Yesmina Estevez and Marlon Hernandez are a married couple who were living in Honduras when their youngest daughter came to Canada to do a year-long international student exchange. In 2002, the two came to see her graduate from high school.
“That’s the moment we fell in love with Canada,” says Marlon.
It took them a while to go through the process of becoming Canadian residents, finally returning in November 2009. They landed in Toronto, where they lived for five years.
In 2014, they moved to Greater Sudbury, thanks to Professions North, an initiative out of Laurentian University that connects employers with labour shortages with internationally trained professionals. They contacted Marlon because of the education he’d received in Toronto, and he was offered an interview for a position at Cambrian College.
At the Technological University of Honduras (UTH), Marlon was the director of marketing and recruitment. This new job as Manager of International Recruitment was very similar. It was a great opportunity that made sense for his career.
They have never regretted the move. “We fell in love with Sudbury, the peacefulness, the lakes, the trails, all the things the city can offer you,” Yesmina says.
Challenges along the way
The couple had no family connections in Canada before leaving home. “Once we came, we had to start pretty much from zero,” says Marlon. “There was no support system in place. You have to do a lot by yourself and then you have to start from zero again to get your professional life back.”
That last point is key—something Marlon wants everyone to understand.
The biggest challenge was the language. Marlon studied in the U.S. in the 90s but went back to Honduras for 20 years. “Whatever English I used to have I lost because I didn’t use it the same way. When I came back, I was expecting to have better English than I did,” he admits.
The second barrier he hadn’t expected. He thought because he had his credentials and work experience in Honduras that it would be easy to find a job here and just continue to advance his career.
“If you ask any internationally educated professional, most of them have gone through the same thing,” he says. They came and had to start working in retail before getting the job they were expecting to have.
“It was not that easy at the beginning,” says Marlon, “but this is the way it is, you have to go through the process.”
Yesmina has a minor in marketing and a post-graduate degree in business analytics from Cambrian College. She was a sales manager at Leon’s Furniture and worked as a manager for Michael Hill, a jewellery business from New Zealand, overseeing multiple retail locations at once. She still didn’t have the same level of job she had back in Honduras, when she worked for the municipality of San Pedro Sula, the industrial and business center of Honduras.
Yesmina certainly wasted no time getting involved, volunteering for the Greater Sudbury Police as a member of the Diversity Advisory Committee. She has also given her time at Health Sciences North and the YMCA. She is currently launching her career in real estate.
Yesmina thinks that international people coming to Greater Sudbury is a good thing for the city. If students are studying internationally, it’s because their parents have the resources to send them over. They come with thousands of dollars and spend a lot supporting the local economy. They buy furniture, clothes, winter coats and boots, food —and eventually a house.
“Sometimes we have to spread awareness of what international people can offer a city,” she says.
Marlon agrees. “Many times, when a person comes from Africa, China, Latin America or Europe, they already come with education and professional experience,” he says. “They come with new ideas and new paradigms. They bring money, yes, but also their culture, so people in Sudbury can know more about different cultures from all over the world. You see that as a benefit in big cities like Toronto, New York, Vancouver, London. That diversity improves the quality of life in those cities.”
Advice for others
His advice for others contemplating moving to Canada is to plan to study here. Once he did that, his whole professional life changed.
He also advises people to manage their expectations and cautions against the impressions given on social media—that the Canadian government is giving you the opportunity to come and it’s going to be easy.
“It’s not,” he says bluntly. “When you move from one country, you have to remember that you are leaving something behind. You are starting a brand-new life.”
Marlon suggests anyone who wants to come to Canada should improve their French or English. Without strong language skills, it is hard to survive and connect to the system. He also recommends to have realistic expectations about the work you’ll be doing; you won’t get the job you’re expecting right away.
“Allow me to be biased, because I work in the educational system, but you have to come and study. If ever you come to Canada as a resident, please enrol in a program, at Cambrian College or Collège Boréal. Any education you undertake in Sudbury will make it easier for you to get training and further your career,” he says.
Finally, you have to save up some money first. Immigration Canada expects you’ll bring some funds.
“I am super happy to be here,” says Marlon. “My wife loves the city. A lot of other international people have come to Sudbury and they’re doing very well professionally and personally. They are doing a good job of improving diversity.”
“For the community to have an open heart and open arms is all we ask,” says Yesmina with a smile.
Greater Sudbury is Greater Together.
Greater Together is a series of stories that will run monthly over the coming year. It will feature the success stories of newcomers that have made Greater Sudbury their home and who have contributed so much to the city. It will showcase those who arrived decades ago, as well as more recently.
The aim is to tell the story of the people who live here, who have chosen to make this city their home, and the gifts they have brought with them. It will be a celebration of everyone and every culture that makes Greater Sudbury such a captivating community. Please share your story or write about why Sudbury’s multiculturalism matters to you.
SLIP works with stakeholders to support the retention and proper settlement of newcomers in the community. The program is funded by the Government of Canada and falls within the City of Greater Sudbury’s Economic Development Division.