Living in Canada, in Pembroke is a stark contrast for Monica Numpaque, who hails from dense and crowded Bogota — but in all the good ways.
Living in Canada has, for one, exceeded Numpaque’s expectations. She’s gone on co-op work offered by her college and gained Canadian work experience. Surrounded by lakes and forests, she gets serenity, plus a living laboratory to complement her environmental management and assessment programme.
We caught up with Numpaque to learn more about what living in Canada as an international student is like:
Walk us through your interest in environmental sciences.
I’ve had an interest in environmental sciences since high school. I was curious about how to recover polluted sites using microbiological approaches.
Therefore, I enrolled in a bachelor’s programme in microbiology at uni in Colombia. My undergraduate experience and my interest in environmental topics encouraged me to earn a master’s in biological sciences with a focus on environmental microbiology.
Once I finished my master’s, I kept working on environmental topics collaborating with Bioremediation research groups at unis. Furthermore, I have work experience in the oil and gas industry implementing bioremediation technologies.
My interest in being updated in the environmental field motivated me to enrol in the programme on environmental management and assessment (EMA) at Algonquin College in Pembroke. Through this EMA course, I’m complementing the experience I already have to be able to manage projects.
This is so I can manage projects not only using laboratory techniques but also applying field techniques.
What made you choose Canada?
I chose Canada for my postgraduate studies because its educational institutions are known worldwide for providing high-quality programmes. I found the co-op work option that Algonquin College offers interesting as well.
When you do a graduate certificate, they provide you with the chance to gain Canadian work experience. I also chose Canada because it’s a country that provides the option to international students to travel with their families and allow their partners to earn an open full-time work permit.
In addition, Canada is famous for the Great Lakes and forests. This was interesting to me as I’m studying in an environmental programme in a country full of nature that protects the environment.
What advice do you have for international students who want to study in Canada?
I would advise international students to come to Canada since this is a country that accepts immigrants which allow them to work while studying. Besides, Canada gives you the option to come with your family with the benefit that your partner will be able to work full-time.
Canada is a beautiful country full of nature where you can visit natural parks in your free time or plan a trip to the Great Lakes. This country allows you to enrol in high-quality academic programmes as well as improve your English proficiency and gain work experience.
What do you like most about living in Canada?
Living in Canada has been a wonderful experience as it’s a very organised and safe country. Moreover, the people are very friendly and polite and I like that I’m made to feel welcome.
The Canadians have helped me adapt to their culture. I also enjoy the seasons as it’s the first time I’m seeing how nature changes during spring, summer and fall which is fascinating.
If you could list your top three favourite things about Pembroke, what would they be?
Pembroke has a beautiful view of the Ottawa River where you can enjoy the sunset. It’s a small city so you can walk or bike everywhere and you don’t spend too much time commuting (it has nice bike paths). Since it’s a small city, people know who you are so they are more friendly and helpful.
What have been your most memorable experiences living in Canada thus far?
The experience of living in a city surrounded by nature is amazing. I also like Riverside Park which has a nice beach where I’ve spent some nice afternoons reading a book or having a picnic. I’ve also been to the famous Niagara Falls which is a gorgeous natural wonder.
Tell me about your hometown. Where would you take me and what would you show me?
My hometown is Bogota, the capital city of Colombia. It’s a city located in a mountain 2,600 metres closer to the stars. There are several museums like the Gold Museum and Botero Museum.
In Bogota, you can enjoy artistic, musical and cultural activities. The place that I like the most in Bogota is La Candelaria which is a magical neighbourhood in the historic downtown of the city.
Its architecture is beautiful and there you can find very good restaurants where you can eat the typical dishes of Colombia. Another place I like to visit is Monserrate, there is a church on the top of the mountain where you can enjoy the city view.
Bogota is a city that has opened its doors to people from different places of Colombia so you’ll find different types of culture there.
What’s the local food compared to home like? Tell us your most and least favourite food.
In Canada, I’ve tried typical dishes such as “poutine” (fries with cheese curds and gravy) and the typical dessert known as “Beaver Tail” (fried dough pastry) — both of these are pretty good. Maple syrup is also delicious.
My favourite local food is salmon as it’s fresh and not expensive. My least favourite is the juices because, in some cases, they are artificially flavoured and I prefer the natural kinds.
What cultural sites have you explored there? Tell us something you learned from this.
I’ve explored the Pembroke Heritage Murals — the paintings are beautiful and in good condition. I like that you can walk through the streets and appreciate the large-scale painting since it’s an outdoor gallery. Moreover, you can download the audio version of the guided tour.
Lastly, let’s round up with three fun facts about yourself.
I enjoy travelling to natural parks and find it relaxing to walk and enjoy the view listening to the sounds of nature. I love animals especially dogs. Six years ago my husband and I adopted two dogs (one was living on a farm and the other on the streets). One thing I cannot live without is coffee especially Colombian coffee.