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Our Northern Lights Julieta (Julie) Ayala

Tags: alumni

Our Northern Lights is an initiative that illuminates our people, their stories, and celebrates their achievements. We hope that their journey will inspire others to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world.

Julieta (Julie) Ayala had started to panic. Her plans for moving to Canada from Argentina with her young family were falling apart. It was August of 2021 and the plane tickets for herself, her husband and their 18-month-old daughter had been purchased. She had given notice to their landlord. But her student visa hadn’t been approved – not to mention it was in the middle of a global pandemic.

“We were like ‘ohh my goodness I don’t know if I’m gonna make it or not.’ It was so stressful. We were waiting and waiting. Our contract expired so we were renting another apartment, just waiting there to take the plane to come to Canada.”

There was huge relief when the visa finally came through, and on August 25, they began their journey to Canada. The journey took three days with stops in Buenos Aires, Houston, San Francisco, Vancouver, and finally Fort St. John. When they eventually reached their destination of Dawson Creek, they were hungry and tired, and they knew there was still one more hurdle: quarantine.

The family had to spend 15 days locked up in their apartment and had to count on others to bring them necessities—like groceries. They had already spoken with Marissa Thola, International Engagement Coordinator, and had sent her their grocery list. But it wasn’t Marissa who showed up with the groceries. Our Associate Vice President of Educational Services, Scott Clerk, and his wife Karen Bravo (who has since become our Registrar) were the ones who knocked at the door.

“We were waiting for our groceries and it was Scott Clerk that brought them. That’s how I met him and his wife, Karen. She’s from Chile, so she speaks Spanish — and he speaks Spanish too! I remember I opened the door, and they were there standing and they were speaking in Spanish… It was a big surprise to find someone speaking our language.”

Things moved much smoother after quarantine. Julie had a translation degree from Argentina and had experience working as a teacher, which prepared her for her Early Childhood Education program at NLC. It also helped her interview for her practicum placement, and eventually get hired permanently at the Kiwanis Child Care Centre in Dawson Creek.

At first it was not a plan, but now we both have good jobs and we know the community. Our child, she’s happy here…Once we get our [permanent residence], we are planning to buy a house.

Now Julie works in the infant and toddler room which is right across the hall from where her daughter is in the daycare program.

Julie and her family are happy to call Dawson Creek home now and they have plans to stick around for a while.

“At first it was not a plan, but now we both have good jobs and we know the community. Our child, she’s happy here. She has her friends. She has skating. She has dance classes here.

If you need something, you know where you have to go. And we have friends now. One of my classmates, she’s a friend now and also other Chilean families. They’re friends.

Once we get our [permanent residence], we are planning to buy a house.”

To learn a little more about Julie’s experiences, read on:

Why did you choose your program?

I chose my program because I love working with little ones. I enjoy watching them grow, explore and learn! My goal as educator aims to build a secure and positive relationship with children.

What would you tell another student if they were thinking of coming to NLC or the Early Childhood Education program?

I would tell them that NLC provides an amazing experience for students from different parts of the world. It is a community-oriented college with excellent opportunities for professional development.

What are you doing now?

I am working as a full-time educator at KPAC (Kiwanis Childcare Centre) in the infant and toddler room.

What three words describe your NLC experience?

Constructive, successful and challenging in a positive way…

What is your superpower? (Everyone has one!)

Definitely, my superpower is being resilient. In the whole process, you always have complications and difficult situations that you have to face to keep going but having my goals in mind I was able to solve them and learn from my mistakes. These situations make you stronger and you grow as a wise person.