Most of my blog posts are written in Portuguese. Just like other expatriate bloggers, I write for Brazilian immigrants or immigrant candidates, hoping that my experience will help them. But I can’t help the fact that some Canadian friends try to read my posts with the help of online translators after I share them on social media. I’m concerned about this, because it can lead us to big misunderstandings. So here’s a quick explanation in English of what’s going on with me.

First point: I don’t like Ottawa? Am I unhappy in Ottawa?

Not true. I like Ottawa and see a lot of positive aspects here. One of them is bilingualism: I love the French language and it’s good to be able to communicate in both languages and have access to culture and cultural products in both languages. It’s not perfect and there’s a lot of work to do to improve, particularly making French cultural products more accessible in Ottawa (the capital city of a country where English and French are the official languages). But it’s much better than in Toronto, for example. I sincerely miss French when I’m in Toronto.

I’ve met many friends and good people in Ottawa, and I would sincerely miss them if I go.

These are just a few examples. But what I was mentioning in my last post was the need of  considering how strong your industry is when applying for immigration to Canada. I’m so concerned seeing an increasing number of Brazilian people moving to the Maritime provinces because of their provincial immigration programs. But there are not a lot of jobs there, and those people invariably end up moving to Ontario or returning to Brazil. I was trying to help them with my experience, instead of complaining about Ottawa.

Right when filling up our first immigration application forms, we need to declare which city we want to live in. This will be relevant for Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s assessment of our applications.

Ottawa was not the city where we declared we would live in our forms. It was Kingston, Ontario. We changed our minds after making two exploration trips. Nevertheless, it was not enough to make the best choice.

Ottawa would be perfect if I didn’t need to work or if my industry was well represented in the city. I should have made the following reflection:

  • Who am I? Where is my best experience?
  • On the scholar career, on Musicology.

That’s where my best credentials were, so I should have made a thorough exploration of where the real chances for me could be found. I assumed that the quality of my previous work would make it easy for me to resume my scholar career anywhere in Canada. But it wasn’t the case. If I had managed to reach out to professors in Ottawa, I would have realized that Toronto or Montreal were better choices. But I haven’t. Professors never replied to my emails and I always came in the summer when they were away.

People need to choose a city where they have the best chances, and Ottawa wouldn’t be the place for me for the simple fact that it doesn’t have a PhD program in Music and my Brazilian credentials were not enough to easily secure a job.

Right now, living in Ottawa and taking a second PhD in Toronto, I’m not in a good position. I need to travel for my activities and spend money on temporary accommodation. I also can’t enjoy everything the university offers. I can’t attend events where I could eventually network for the future, and if I happen to need a book or something in the last minute I can’t get it, since I need to rush to Union Station to take the last train to Ottawa. I only have 50 minutes to arrive, and any unforeseen issue like a broken subway train or someone pushing the emergency handle can make me miss the train and force me to take a bus – a more expensive and less comfortable option – or spend an additional night in Toronto.

Putting all my housing expenses together (the Ottawa rent, the Ottawa utilities I need to pay, my student Via Rail pass and my weekly expenses with Airbnb accommodation in Toronto), I’m spending more than I would spend renting a place in Toronto. Even with the outrageous prices. Even with my wife’s demands for quality of life.

When I saw that York University was serious in their offer, I was afraid I wouldn’t make it because I live in Ottawa and my wife has a full time job here where she’s happy. We discussed and chose the “super commuter” option. But it didn’t work out from the start, as timetables didn’t match and the Toronto subway doesn’t always do a perfect job. This PhD is very important for my future, and I would like to give my best and get the best out of it. Something that’s simply impossible to do living in Ottawa.

Should I be content giving and taking 60 or 70 per cent of everything I could give and take if I was living in Toronto? I don’t know… it’s frustrating.

So, it was totally my fault and my bad luck to have made a poor assessment of how things really are, and made a choice based upon emotional aspects and things that have nothing to do with professional opportunities. By the way, Ottawa is sincerely trying to improve and expand its music industry. But it doesn’t mean creating jobs and opportunities in the short term.