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We love catching up with our graduates to hear about their experiences and successes! We recently had the pleasure of connecting with Leila Karimi, who graduated from our Immigration Legal Assistant Certificate. Read on to learn who her favourite instructor was, what inspired her to study immigration law and how the program has helped set up her career future.
Can you tell us a little about your career and educational background and how you ended up at Ashton College?
I have a background in biochemistry and molecular biology, I have a bachelor’s degree from Simon Fraser University. I had some interest in immigration and I helped out a few family members with their visitor visa applications, such as letters of interest. The applications were all approved so it sparked my interest. I was interested in the Queen's Diploma program in immigration law but before I wanted to devote my time to that, I wanted to see if I wanted to become an immigration consultant which led to Aston College. The classes aligned well with Queen's, as well as some of the instructors at Ashton also teach at Queen's.
What inspired you to get into this line of work?
Helping people. I am a second-generation immigrant. I came here from Iran when I was one and it really changed my life. With that in mind, I was helping family and friends and I realized that I was competent in this area.
What was your most memorable learning experience or enjoyable moment in the ILAC program?
That would definitely be the sessions I had with Adeela Alvez. She got the class to sit in a few actual court sessions. They were humanitarian cases. We got to be like a fly on the wall which was very interesting. Being there made you understand the words in the books a lot better.
You had a variety of instructors during the program, what value did they bring to you that helped you to fully understand your role as an Immigration Legal Assistant?
It was more so their practical expertise, it wasn’t them just teaching words from a book but the way they incorporated their careers into our learning processes.
How were your experiences working on some of the assignments with the other classmates in an online environment?
It was really good actually, smooth and easy. Just like in any other classroom, there are always potential challenges working in groups and even though this was all online, you didn't feel the need or necessity to see the person physically. It was a plus meeting virtually because everyone had different schedules. I have no complaints, just good memories.
Was there anything that surprised you about the learning experience?
Nothing too surprising, just again instructor Alvez actually getting us into a courtroom hearing, especially at the immigration assistant level to see it in real life. That was pretty surprising. Also, when I did my bachelor's there wasn’t anything online, so seeing how the course went smoothly from one instructor to another, was pleasantly surprising how it went very well. As well as how the platforms were explained very well for students who are not very tech-savvy.
Did the program and your instructors give you the confidence to be an Immigration Legal Assistant? In what ways?
Absolutely. The instructors gave me the confidence to move forward just with the in-depth experience they had. The coursework overall also set me up a lot. I went into studying immigration law a little blind-eyed, I was not totally sure if I would like it or be able to do it prior to hopefully studying at Queen's. But the program was set out so well and had an easy flow. So now I am not afraid to pursue the career. I started to believe in myself and think “Oh this is not as scary as it looks.”
What are your future plans?
I have already applied to Queen's for their September 2023 intake, and I have two of my professors from Ashton as my references.
What advice do you have for people looking at becoming an Immigration Legal Assistant and taking the program here at Ashton College?
For sure to take the program before taking any type of work. Sometimes people dive into the work, and they feel like it's so heavy or hard or they can’t actually finish and so they quit. My strongest suggestion would be to take the program before committing to any kind of work in immigration. The first step is to have the education behind you, and I would strongly suggest Ashton. The course planning was great, textbooks were up to date and the instructors were knowledgeable. You need that preparation before diving into it.