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Carolina Navarrete owns and works at Grande Prairie Eye Care and Slave Lake Eye Care since 2014 as Optometrist. She has been interviewed by Unica Magazine in November 2016. The interview post starts saying "Carolina Navarrete is a latin woman who has demonstrated that constancy is the key to success, describing as persistent and honest, a fighter woman who came to Canada with her husband and children fleeing violence in her country and who now exercises her profession as Optometrist in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
It is interesting to know that Carolina arrived first to the US looking for refuge. Due of the length and complexity of the process to get the residence as a refugee, she decided to move to Canada. At that time she was trying to relocate with her husband and children, couple of luggage cases, one map, without English , and no relatives in Canada.
For a week the family settled in Vive La Casa, a shelter for immigrants in Buffalo. Carolina describes the experience as enjoyable as it was the first opportunity to share with people from many places and cultures. Days later, they continued their journey towards Canada. The day they crossed the border, it was "a long day" despite having all the documents required by the Canadian Government to apply for refugee status, "they ask things over and over, it was exhausting, but we had no choice"; Carolina mentioned. At first they were located in Mississauga, but soon they moved to Toronto to try to learn English. Carolina said that adaptation to the Canadian way of life, food and language were the most difficult.
Regarding the climate, she said that it was very good since she arrived during the summer, so she did not have many problems, but when she finally lived her first snow fall, she says that it was a very special experience "the first time it snowed I cried of emotion because I found it so beautiful, now it is not the same, but that first time I remember it. It was a November first and I really liked the snow, I thought it was cute."
For her, things were not easy at first. In Colombia, her husband was a surgeon and a director of a hospital, she worked there as an optometrist, a profession she has always loved. When I arrived to Canada as a refugee, I had to change the life of which I was used to. "Everything was very difficult, as I always say, I payed my refugee fee, worked cleaning and other things that did not seem to me, but I still gave thanks to God ". It also ensures that all the difficulties pushed her to move forward and became her to what it is today.
Although Carolina Navarrete had documents that endorsed her as an optometrist, her way to practice again in Canada was long. In principle, she had to study English because this was her biggest limitation, "I had my profession, I had my credentials, I had knowledge that I was not able to transmit because I did not know English, so since then I realized that the most powerful tool was the language, in this case English."
First she began studying the language for six months, in which she devoted herself completely to learning. After, mastering the basics, she decided it was time to fight for her profession again and moved to Kitchener, to join the University of Waterloo who was the only one who gave the career of optometry in English. Once there she undertook a three-month volunteer at the University of Waterloo optometry faculty to practice the language in the context of her profession and simultaneously studied at the university.
Regarding those days she says that they were hard "I would leave with a lot of headache because I was already immersed in university, where I had to speak English because nobody spoke Spanish", however, over time she adapted and gradually gained Trust and affection of all. One of the facts she recalls with more affection is the creation of a full-time position in the university, which did not exist and was established as a way of supporting her.
However, after completing her studies it took several years to achieve the certification because despite she was passing the exams, she was failing to obtain the necessary grades. However, her faith did not wane, on the contrary, she tried nine times until she reached her goal. Every time I failed, I had to wait six months before I could try again, and considering that each exam is around three thousand dollars. Carolina also commented that on several occasions she felt discriminated against by her colleagues, due to her Latin origin plus being a woman. These facts, instead of stopping her, urged her to go ahead and she adds that in her mind she kept repeating: "someday I'll be there again."
In 2012, she managed to obtain the license to practice as an optometrist, she assures that she is in love with her work. Currently she lives in Grande Prairie, Alberta, whose population is mostly Canadian, only 5 percent of its patients are Latins. However, she considers that the community is quite open to immigrants and has felt very comfortable. "I am proud of my accent, my origins, how I look, I am just the way I am and I do not pretend to be anything else."
Carolina Navarrete has been able to establish two of her own offices in just four years of practicing as an optometrist. Although she has a very busy life and must travel to attend both, she is happy with the success she is achieving: "I travel every Thursday night and I see between 25 and 35 patients every Friday, People says the economy is bad but I really have not felt the change, yet. Thanks God my patients are very faithful and I have new ones every day."
She feels blessed by all the things that happened to her, since those things are the ones that have led her to be where she is now. "The satisfactions I have now are very great, they are not even economic, although that comes in addition. If you work hard you are obviously going to have your pay and if you do what you like you will do much better. "
She has several projects in the future, such as opening several offices in Alberta and British Columbia, but her next move is to associate with an ophthalmologist to be able to perform surgeries.
The original interview is available in spanish in the following link