Oh, Canadaa!

Moving abroad (Part 2/4)

Hi there, I am a German Design Strategist & Art Director currently living and working in Vancouver. With the article series 'My Canada Experience,' I'd like to encourage designers to be brave, embrace change, and push yourselves out of your comfort zones for pursuing international work experience. May you all feel empowered for taking the plunge.

Well, apparently, I certainly knew that I wanted to live abroad. The HfG student exchange program seemed to be an excellent opportunity for me to get started and try it out first. A semester abroad would allow me to dip into this desired experience with all its benefits while contributing to my degree in a safe environment. It also doesn't cost the world. I will continue to pay my standard fees to my home university and can expect financial support from both universities with scholarships and grants to help me cover some costs. I was quickly persuaded. It really was a no-brainer. But where should I go? Back then, I only knew if I want to make the most out of it, I had to go far away. And if I'd go, it would certainly take a lot of courage. So my criteria were pretty simple. I definitely wanted to go to an English speaking country and to encounter something I have never seen before. To be frank, I chose the place before even looking at partnering universities because I cared more about the overall experience. The educational institution was secondary.

A semester abroad would allow me to dip into this desired experience with all its benefits while contributing to my degree in a safe environment.

Why Canada?

The world has pegged Canadians as hockey-loving, maple-syrup-eating northerners who love to apologize a lot and be extremely polite. After two years of living here, I can surely say, all of these stereotypes happen to be true. Even the bus says 'sorry' for not being in service. And yes, no joke, it can get cooooold! So, why Canada now? I can't explain it better, but there was something about Canada I felt always drawn to. As a real explorer and nature lover, I remember watching documentaries picturing Canada's serene, majestic landscapes, and its endless untouched nature. That indeed cries out for an adventure. What genuinely convinced me, though, was that Canada is a country of immense cultural diversity. According to new statistics, more than every fifth person living in Canada immigrated from another country, and projections show that the tendency is rising. Its multicultural society has a number of implications and reflects in both ways of living and working together. Meanwhile, Canada is perceived by many as one of the most liberal, cosmopolitan, and tolerant countries in the world. As I am convinced that tackling complex tasks requires employees with different perspectives, I consider multiculturalism as a significant enrichment. More so, I believe it is a real competitive advantage. That's why I see the ability to cooperate cross-cultural as a core competence for collaborating efficiently and in a more relevant way.

Working in mixed teams with people from multiple other backgrounds exposes you to different working styles, forcing you to develop trust and nurturing a culture of transparency as you progress in your career. Furthermore, it will raise your awareness and adoption of alternative, multi-faceted approaches and give you the chance to develop cross-cultural communication skills. In addition to being diverse and very kind, I experience Canadians to be very open and hospitable, and I absolutely admire how relaxed the residents cultivate their religious and ethnic diversity. Despite popular belief, the country also isn't as cold as many believe. It is merely more extreme. All in all, I was sure that I would make life-long lasting memories and become friends with people with the most impressive backgrounds, what being a tourist can never guarantee.

As I am convinced that tackling complex tasks requires employees with different perspectives, I consider multiculturalism as a significant enrichment. More so, I believe it is a real competitive advantage.

Vancouver

As I was looking for Canadian partner universities, I stumbled upon Vancouver. It was the mix of city and nature that got me instantly hooked. Vancouver, as a city by the sea with and close to the mountains, radically increases your quality of life. I mean, there are not many places in the world where you can go snowboarding and surfing on the same day. I can enjoy the snowy mountains and the beach on literally the same day. Being able to escape the vibrant city was as essential for me as it was experiencing its diverse culture and quick transformation. When I started to dig a little deeper, I found out that 40% of Vancouver's total population is made up of immigrants, that the city has the mildest climate in North America, and was recently ranked as the third most' livable place in the world'. I was elated when I got the news that my application for a semester abroad at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design got approved.


After my internship in Berlin, I packed my stuff filled with pleasant anticipation and flew into Vancouver just before the fall term started. I won't lie. I had a very intense time before I had to leave again after only four months. For me, getting used to an entirely new dynamic in such a short amount of time simply wasn't possible. Nevertheless, the first spark was lit, and I had developed a deep interest in Canada's culture, history, and language, which I was excited to continue exploring. It didn't take two years when I felt the desire for more. After graduating, it's was time. While I was writing my master thesis, I decided to turn my back on Germany once more before settling here and getting too comfortable. When I made up my mind, I started spreading word of mouth. It's weird how this has always been kind of my strategy. As soon the words leave my lips, I do it. That's how I plant the first seed. But there certainly was a specific point where I realized: 'OMG, now the moment has arrived. All-in! I am making the move - for an unlimited time.'

For me, getting used to an entirely new dynamic in such a short amount of time simply wasn't possible.

What's next? In part three, I will write about how I gained my first work experience in North.

Ich bin Lea Schwegler

Lea Schwegler

Name: Lea Schwegler

Alter: 30

Wohnort: Vancouver BC

Beruf: Design & Strategy Consultant, Freelance Art Director

Hauptcharakterzug: neugierig

Lieblingsschrift: Neue Haas Grotesk

Lieblingsfarbe: orange