“What do you want to be?” It is a very common question in our lives. If you were in your 20s, you especially would hear a lot of this question. This means we don’t think well about what we are doing now. I think my future is made from things happening now, so I don’t do things for the future. I do everything for right now. That’s why I made plan to go to Canada. I didn’t want to be a babe in the woods at that time. I wanted to see the world.
You can think I’m rich. If you thought like this, you would be wrong. I’m not rich now, and I was not rich before. I don’t even have university tuition. I would have to make money, if I wanted to go abroad.
I worked at a part time job in Korea before going to Canada and made money for living in Canada. I got a working holiday visa, too, because I didn’t have a lot of money.
Preparations for living in Canada finished in November 2010, and I went to Canada November 19, 2010. I can’t forget how my heart fluttered at that time.
I lived with a Filipino family in Canada at first. They were an amazingly friendly family to me. They took care of me. At that time I was 20 years old, so I was very young. I was really missing my family a lot, but I could overcome it because of my Filipino family.
Actually, I had a working holiday visa, so I didn’t need to go to a special school like an academy. But I wanted to study English and speak English very well, so I entered a private educational institute.
It was so good. Canada was chosen as one of the world's best nations. That’s why it has many various immigrants. I met many people and I learned lots about ethnic and cultural diversity. I met various friends too: Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Brazilians, Indians, Saudi Arabians, etc. I could know different cultures through them, though I sometimes got culture shock. For example, Saudi Arabia has unique marriage institutions. Men can marry four wives! I couldn’t believe this, but they said they had to maintain this institution because their women can’t live by themselves. Each of their customs and institutions is made by men very strongly. This marriage institution was made for women to survive in their country. I could understand it after listening to this background.
I also could know what they think about Korea. Almost every foreigner asked me if I was Japanese. I thought Japan was really famous, and even sushi was a popular food in Canada. I didn’t want to compare Japan to Korea, but it was a natural thought in my head. Japanese looks like Koreans. Though their appearances look similar, though, foreigners feel differently about Japanese and Korean. They trust Japan almost 100% but they are afraid of Korea since it is a divided country. When I learned this, I was so upset. I thought I wanted to be an honorary ambassador of Korea.
It was fantastic to live in Canada. Canada has lots of festivals. The ‘Santa Parade’ made me take a lot of pictures. The ‘Polar Bear Swim Festival’ was super cold, but it was fun. The first anniversary of the Vancouver Winter Olympics moved me. The ‘Fireworks Festival’ was nothing short of spectacular. This festival is a kind of competition in which each of the countries shows its own beautiful fireworks on the sea. I have never seen such beautiful fireworks before. ‘Gay Parade’ was also so unique. Canada legalized homosexual marriage, so if you go to Canada you can see gay couples.
The ‘Kitsilano Music festival’ was also nice. I love music, so it was even more special to me. ‘Marijuana Day’ was a shock. Smoking marijuana is illegal in Korea, so I was afraid when I saw this festival.
I have been to many tourist attractions in Vancouver: The National Central Library, Canada Place, Deep Cove, Queen Elizabeth Park, Stanley Park, etc.
It was very nice to live in Canada, but actually it wasn’t just nice. I had to find a job. Finding a job was really hard and was different from in Korea. In Canada, I should send my resume everywhere, even to places not looking for employees. After sending my resume, I just waited to be called and interviewed. It was so stressful. After finding a job, working was also hard. I couldn’t speak English like native speakers, so sometimes I was ignored by my boss and customers. I also made more mistakes than I would working in Korea. It felt as though I was a stupid worker, but I was getting better gradually. When I finally quit a job, my boss had hoped for me to work more.
Truthfully, I didn’t go on trips a lot like usual travelers, because I wanted to study English a lot. Instead, I got a TESOL diploma and interpretation certification.
After finishing everything, I came back Korea in October 2011. I was 22 years old. I had been in Canada for almost a year. I became a different person.
Working holiday visa is more special than other visas. It’s not only for travelers. It’s not only for students. It is similar to a survival game in other countries. I know someone who lived in Canada for only one month. She had a plan to live in Canada for over a year, but she gave up this plan and came back to Korea. I absolutely thought she was nice in Korea, but living in another country was really hard and tough on her.
However, I want to recommend a working holiday visa for people in their 20s. Canada is nice, but country is not important. I swear, if you go somewhere and live by yourself for one year – just half a year is enough – it will make you grow. You can dream and plan for travel, making lots of money, getting good English skills. I know you can’t get everything, but you will get very important things for your whole life. Even if you are afraid, keep challenging yourself!