Leaving Poland when she was only fourteen years old, Joanna grew up in an environment where she got required to adjust massively. Besides the culture shock, integrating into the new country as a teenager was very tough for Joanna. Around when she moved to Ireland, the country saw an increase of people coming in, which lead to discrimination against immigrants like herself.
Even after living in Ireland for sixteen years, Joanna didn’t feel at home. She knew she belonged somewhere else. Joanna was blissful amidst the new and exciting moments in the Land of the Free when she managed to join an exchange program in the US. This experience of hers motivated her to pursue living in America, which she did after finishing her college degree in Hospitality Management. But, not all our plans go right where we want them to be.
We’d always have to face some rejections along the way as Joanna had. After not being able to renew her visa in the US, Joanna went back to Ireland, where she met her husband. A few years later, they decided to emigrate to Canada, a country closer to her dream. In this episode, Joanna shares lots of information on applying for the International Experience Canada visa, which you might be considering too.
Originally from Poland, Joanna moved to Ireland in 2004, where she graduated High School and attended College. Joanna studied International Hospitality Management, which wasn’t a good choice, as she likes to stay in luxury hotels, not work in them. She has worked in the United States for two years in Hotel Management.
Joanna started her lifestyle & travel blog in June 2016; it went through various rebrands, but now it’s just called Joanna Stich. In 2020 Joanna and her husband moved to Canada as they wanted to try something new.
“I’m Polish, my husbands Irish, we got married in Portugal and live in Canada – very international life so far :)”
When I worked in hotels, I would sponsor calls for reservations. And, you know, on one occasion, I remember this guy called and I picked up the phone and you know, I represented the hotel, I said what I needed to say, and he was like, for God's sake, like, Can I speak to someone who's Irish? And I was like, excuse me? And he's like, Did you not hear me like, I don't want to talk to you. I want to speak to someone who's Irish. And I get so frustrated. I put them on hold. And I said to my boss, I was like, This guy wants to talk to someone who's Irish, and she was Irish. And she was like, you know, just hang up on him. I was like, thanks. Thanks for having my back. And you know, you can't put everyone into the one box. And by all means, there's some great great people there. But I just think that first experience overshadows everything else for me then.
Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode number 43 of the Emigrant's Life Podcast, where we share stories of people who love their country to chase a better life. And for the stories you can find ideas, resources, and motivation to do the same. I'm Daniel De Biasi, and in this episode, I had the pleasure to chat with Joanna, who last year moved to Canada with her husband using the international experience Canada visa. Joanna is originally from Poland, and she moved to Ireland with a family after her dad passed away. She was 14 at the time and settling in the country at that age wasn't an easy for her. Things got better after high school. And during college, she had the opportunity to work in New York, where she had a taste of the American dream. Going back to Ireland, Joanna knew that the US is the place where she wants to be. But because of the strict immigration laws, she wasn't able to go back. Instead in 2020, she decided to move to Canada where she will be closer to her dream. In her spare time Joanna, writes articles about traveling, immigration, and lifestyle on her blog, which in 2017, won an award, and was named one of the top luxury lifestyle blog. You can find more about Joanna and everything we discussed in this episode in the show notes. And if English is your second language, you can find a full transcript of this episode as well. You can find the show notes by clicking on the link in the description or by visiting emigrantslife.com/episode43. And now without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Joanna.
Hi, Joanna, thanks for being on the show.
Hi, thanks for having me.
Oh, my pleasure, Joanna, Let's start from say a little bit about yourself. You're originally from Poland, but you live most of your life in Ireland. And in 2020, you move with your husband to Canada. But let's start from the beginning. So what age did you leave Poland and why?
Yeah, so we moved to Ireland from Poland in 2004. We left just because we were looking for a better life, I guess I was 14 at the time. So it was myself, my mom and my sister that moved. And we moved to Naas, which is a small town in Kildare, which is about 20 minutes outside of Dublin, if you're looking for a pinpoint in Ireland. Yes, it was definitely difficult to move. I was you know, in the kind of rebel age I was having my friends, I had a boyfriend, you know, you have everyone you grew up with and your family there. And then all of a sudden you're uprooting totally different country, especially with the language barrier. In Poland, you do learn English as a foreign language in school, but you don't speak, you know, on daily basis. So when we got there, I could understand a lot more than I could speak. So that was super frustrating, and also quite isolating, because it was very hard to make friends. So we moved and I found out that there was no room for me in school. So we moved in the summer of 20 in 2004. And I was basically sitting at home for like three months, while my mom and my sister were working. Totally alone had like no English, I was too afraid to leave the house because I grew up in Poland, in a city where you know, we live in an apartment block. Over in Ireland, you had, you know, estates full of homes that looked exactly the same, the streets look exactly the same. And I was just too afraid if I left my house, I wouldn't be able to find my way back. So I basically just stayed home for three months and watch all the soap operas like the Coronation Street, that's a very, very popular soap opera that's been going on for like 30 years, if not more. And that's how I learned a lot of my English too, and a lot of phrases. And eventually, my aunt got me into a place in an all-girl school. So partially also the reason why we chose Ireland as the destination was because my mom's brother has been living in Ireland at the time for 20 something years. His wife is Irish, and they had a family in Ireland. So that's how we kind of got connected. Yeah, so it's been definitely a difficult transition. And when I eventually got to school, you know, it was like a total culture shock in Poland. I had boys and girls school, we never wore uniforms. And this was like a whole 360 I was in all girls school, like, very strict uniforms. I spoke no English, you know. And it was very, very hard. I had a few girlfriends that we're trying to talk to me straightaway and help me out with for which I was so grateful because I was super, super lost. But it was so hard because they would speak to me, in my head, I would have to translate everything to Polish, then make an answer in my head in Polish and then try to figure out how to say it in English. So by like, 3pm, I was exhausted just mentally, you know, because it's a continuous strain of trying to figure out what to say and look it up in a dictionary, it wasn't like it is now where you could just Google it. So it was very, very hard. But it took a few months to get into it. I don't think I've ever really felt Ireland being home. And I will say that to this day, I don't really consider it my home. Poland will always be my home. But yeah, so I ended up being there for 16 years. And I'm here now, in Canada,
Why don't-you can't consider Ireland your home? What's the difference?
Um, I don't know, I feel like, you know, 2004 was the time where, you know, emigrants were coming into Ireland. I was like, one of the first waves of foreign people, I was the second foreign person in my school. And I was always like the different person. And, you know, in, in a country that was wealthy at the time, I completely understand people looking at emigrants differently. You know, why do you have to come to my country and like, live with our lives and so on. But there was a lot of girls that weren't pleasant, either, you know, never accepted me for whatever reason. And that didn't make it easier for me, that just made me resent the place in general. Don't get me wrong. Ireland does have like, great culture, like my husband is Irish. So they did something right. But yeah, I just, I think it's just the way I started off there is kind of how it happened throughout. So that's just kind of how I felt for the years to come. And it was very hard, because I didn't make that many friends in high school because of not being fully accepted. I feel like that I didn't have you know, a group of friends that I could rely on. So then when I went to college, I met a lot of great people. And I think my college years were probably the happiest years I had in Ireland, because I really met people that were nice. And when you're going into college, you don't necessarily have those group of friends already, you know, everyone is new to each other. It's very rare, you know, that friends all go to the same college doing the same course. So it was almost like starting off new. Because going into high school, you know, people had already friendships formed from primary schools. And it was very evident that they had to, you know, clicks or so to speak. So, yes, I just think while I made great friends in college, just the experience I had starting off and not being fully accepted and always be in like the other girl, or the foreign girl, number of times being called names just for being foreign. You know, it wasn't a pleasant experience. And I feel like that's what I carried throughout, you will occasionally get a person like that still, when you're, you know, an adult, when I worked in hotels, and you know, I would sponsor calls for reservations. And, you know, on one occasion, I remember this guy called and I picked up the phone and you know, I represented the hotel, I said what I needed to say, and he was like, for God's sake, like, Can I speak to someone who's Irish? And I was like, excuse me? And he's like, Did you not hear me like, I don't want to talk to you. I want to speak to someone who's Irish. And I get so frustrated. I put them on hold. And I said to my boss, I was like, This guy wants to talk to someone who's Irish, and she was Irish. And she was like, you know, just hang up on him. I was like, Thanks. Thanks for having my back. And you know, you can't put everyone into the one box. And by all means, there's some great, great people there. But I just think that first experience overshadows everything else for me, then
Yeah, no, I totally understand what you mean. And and do you think your experience in college was better even because your English was better, you may be sounding more Irish?
I mean, I'm sure that helped, that I was able to fully communicate, but I also think that people are more mature. And, you know, we're more accepting at that stage when I went to college, that was 2008. So we're in that four year period, there were just a multitude of foreign people from everywhere. And also my college was in Dublin. So that would have been a lot more, you know, culturally diverse. Another thing like I already mentioned, is that you know, when you go to college, everyone starts fresh, there's no cliques, you're not going into a group of friends already, everyone that attends the course, you may or may not know, one or two persons, but it would be very rare to have a full group of friends already attending the same course in the same college. So I felt like I was able to shape that group of friends for me, rather than feel like I'm walking into somebody else's group of friends already.
And just a curiosity, you managed to move from Poland to Ireland in 2004. And that's roughly one of the time where Paulo became part of the EU. Was that reason you managed to move to Ireland? Or was it another reason, if you remember.
So Poland wasn't in EU just yet when we were moving, but there's no visa restrictions to go to Ireland and live in Ireland, if you are in the European Union, I guess or in Europe, sorry. So we never needed any, like papers or anything like that. Poland did join the EU, I think a year or two after we moved. Don't quote me on that. But yeah, there was no visa restrictions. So it was very much you could just pick up and go anywhere within Europe. In that sense, I guess, we kind of felt like we would have sort of a home base just because my mom's brother was there already. So you know, helping him set up with the house and look a job for my mom. And, you know, you need to take into consideration that when I was 14, my mom would have been 50. So that's not an easy thing to do for someone when they're mature already to, you know, learn the language as well, and things like that. So I guess we, we were grateful for the fact that we actually had somebody there to help us start out.
Because it's not just the language, even just for a normal person, like a person born in the country finding a job at 50, it's already challenging. Yeah, on top of that, you put the fact that you need to learn the language in you need to learn the culture and how everything works. That must have been really challenging.
Yeah, it was. But you know, I think she just persevered. Because, you know, she had me that was depending on her and, like, my sister was 20 at the time, but also like you to consider, you know, she's her child. So she, she used to provide, and she was also the drive her to decide, okay, we need to go and find a better life. So I also think I'm not a parent. But I think as a parent, if you're in a different country, you'll do whatever it takes to provide for your kids. Because often you have no one else but yourself to count on right?
No. Honestly, I interview like other people, I think the biggest reason people leave is for like a better future for their children. I think that's the biggest drive for a person to chase a better life in another country and go through all these challenges, just because you want to give your children a better, better opportunity that maybe you had in your own country.
Yeah, for sure. And like even, you know, speaking from experience, have been mixing with other people who are, you know, immigrants. And I can see that a lot of people, we kind of grew up in a, in an era where we were the children of the immigrants, right? I guess for me, it was moreso by choice, because we moved when I was 14, so it wasn't like I was born abroad. But the generation after me is definitely you know, the generation of immigrants. People are continuously leaving, and moving countries just for such a better life. Things economically change all the time. You know, at one point, you might be happy that you're in, in this country, and then, you know, all of a sudden things economically take, take the wrong turn, and then you have to find somewhere else. So it's really, really admirable to see what people are capable of doing for their family and their children. And you're away from your family and your closest friends and your comfort zone. But sometimes, you just got to do what you got to do to to survive, I guess.
And so why did you decide to leave Ireland and move to another country? In this case, Canada?
Yeah, so that actually came about completely in a different way. So I've studied Hospitality Management in college. And funnily enough, I started studying and thinking like, I'm gonna love hotels, but I love staying in hotels, but not working in them. And very soon I realized, like, this wasn't going to be what I wanted to do. But throughout the four years I did in college, I was able to travel and live in US twice. The first time I went, I lived in Cape Cod in Boston and Massachusetts. And that was kind of like an exchange program, you could call it. So it was part of our year college year, and you spent nine months in a summer resort as a training manager. And to be honest, I absolutely fell in love with it. It was the very first time I've ever been to America, very first time. I've seen what life could look like outside of you know, Ireland or even Poland for that matter. So it was the best nine months of my life. I have to say to this day. I'm still in touch with my friends from there and we would just reminisce those days when we were young and wild. But we worked there for nine months in this amazing resort, which was catered to families and had like ocean view villas. And you were right on the beach. And it was just amazing. So I was there for nine months. And then I came back to finish my college. And after I finished my college, a manager from a hotel in New York, flew out to Ireland to conduct interviews for another management program. And I got lucky to get one of those positions. There were only six positions for the whole of Ireland. So I have to consider myself very lucky that I was able to, you know, woo my way in there. And as soon as I graduated from college, I moved to New York, again, I absolutely fell in love with it. As soon as I left Boston, I couldn't wait to go back. So this was a perfect opportunity. And you know, for 21 year olds, in a place like New York, it's just incredible. Aside from the fact that we partied like six nights a week, it was just an experience, you know, and the culture and the people you meet, and the possibilities that are out there, even if you know, half of it is just dreaming about a better life, I saw people that made the money, I saw the people that had nice cars and nice homes. And, you know, it's just a different standard of life altogether. And I was determined to stay. And I was trying to do everything I could to get sponsored to get another visa. But unfortunately, US has high restrictions. And at the time, I didn't have an Irish passport. So my Polish passport didn't really do much for me. So I wasn't able to stay past the year past my graduate visa. So I actually ended up coming back. And when I came back, I met my now husband. So he kept me in Ireland for another seven years from then. But I knew I just knew after I tasted that American dream, I just knew like Ireland wasn't going to cut it anymore. I also still had that inkling in the back of my head, no, and I never felt settled in Ireland. And seeing what I saw is possible. And what you can achieve in a different country was just that much of a drive for me to leave. And as soon as I suppose our relationship started to become serious, like I told him, I was like, you know, I never want to stay here permanently. I'm you know, this is your get out of jail card. Now, if you want to leave, because this is what I want. Like, this is where my life is going. I am going somewhere. So he stayed on anyway. And we ended up actually, in the interim in the seven years, we ended up getting married in Portugal, which was really, really amazing. And after the wedding, we're like, okay, now it's time to figure out where we can go. And I actually have quite a lot of family in America. My mom's cousins, my dad's siblings, and I tried absolutely everything they could to get sponsored to go back to the States, you know, I was willing to give them the money to sponsor me. But unfortunately, that just wasn't possible. Again, with the visa restrictions, you need to be a first bloodline. Even if one of my siblings went to live in America, it could take them up to eight years to sponsor me. So I wasn't willing to wait that long. So we then started to think, okay, where are we? Where can we go? And for some reason, I think, what I saw in America and the possibilities, I don't think any of the countries in Europe would suffice for me. I don't think they would satisfy me, even though I'm sure there's nothing wrong with them. And, you know, I'm sure there's wealth and possibilities in all those countries. I mean, there's people wealthy in every country, but I just wanted that bigger dream. So we started to think, okay, where can we go then that we could get a visa and you know, potentially stay. And that was done between Canada and Australia. But because my mom is a single mom, and both my brother and my sister had babies, I just didn't want to go somewhere where it will take me you know, three days to get back home if I needed to. So we ended up scrapping Australia plan just because it's too far, you know, you're in a completely different time zone. Like even trying to catch up with your family. It's a challenge, which is not to say it's not a challenge here because we're still eight hours behind. So a lot of the time, we can only talk to them on the weekends because someone's working someone's sleeping. But I think in Australia it was it would have been just too hard.
Actually, I found it much easier when I was living in New Zealand talking to my family than here in Canada in Vancouver.
Oh really? Yeah.
Because those times it was like a 12 hours a difference so I couldn't even see them in the morning or in the evening. Right now I can only see in them in the morning here actually, in the middle of the morning. Because so I found it much easier when I was in New Zealand.
Okay, I Well, I guess that makes sense. Yeah, I think we were just also looking for excuses not to go to Australia because it was just that little bit too far. Although it would be nice to continuously live in the warm right next to the beach, but we decided against it anyway. And that's when Canada came about. And we started looking into visas and things like that. And I actually had to get an Irish passport in order to get a visa for Canada, simply because the chances of me getting an actual visa for Canada with an Irish passport were a lot greater than wouldn't Polish passport. Just to give you, I suppose a point of reference. There is like 50 million people in Poland and you get like less than 1000 visas a year. In Ireland, you have 5 million people and you can 12,000 visas a year.
And you're talking about the working holiday visa, which is called the international experience Canada visa. Right?
Correct. Okay, so the chances of me getting the visa on my Polish passport, were a lot slimmer, because I would be in a poll with you know, 50 million people. And Ireland never even uses up the 12,000 visas they're given a year. 12,000 might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but I think it's around 10 10,000, for sure. So it took me another year to get an Irish passport. It was never my intention to have a dual citizenship, but I just needed for that sole purpose. So it took me about a year I had to get like naturalization ceremony, accept my citizenship, and so on. And then we started the process to get visas for Canada. Another side tip, I guess is, if you have dual citizenship, you should look at what the rights are. In terms of the visas. If I was to get an international experience Canada visa on my Polish passport, I would only get a four year on the Irish passport, I get two years. So that's also something worth looking into if you know anyone has has a dual citizenship because you might get different extensions on on the visas.
I agree even for Italy was the same for me, I could stay in Canada for up to a year, but work up to six months. So that made my moving to Canada much more challenging than when I was in New Zealand I could work for over a year. And for the people that are not familiar with this visa or work the working holiday visa, it's pretty much a visa that some country created to allow you to work or study in the country for up to a certain amount of time. Usually, that's a year. And it's an open work permit. So you can work for anybody. It's called working holiday visa in most of the country, because it allows you to move to a new country, travel around the country while you're working. So it's much cheaper to travel around the country. So for me, this is one of the best visa you can get just because it gives you the chance to make the first few steps in the country which more easy to need to find a sponsor right away. It's much easier when you're in a country to find a job, find a sponsor, and then move forward into your immigration process and getting a work permit. So for people that are are allowed to get this visa, in most cases are for people like younger than 30 years old, sometimes 35 depends on the country. But this is one of the things that I preferred the most is the visa I used to move to New Zealand it's the same visa used to move to Canada. So I think it's one of the best visas and for the laissent that wants to find out more about this visa, and maybe have questions about this visa, right in the comment section in the start of the show notes. And we'll see if I can get in touch with the immigration advisor and answer all these questions. And also in the show notes, you will find the links for like the specific visa from the Canadian website.
And you know, it's very daunting at first when you know the thought of moving to a different country is exciting. But it can be very daunting when you actually sit down and look at it. Because you deal with government websites and things are hard and you don't understand and there's no one to ask. And then you know, you could get secondhand information if you have friends that are already living abroad. But you know, things are continuously changing. So if you are thinking of moving abroad, and you have someone that's already there, you know, just do your research, because policies change all the time and what might have applied to your friend like two years ago, it might not be the same for you. And it's costly. It's time consuming, and it's costly. And if you make a mistake, you will get rejected. And you could essentially take yourself out of consideration for visa. So just take your time, what we did was we applied directly to the government Canada website, I didn't have any help nobody did the visa process for me. You just need to take your time and sit down and you know, look at a website, read a property, see what they're looking for, and figure it out. I think that will be just the easiest way to do it. Just don't rush things. And if you are currently in the process of thinking or you are applying for the international experience Canada visa, which also I believe at the moment in order to get one you need to have a job offer to in order to be admitted to Canada. Obviously during COVID. I would-one thing I would suggest to do is get your police certificates first because they are the things that will take you the longest to get back. And that's from any country that you've left more than six months. In the last 10 years,
That's actually what I was about to say, because you have a limited time to provide these documents. I mean, that's the list was at the time when I applied. So once you get accepted to apply for this visa, because you get an invitation to apply for this visa, I think you have about 20 days or something like that to send all the information. So as you said about the police certificate, especially for country that maybe you live on, like, it takes a while. So if you're planning to move to Canada, get ready with your police certificate, because that can take a long time. And, and you only have 20 days to apply for this visa.
And it's such a stressful, stressful tasks to complete. Because even just given an example, I had to get a police certificate from America because I've lived there for two years. And I had to get it from the FBI. And basically, I had to download a form from the FBI website to get my fingerprints taken in Ireland, or in police station, send them off to FBI, and they would analyze it and provide me with a certificate to prove that, you know, I didn't have any prior criminal history or anything while I was in the States. And the first time I sent them, they came back saying they didn't I'm wrong, that they weren't legible. So I went back to the police station, and I spoke to a sergeant. And he was like, Oh, I'm so sorry, I'll do them for you again. So I did the fingerprints again, send them off. And they got lost in the post. This stage I was already kidney closed, because this was the second time I was already sending them. And so I went back to the sergeant again. And he said, Gosh, you must be the most unlucky person to have to do this. So he did them for me again. And I sent them off using DHL, just because I wanted to make sure they'll get there on time, they'll get there quick. I spent like 100 Euros, which is an equivalent of about $140, just to send this one paper to express mail to states. And in the meantime, they found the original, the original fingerprints that were lost in the post. So yeah, if you can get those done in time, before your application, that will definitely you know, take the stress out of having deadlines, because everything else you can do locally. I know where COVID might be slightly different. You can do everything else locally. But if you have, you know, people, I know a lot of people who are here in Canada, and like you lived in New Zealand, but I know people who lived in Australia and trying to get a hold of somebody in Australia. It's hard, right? So I would just get a jumpstart on that.
And what make you fell in love with the United States? And did you find that here in Canada so far?
I think it was just, I was like, starstruck. You know, if you can even call it that. It was just this great life, big homes, big cars. You know, it's not about the money, but people just seem to be comfortable, not have to worry about like, next week's paycheck, and they were going on vacation and in the resort that I worked in, you know, one night and avail, I was like anything from $12,000 up, you know, like, I want to be that person, like I want to be able to go and take my kids for two weeks vacation and be able to, you know, not worry about the accommodation, or how am I going to pay for this or what I'm going to pick this activity over this activity because I don't have the money to devote, right. Obviously, this is an imperfect world. And as I said, No, like, it's not about the money. But just I think the idea of being so financially free was just so liberating. And I mean, I think we underestimated how expensive Canada is. And I know like British Columbia, you know, has the highest taxes and Vancouver is more expensive to live and rent than it is in Toronto, which is like mind blowing to me, I think we're getting there. I don't feel like I feel the same about Canada as I did about New York or Boston. But I also think that I was younger. And I was maybe a little bit more naive about this, you know, American dream, so to speak. But Canada is definitely you know, up there and the jobs are good, and the money is better. And if you're lucky, like we live downtown, currently in Vancouver so I can walk to work. I can drive 15 minutes, and I'm in the mountains, you know, and it's just the lifestyle I think you also pay for. But to answer your question directly. No, Canada doesn't have what America has. And I don't think anywhere we'll I think in my heart. It's America will be the place for me. And I felt more at home there than I have ever felt in Ireland. But I also think that I haven't been back to America since I've lived there. I'm kind of scared to go back in case it loses its charm. But I'm also like aware of the realities that are currently ongoing in America you know, with the presidency. Thank goodness it's over. However, you know, that made a long term damage that's going to take America years to recover from. And you know, everything else happened last year with George Floyd and things like that. So I know the realities in America, and I don't think I would like to live there. However, it's also such a big country that, you know, you could pick a smaller town or city or state and have a happy life there. So, yeah, I think it's just the big dream in my head from when I was 21, and young and naive. But I think right now, my values have changed right now I'd be looking for, you know, somewhere that's quieter, where I can build or buy house and have kids and you know, know that when I let my kids outside of the house, they're going to be safe. So I think the values have changed, I wouldn't be able to do that if I lived in Manhattan.
Do you think part of the this like dream that did you live when you went in the US was part of because you saw the building or the city that you used to watching the movies, and you were now into this kind of movie, this kind of movie set?
Yeah, I think there is some truth to it. I mean, I've never been in a city that had you know, skyrise buildings, and people literally just like rushing in the morning rush hour. And people just spending again, tons of money and things didn't matter. I just think it was just the rat race is what interested me like, I wanted to be that person. Like I wanted to, maybe not work on Wall Street, but I wanted to be successful. And I also think that was the first time when I was like, I don't want to work in hotels, like, I don't want to be the person that serves the average person, or the wealthy person or the, you know, I want to be that person. Like, I want to be able to travel the world and see things and stay in these places. And yeah, for sure, like the year that we are there, I'm sure parts of it were like in the movies, you know, we partied with some celebrities, so to speak, you know, and it's like, it's crazy, you know, you you get led into a nightclub. And they're like, well, so and so like, the look of you guys, which is so you know, shallow, I guess, but we were 21 we were like, We didn't care, it was free drinks for us, you know, completely unaware of any potential dangers. Luckily, nothing ever happened. But it was definitely like that, you know, champagne and expensive drinks and limos and things like that. And we also had, like, you know, the hotel that I worked in was owned by an Irish person. So we had a lot of like, Irish celebrities Stay with us, right? So we would cater to all these different people in parties, and we would literally just rub shoulders with them on a daily basis, and all the wild party like six nights a week, like, you know, so for sure, it was definitely, it was definitely like the big dream. And what you see in movies of spending excessive amount of money on on nice things. But I think that's just kind of part of who I am now. It's what shaped me into who I am, you know, I am a lot more conscious of what I buy, I'm a lot more conscious of what I spend my money on and my time on and how I spend it. So I think it's it's it was a great experience, and I would never change it. But I think if I was to go back there, I would not be able to keep up with you know, my 21 year old self back then now.
I bet. And a personal question, feel free to like not answer if you like. But do you think that this is like a dream of you having this like a financial freedom, it's something connected to your past from the life you lived in Poland?
I don't think so. I mean, when I was like my dad passed when I was like nine years old, and up until then, you know, he had a really, really good job and a position in a company. And back then, in the 90s, like, we had a new car, which was like wow, at the time, and you know, we would go on vacation every summer and we would go abroad. So it was never a case of I grew up poor, wanting something better. I do think that I just think of myself like as an ambitious person. And I feel like I haven't reached my potential yet. While I still don't know what I want to do with my life and where I want to be. It's definitely something that I've been kind of questioning myself, like, what is it that I'm chasing? But I don't feel like my past necessarily has an effect on it. It's just, I think it's my personality, how I shaped myself. And I think I just pushed myself to work hard and do better. I guess maybe in a way I've always in my head growing up was like, I want to make my dad proud. Like I want to, you know, show that I can do this. And maybe that's part of why I am the way I am I just try harder, more better. And if something doesn't work, I'll try it a different way. So I think that might have affected me a little bit. But it's only in my head. You know, it's I am my worst enemy in that sense.
Oh yeah, I can definitely relate with everything. you pretty much said, Actually, I lost my dad as well when I was 13. And I think I'm chasing a similar things as you like, this like financial freedom because I saw it pretty much it was like you My dad was kind of successful, he was like having a good business would like having a good life. But after he passed, and I saw my family going through like a financial situation where it was pretty challenging. My dad, my brother 18 at that time to take care of the family take care of the business my dad started. And I think by that point, I was like, affected. I think that's where I've been affected. That's why I asked him that question. Because for me, I was like, I don't want to live the same life that my mom and my brother live when my dad passed away to have a look at this problem, financial problem to figure out the way to survive and the next month. And I think that's the way of for me chasing this like of financial freedom, because I don't want to live that way anymore.
Yeah. And I also it's funny that you say because it's very similar, I guess, to our situation, because when I was nine, my brother was 20. So he took on the role he he was then the only man in our family. And, you know, he took on the role, one of being a big brother to me and my sister, and two of being the adult and having to help, because we were doing so well, when my dad was around, you know, my mom worked for some time when my brother and my sister were small. But then when I was born, and if my mom is listening, and I get that wrong, I apologize. But I think since I was born, she might have been stay at home mom. So I know for at least the last, like a few years of my dad's life, she was a stay at home mom. So when you're left with this challenge of I have three kids, I now have to go to work and not having worked for, say 10 years or maybe more. It's definitely challenging. And you're also not in the right mindset, right? You you're grieving. And you basically are forced to face this, this new future. So like you said, like my brother was a big support. And also, that was one of the reasons why we ended up moving to Ireland and in 2004, because just things weren't working the way they were meant to work. And, you know, my mom got a job. But, you know, after not being working industry for a long time, you know, you're getting back into like an entry level position. And it's hard because they pay you like minimum wage, and there was a company that didn't pay her for like seven months, because they were having financial problems. So yeah, it was definitely hard. And that's why we kind of chose I guess, to move to Ireland for a better future. But I don't think that that has affected me because I never really felt like oh, gosh, we were poor. Yeah, you could tell it was difficult, we might have less of something. But I never was like, Oh, I can't believe where we have no money for this. Or, you know, and if I if I did, and if I ever said that? I don't really remember. But yeah, I don't I don't think that was a factor. But it's definitely something that's in the back of my mind more. So just to make my dad proud. But again, that's just in my head, I am the driver, and my own worst enemy behind this.
And what do you think was the biggest challenge when you moved on your country?
Well, in Ireland, that was the language, I then tried to make friends trying to fit into a group of people that already had that connection from, you know, early ages of their life. I think, in states, I totally didn't really have any issues. Because we were there, we were going there for a sole purpose. We knew when we were coming knew we knew when we were leaving, it was a group of friends, it was always just temporary. But Canada, the biggest challenge was because I am always organized, I always know what my next step is going to be. Or I always try to predict what my next step is going to be going in completely blind. And you know, not having a job not having a house that definitely affected suppose. And I didn't think that in Canada, it would be so hard to actually get a job. The recruitment market here is very, very slow. It took me eight weeks to even just get a rejection reply. Like I send out multiple resumes to different companies, even for positions that were below my skill level. And I would still not get a reply back or an interview. And I think that's what people underestimate. They think that okay, Canada is accepting people, you know, they're continuously opening their borders and giving away visas, but that's also research that needs to be done. Like you should proactively be sourcing companies and sending out your resumes while you're abroad. Just because it is such a timely, timely thing. And even now with you know, my position is coming up to a contract and and I'm looking for positions and it seems to be the same even though I now have Canadian experience. Companies are just taking weeks to get back to you even if it is just a rejection letter. So I would say finding a job would be the hardest thing. And also, if you are working in a niche, so if you are you know as scientist or if you're in a very specific area like engineering or it, those jobs could be hard to find, because it's very hard to get a job if you don't have a Canadian experience. So yeah, not to discourage anyone. But you just need to take that into consideration. And when you're saving, you know, for for the time you're not working before you come over, when you come over, I definitely take that factor into consideration that may be like the first three months, you might not have a job. But again, that's just outside of COVID. Because now with COVID, you need to have a job offer. And everything I've mentioned, and this would be probably just relating to our own experience more than everyone else, we came probably about eight weeks before COVID started. So the hardest thing was making friends, because nobody wanted to come near you because you know, it's confidence. And the few friends that we have made where you know, true, basically reaching out to people online and being like, hey, do you want to hang out and hoping that these people will actually say, Yes, my job is fully remote from home. So I don't have a team, I don't have necessarily like work colleagues. So that whole side of, you know, making connections is gone for me. And my husband works predominantly with Irish people. So that's actually funny, we left Ireland and most of our friends here are Irish, which I suppose ties into my last point is, it's very hard to make friends with people who are Canadian. And I would so encourage you to do that. Because if you're planning to stay here, long term, or at least for a good while, make friends with people who are here for God are here for a long time. Because it can be very daunting when you make that decision. Like I'm going to stay in Canada, and then all of your closest friends decide to go back to their homes to their home countries. Because you do you get a good feeling like you're losing a friend because you're making a family away from family, right? You make your little family abroad, and then you're so close getting smaller and smaller, safer. You can make friends make friends, you know, with people who are here to say, because that'll definitely make your experience a lot easier, too.
Yeah, I totally agree. I think one of the worst things of being a migrant tested, as you said, you lose friends, either country, or people moving to the country because they can't stay in. Yeah, you lose friends all the time, which is the worst. But it's the good thing that you meet people from all over the world, and you still have friends everywhere you go. But the same time you lose friends in the way.
And do you have any regrets about leaving Ireland?
I do. I mean, Ireland as a culture is really, really great. I guess if you haven't lived in Ireland, you won't know what I'm talking about. But they have a lot of their own Irish, his little sayings, little things that the Irish mommies do and the things to happen. And there's a lot of things that are particular to Ireland that people like to, you know, make small talk about and make jokes about. But that's what makes things Irish. It's very hard to explain. And I also, I guess their regret would be that, you know, my sister is still there with my mom and my sister's kids and her husband. And I've seen the older of my nieces grow up from you know, the woman who was born until she was like seven years old. And then she had her second baby. And I seen her for the first year. And then we missed a whole year. So when we went back to Ireland for Christmas, I was actually able to work from home for two weeks while we were quarantining in Ireland, which was great. I could see that I missed out on so much of her life, you know, her development, especially when they're small. She can walk, she can talk. She's super sassy. She hits everyone. You know, she's her own little person. And she has her own character that I completely missed, you know. And when we first saw her, she wasn't really sure, like, who we were, and she was still kind of warming up, you know. And when we saw the older ones, she was like, overjoyed because it was a total surprise that we were coming back for Christmas. So that would be definitely a thing that your sacrifice when when you leave your family or your home country is that, you know, you're given up on living close to your family and your loved ones and your friends. And I'd say it's probably worse for my husband, because that was his home. Like so he he left because he followed me he didn't leave not by choice, but he didn't have to leave, you know. So yeah, I think it's a lot worse for him. I think I guess as I was saying, I had very few friends are in Ireland, and it will be my family. That would be like the biggest factor that makes me regret going. But I know that if I didn't try it, I would regret it too. So we're not sure if we're here forever or for good or for how long? But I knew just we have to try. At least try and see what we can make out of living in Canada.
Okay, I might like a quick question for you about the process of getting to Canada because you guys did it together was it hard to get to both get the visa to get into Canada or because Ireland has got so many invitations that it was just a matter of applying to it?
To be honest, I think it was just a matter of applying. But I may be wrong. We applied, we submitted all the documents, they asked for our biometrics or police certificates and all these other things. And basically, we waited for the pole to apply, we applied. And then within like six weeks we got we got a decision. So I don't know, because I have nothing else to compare it to. everywhere I've moved, I've always had, I suppose an easy journey. While it's, you know, time consuming to get your documents together. I never had extra questions, or nobody ever got back to me saying like, Can you clarify this or this is missing or anything like that. And the two times that we apply, I applied for my visas for the States, I was going there for a purpose. So they knew Okay, she has a job offer both times before I left. And I was there for a specific time, I already had my like flights booked for when I was coming back. So it was never a case of all we need to verify something further or anything like that. So I touchwood I was lucky enough to go through this process smoothly. I'm sure that's not the case for everyone. But I I can't really anticipate of what the errors may be.
And you were on your own when you apply for the visa in the US?
So that that's another factor. If you are if you are in a relationship, you have to move two people you have to get the visa for both people. That's the challenging thing when you move with a family or with the with the spouse.
Yeah, I guess that was step one. No, right. Because I've had obviously, so much more background and background checks to get done because of States. And because I'm polish and all this other stuff. So it was the result, definitely this anticipation whether we will both get approved, because they were both like totally separate applications. Even though you're married, you still apply us individuals, and you can just you just submit the papers that you are Yes, legally married and connected, so to speak. So that was I think that was the only worry, because his visa got approved before mine. And I had to laugh because everything that we do internationally, it's like for him, it's just like that, because he's Irish, and he never lived anywhere else. And he doesn't have to do anything, you know, wow. For me, it's like, oh, yeah, because you're polish, you have dual citizenship, and you were in America and this and that. And, you know, now you have to change your surname, and you have to prove that you've got married and the marriage cert is in Portuguese. So I've always said to jump through all these hoops. And for him, it was just so easy, which I never found fair. So I got my visa second. So he got his first and I was like, Oh my gosh, like why did you get yours like two weeks before me? But I guess that was the only anticipation It was never a case like, you know, I've never done anything wrong. I've never overstayed anywhere, you know, I don't have any problems with the law. So I guess if you just if you just have a simple life, and do everything by the book, like I don't see a reason why, why they would refuse you.
And do you feel lucky to be an immigrant?
I feel lucky that I have a chance to live somewhere else. I mean, I know people, I'm just gonna use this as an example. And this is by all means not to put anyone down, but just a power of a passport, right? I feel lucky that I can use my passport to come to Canada, I can I feel lucky that I can use my passport to live in Australia that I have lived in the States. But if you are from any other country, and again, I'm going to just use my friend as an example her partner's from India. And I know different so many issues with given visas and passports and trying to get out of the country and all sorts of things. I do feel like different countries are privileged in that way that you can just get up and go. And I mean, Paul, and being in European Union and Ireland, you can pretty much live freely anywhere in Europe. Without any question, no one's going to ask you how long you're staying, When are you leaving, or anything like that. So I am proud that I can go wherever I want to go, maybe with the exception of states. But I'm not a proud I'm an immigrant just because it always feels temporary. Unless you find your place on Earth, which I still don't know where that is. I always feel like my life is continuously temporary. So if I'm building a business or I want to buy nice things for my apartment, I always have to think like, Am I going to be here long enough to enjoy those things? Should I really put all this effort into building my business and my brand if I am going to decide to leave in a year or two. And it's funny that you mentioned it because I just spoke to a girlfriend of mine who is in America and her husband is Australian. And you know, they've always had this opportunity of either leaving in states or living in Australia. They lived in Australia for a while and now they're in a Marika. And she said the same she said, I just don't know what my next step is whether we're going to go to Australia, whether we're going to stay in America, and it's hard to feel grounded, and be in that one place. And I think it's also double the effort because you have an international couple, right? So everyone has their own different desires, and things make you happy in different places, I would love to say, I would like to come back and live in Poland at some time, every time I go, I just feel like yes, this is my home, I just feel like this calm and finally in place for Poland's, you know, economic situation is not great. The inflation is so so high. And you know, my husband wouldn't be able to live there, like he doesn't speak any Polish. And we don't speak English on like a daily basis. So you know, that's another thing I have to think of, like I eat, there's two of us. So we need to find that happy medium, where I don't feel like I'm proud to be an immigrant. I always feel like when you are an immigrant, you are disadvantaged in one way or another, it might not always be evident. But you know, whether that be in the job market, or whatever the case might be, you will always kind of be like, well, you're not sorted the priority, because you're not the citizen. And again, that's not to put any country in a box to say like, that's what they do. But everywhere I've lived, it's evident in in some way or other.
I know you seemed like you've done all your research to move to Canada. But do you think there's anything that you would have done differently?
that only came out recently, but I would definitely reconsider moving to Vancouver, I would probably move to Toronto. And that is simply because the jobs I want within the industry that I want are all based in Toronto, at least within like the financial industry, which is where I am right now. And it's very hard to now for me to uproot me and my husband, and move to Toronto. So that would definitely if I done more research into the jumps, I want, Toronto would be our first stop. But at the same time, I'm grateful because like BC is so beautiful, and all the national parks, and you can do camping and hiking and canoeing and all these sorts of things that you wouldn't be able to do in Ontario. But from like a practical perspective, I would definitely do Toronto, also because it's closer to New York. And it has a smaller time difference, right? So they're three hours ahead. So there's only five hours in the difference between like Ireland, and Toronto. So that would always be helpful. But yeah, if I could give one tip to somebody moving, just figure out what you want to do. Because it's a lot harder to make those changes while you're already here. Because you have commitments be that apartment lease, or whatever it is. So yeah, just figure out what you want to do. Do the research, and just go from there. Just don't go in the blind.
Yeah, that's a good advice. And speaking of advice at this point, in the interview, I usually ask if you have any particular advice for the listener, but you already given away so many advice about how to do it and visas and everything. And also, that's the time where I like to start talking about the blog that you have, where you help the readers to like through articles about deeps moving abroad or like a traveling and everything and, and also your blog is award winning blog, you won an award for the best, what was the word that you won?
And it was for luxury lifestyle blog. But this was few years back, when I actually put so much effort into my blog, I think like the year 2019 to 2020. And I took a small break just because we're so busy with, you know, getting my Irish citizenship and get my visa for Canada. But yeah, I started my blog in 2016. And it was just basically an outlet for you know, anything I liked beauty and lifestyle and fashion and travel and so on. And Gosh, like, you know, the quality of the pictures so bad. And you know, this is back then I suppose. And kind of turned more into like travel and lifestyle. So pretty much like traveling every day sort of tips, just because I didn't want to put myself in just one box. I feel like I like to share things that I find on daily basis and so on. So when we moved here, I kind of started it up again. And I shared some of our immigration journey. So just you know, tips about like how we first moved and how we found our first apartment and how I found the job that I'm in now and the struggles behind it and things like that. And now I kind of share things that we do around Canada and any travel that we have done minimal at the moment, but the travel that we've done since we got here, so it's just nice to know because I always find that we go to places and then people are like oh He should have said, because we know about this, and we would have given you a tip about this. So I would like to think that my blog would be that thing for someone, when they're going to Jasper, they're going to Banff. And they can look at this, okay? So it's going to take me this long together. If I stay here, it's going to take me this long to get here. And so I just think, when you talk, like when you're reading somebody firsthand relations, like, I don't make any profit from you read my blog, I also don't get any profit from me, you know, recommending to stay at this hotel instead of this hotel. So if you can save yourself money, or save yourself time, especially during your time off, because in Canada, they're not great at giving you like vacation time. I think any little tip helps. And yeah, like, I'll definitely be posting more. It's just been hard with COVID to primarily focus on trouble. But I tried to keep it up to date, a lot more active on my Instagram, and my Facebook. But definitely, if you're looking at like first steps of like immigration journey, I have a couple of blog posts on there.
Sweet. How people can find your blog?
Okay, perfect. And as usual, all the links and everything will be in the show notes. And also in the show notes, we'll find the links for your social media, you mentioned in your Instagram and Facebook so people can reach out to you there. And if they can relate with your story and ask any question, Can people reach out to you through there?
Yeah, absolutely. Like if you have any questions at all. And that could be about anything like Canada related or moving to Vancouver or moving to Canada in general. Absolutely. Like shoot me a message. I mean, we had a couple of friends out, we knew before we came, and we were just continuously on the phone, like how to set this up? And how do you set up this. And it's just so easy, because it can take like a while for you to find the right information. And I am currently working on a blog post that will actually get you you know, firsthand information about how to set up your billing and how to set up your phone and how to you know, find an apartment. So that's coming in the next week or so. But yeah, definitely just reach out to me, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.
Perfect. Thank you so much for doing that.
And thank you so much for taking the time to share your story in my podcast.
Yeah, no, thanks for having me. It was great to hear from you. And you know, there's so many immigrants out there. And I always find that when I'm struggling with something or something is bringing me down, I do find people who tried to lift me up and talk about similar experiences or have been to a similar experience. And there's so many people out here, that feel the way you feel that, you know, it's important to talk about it, especially in the corporate times, right, because people are just so isolated. And the whole experience could be really overshadowed by just being alone. So yeah, thanks so much for having me. And I really love what you're doing with it. And I can't wait to hear more of your podcasts.
Awesome. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for tuning in this week. You can find the show notes with everything discussed in this episode, and much more at emigrantslife.com/episode43. And if you want to listen to more stories like Joanna's, make sure to subscribe to our show on your favorite podcast app. If you found this episode interesting and got something from it, please share it with someone that you think will benefit from it. That will our show growing so we can share more of these great stories, and help more people moving to a new country. In the next episode coming on May 10th. We will share Ruairi's story who like Joanna moved from Milan to Canada. Ruairi is the founder of Moving to Canada, a website that he launched in 2012 to help his friends move and stay in Canada. And it's now one of the main websites for finding information about immigrants to Canada. If you want to be on the show and share your story, you can visit emigrantslife.com slash your story. Fill up the form and I will get in touch with you. And if you want to move to a new country or you need help, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again for listening. Talk to you in the next one. Ciao!
Aeron's story proves that your circumstances don't determine your future.