by Courtney Roberts-Lawes
For some aspiring journalists, having a successful career in the field is what is most important. But for others, a career comes second to helping others and creating opportunities for those who need them. Monica Valencia, 19, belongs to the latter group.
Valencia, a third year student in the joint degree/diploma program in journalism at Centennial College and the University of Toronto at Scarborough Campus, has always wanted to become a journalist with the intent of writing the stories of the unheard and oppressed.
“I love being able to write stories about disadvantaged people that society may never hear about,” she says.
For Valencia, the path to UTSC was not an easy one. Her family left Colombia when she was 11 and came to North America as refugees. Valencia, her parents and her sister, who was six-years-old at the time, fled Colombia during a civil war. The war began as a backlash produced by a previous conflict, La Violencia, which was triggered by the assassination of political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948.
“The war made conditions too dangerous for us to live there,” Valencia said.
First, the Valencias migrated to Miami, Florida, where they lived for two years until they finally moved north to Mississauga, Ontario, where they currently reside.
Valencia, who is now a landed immigrant, applied for her Canadian citizenship 10 months ago and will be taking a test in order to qualify. She notes that her experience has motivated and shaped her career plans tremendously.
“In the future, I would like to research and write about immigration and multiculturalism; possibly while working for the government in Canadian citizenship. Because I am an immigrant, I relate to their experiences; I know how hard it is,” Valencia asserts, with a smile.
Even though Valencia has moved several times, her most difficult one was leaving her family and moving into residence two years ago, a move that other students might highly anticipate. Valencia has never been apart from her family for an extended period of time and describes this move as a life-changing experience.
“I thought I would be with my family until I got married, but because Scarborough is so far from Mississauga, I had no choice but to live on campus,” she said.
Although she thought it would be hard, Valencia says living on her own has actually made her a more self-sufficient and responsible individual. Aside from studying journalism, Valencia is involved in various aspects of her campus life. She is an active member of the Latin America Students Association and has worked for Fusion Radio, on a Spanish program.
Valencia’s experience with immigration has been a lengthy process; however, she greatly appreciates Canada’s multiculturalism. She still speaks Spanish and English fluently and wants to learn more languages.
“I would love to visit France for a year after I graduate, to learn French,” she says. Valencia, who comes from a small family, consisting of her mother, father, 14-year-old sister, and a Yorkshire terrier, would like to have a big family when the time comes.
“I am very family oriented, so I want to have about five kids when I get married,” she laughs.