International students who decide to go abroad for their education feel the pressure to succeed when they set foot in Québec. This is a reality that is not often talked about. "My parents in Cameroon, my brothers and sisters, they believed in me and helped me finance this project," says a grateful Armel Yonzoua Kuibou, 28 years old. "I couldn't disappoint them!"
From Cameroon to Canada
Before the pandemic, from 2015 to 2019, the number of Cameroonian immigrants in Canada increased by 45%, reaching 2,950 new permanent residents, according to Statistics Canada. While COVID-19 has significantly impacted these numbers, Cameroon remains one of the top countries for newcomers from the African continent.
Armel grew up in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, surrounded by his eight brothers and sisters. His mother is a stay-at-home mom, and his father is an economics professor.
The young man, a model student and great athlete, dreamed of studying in Québec while attending a technical school. But how did this idea come to him? His school underwent renovations, a project in partnership with Canada; Québec and its cutting-edge technology was the stuff made of dreams, and students took notice.
A few years later, the "Québec project" resurfaced when Armel completed a vocational training program in electrical engineering and industrial computing at the Institut universitaire des sciences, des technologies et de l'éthique (IUSTE). "I made my decision once I had considered the link between my study profile and the advantage that vocational training in industrial mechanics in Québec could bring me. It allowed me to make up for any shortcomings I had. In Cameroon, there are serious lags when it comes to technology," recalls Armel.
Packing his Bags
Armel began the process to come study in Canada while still in high school. His first application was rejected. "But things changed two years ago," he says. "First, my older sister has been living in Québec City since 2010. She offered to help me and guide me. In addition, Québec métiers d'avenir helped me with the visa." The young man adds that he relied on this organization from the beginning of his training to the very end. "If I had any concerns, I wrote to them. I always got answers."
Integrating a New Country
At school, Armel made friends who helped him integrate into society and understand the regional accents and expressions of Québec. He had his first taste of poutine, which he appreciated and adopted. On weekends, he would go down to Québec City to stay with his sister, a married mother of three, to spend time with his family. "I chose a training center in the Mauricie region because I didn't want to be in too big a city. I like Shawinigan, it's quiet, and it was very welcoming. I moved into a student room. At that point, I was solely focused on my studies."
Unfortunately, the pandemic hit and the school closed barely two months after his arrival in Québec. "I felt isolated and far from my family and friends. Fortunately, we can keep in touch with technology and social media."
Armel benefited from individualized teaching at Carrefour formation Mauricie, the vocational training center of the Centre de services scolaire de l'Énergie in Shawinigan.
Armel explains that this teaching method allows students to enroll at various times during the year. He began his training on January 7, 2020, along with six other new students. "Since we are responsible for our own progress, we advance at our own pace, we are not delayed by the slower pace of the class or by other students.
“Contrary to what you might think, you are not left to your own devices but rather guided by the teachers. There is always someone to answer your questions, whether in class or the workshop."
Armel was delighted by the creative spirit and quality of the individualized training. "It's a very flexible formula. I had already received training in related sectors in Cameroon, so I had the theory down, and I was able to concentrate on the practical aspects and finish my DVS in one year, whereas the estimated duration of the 1,800-hour training is 17 to 22 months. However, this type of education requires a lot of autonomy and discipline. It is an advantage if you are a good worker."
"When I first arrived, I was solely focused on my studies. I didn't take the time to develop friendships. All my energy was focused on succeeding."
Trade: Industrial Mechanic
Often referred to as industrial machinery maintenance mechanics or maintenance mechanics, industrial mechanics ensure that industrial equipment is functioning. They repair drive systems and conveyors, automated systems, motors and pumps, hydraulic and pneumatic circuits. They install the machinery of a production line in factories.
"It's an exciting job where you get to touch a little bit of everything and where you have to solve problems," explains Armel. "It requires a logical and analytical mind. It's a field that evolves, so you have to be ready to upgrade your skills constantly with new technologies. Being an industrial mechanic also means working with your hands, like for welding tasks.
"Personally, my interest was already there as a child, I liked to dismantle, repair, understand what was wrong with a defective device."
Adapting to the weather and being far from his family did not get the better of Armel's motivation, nor did the imperial system that no longer exists in Cameroon. Since finishing his internship, he has been working full-time as a mechanic at Laurentide Re/sources in his adopted region. He lives in an apartment, has bought his first car and is saving up to buy a house. Although solely focused on his studies when he arrived, he is now forming friendships and is considering playing soccer again.
"I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and coming here to study and work feeds my ambitions. I have so many projects and goals!"
When he was a student in his native country, Armel had started his own business doing domestic electrical installations and minor repair work. "I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and coming here to study and work feeds my ambitions. I have so many projects and goals!" Before ending the interview, we asked Armel what skills are needed to attempt an adventure like studying abroad. "You really have to be patient when you decide to undertake a project like coming to Canada because the delays are often long. You have to be a good worker and love the job you want to do. Above all, you have to believe in your dreams."