those who are highly educated and qualified.

However, it seems that the pandemic has made things a little bit easier, as there are now more online and remote/ hybrid jobs available. It gives people more options, without having to commute every day.

7. What is your dream job?

I already have it! I do what I love – working with students and their families to help them get a great education that will prepare them for future success. I am fortunate that I work for someone that really values my work and that I have found a place where I truly enjoy being. The only thing I would wish for is that more families and students could see the value and high-quality education Merrick Prep provides. However, I am certain we will get there with more students (local and international) experiencing the Merrick Prep life and education.

8. Do you think Canadian schools prepare their students for the workplace?

It all depends on the school. Generally, Ontario’s education has a great reputation. The public schools have suffered because of cuts. The private schools with good reputations, they’re good. For both public and private, there is good access to universities domestically and abroad.

Although the kids are well-prepared, schools could do more to provide guidance counselling, particularly at public schools. While Ontario schools offer a solid education, there is always room for improvement. I would like them to pay more attention to the international students who attend public schools. This would ensure that they are in the right pathway and take the age-appropriate academic courses to prepare them for their next step. I, personally, see a huge difference in the quality of education and workplace preparation between private and public schools.

9. What do you think is most important for people to know/think about when working with immigrants?

Listening is one of the most important things. Do not assume that you know all there is about the person you are speaking with or their country. Everyone is a unique individual, even within their own culture. It is important that we remember this. Immigrating to another country is a major step, especially emotionally.

People need to have open minds. It can be difficult to establish relationships with residents, especially in small towns. It’s important to help people integrate, make them feel welcome, and be a part of the local community. Newcomers will appreciate the help they receive. Being available to answer questions, help them settle down, or even just have time to explain little things is invaluable to an immigrant.

10. Has your current/past job changed your perspective on work/working in Canada or your birth country?

I never thought I would be walked out of a job from one minute to the next. I had heard of it, but never thought it would happen to me. The feeling of safety and security was taken from me, and I doubt that I will ever get it fully back. In Germany, giving my best and going above and beyond guaranteed me job security in the past – unfortunately, that is not the case in Canada. If there is new ownership or change of leadership in a company, you can be cut from one to the next moment, and that’s scary. It can have a profound impact on the entire culture and workplace environment, as well as your personal life. Sometimes I wonder why there is not more job security offered, especially as there is such a need for more skilled workers. I think, both sides would benefit from it, the employee and the employer. It can be devastating for an employer if a good employee gives the two weeks notice. That is not enough time to hire and train a replacement nor to hand over all the know-how. As a result, the knowledge is lost when the person leaves. That way, you also lose a lot of institutional knowledge.

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