Canada Here I Come: Part One

So after a whole year of saving and visa applications, everything is in place. Come September I will be flying out to Toronto to join the thousands of others who have fled Ireland in hope of something better. Generation Emigration, as we are so lovingly called is still in full swing, despite what some media outlets would have you to believe.

I remember in January of this year, thousands of people flooding message boards and Facebook groups wondering when the Canadian IEC visa programme would be open for applications. Only 7,000 visas would be released for Ireland and the competition was fierce. Weeks went by and people were on the verge of nervous breakdowns, waiting by laptops daily for any word from the programme as to when it might open.

The visa process for Canada is quite long compared to Australia, the other haven of the Irish emigrant. CV’s have to be uploaded, Garda clearance letters and specially sized passport photos are needed. Days are spent waiting on conditional acceptances. It’s all rather stressful, as anybody who has been through it will tell you.

The programme finally opened at 8pm on the dot in the third week of March. I got a place at 8.01pm and was number 792 on the list. By 8.12pm, all 3,500 allocated first round visas were gone. The next week, another 3,500 were gone in five minutes. I remember laughing at the time, thinking about articles and news segments on the recovering economy that I had read that were being circulated in the Irish media and on Twitter especially (usually by people working in the tech and start up game). Seven thousand people, many with university degrees and more with high level trade skills booked their tickets out of the country in less than 10 minutes. And lets not forget the waiting list, where hundreds of people are waiting in vain hope that someone will drop out and a visa place will open up. It’s almost laughable, if it wasn’t so depressing.

I’ve written before about how I am disillusioned with this country and it’s seemingly two economies, going in polar opposite of each other, and how people my age are festering in this country. I’ve talked about the differences between Dublin and rural Ireland and how all this recovery talk is always centred on Dublin. So can you really blame people for wanting to leave? I said it on Twitter last week, there may be a superficial recovery happening, but underneath is a deep rot, that no number of start-ups will be able to fix in the long term. It’s an incredibly pessimistic and cynical view I know, but am I wrong? Companies are still asking for applicants that either have 5-7 years experience or else interns who are expected to be full time employees without any of the benefits. There is a skills gap that is only widening.

The list of skills that employers are demanding are not matching up to what people actually have. How can you have people experienced in coding, graphic design, digital marketing, developing, sales and social media all at the one time? It just seems like a terrifically flawed market to me. I know there are people like that out there, but they are not in the majority. So again, can you blame people for wanting to emigrate to somewhere where there is a slightly more even playing field?

I honestly didn’t consider emigration when I graduated college. I was in a great internship and really thought things would work out. Alas they didn’t, and what followed was a series of internships where my confidence was trampled on by panicked rural employers who wanted a quick fix that an intern was not qualified to give. After these experiences, I began thinking about emigration more seriously. Australia at first seemed like the best option. My brother had just come back from there raving about the opportunities and every day on Facebook I seen more and more of my friends booking flights. I could have a visa in less than a week and be in Sydney before Christmas. In the end, after thinking it over, Canada jumped out at me (also, I don’t love the beach and hot temperatures) as a place where I could see myself. Knowing the application process was slightly more complicated I spent the next few months gathering information, and money, in preparation for the programme opening. I was one of the lucky ones, I got my place and am basically ready to leave.

I’m not sorry I’m going, I don’t feel any desire to stay. I feel despondent when I think about Ireland, it doesn’t feel like somewhere I should be anymore. I’m sure I’m going to get comments saying I’m whiny, or a quitter etc. and maybe I’m just not trying hard enough and there is a part of me that maybe agrees. Maybe it is me? But then again, I really don’t think so. I see so many of the people I knew from college and school working in unpaid internships and ridiculously low paying jobs all for “the experience” and it makes me sad.

Our generation deserves better, and if we need to go to Canada, or to London and Australia to get it, then I think we should hop on that plane without a backward glance. Fixing what other people broke shouldn’t be our burden. And if you think I’m wrong, then think of those 7,000 people who all but left the country in 10 minutes.

I’m planning on writing about the emigration process until I step onto the plane to Toronto, so I would love to hear your thoughts, stories and comments on the subject.