Originally from Thailand, Chalerm was working as a cook in Winnipeg when she first moved to Canada in 1991.
“I would always come on vacation to Calgary every year, I just loved the city and being so close to the mountains,” says Chalerm. “I always wanted to move here but I wasn’t very good at English which limited me, and I thought I couldn’t go to school in Canada.”
Then one of Chalerm’s friends told her about MaKami College in Calgary. “They told me how the school helped students who struggled in English, so I had to come and give it a try.”
When she first came to MaKami, Chalerm admits she did not know anything, but she knew she wanted to fulfill her lifelong dream of being a massage therapist.
“I didn’t know anything about anatomy, or even how to speak English correctly. But when I came to MaKami, the ESL instructor helped me a lot to learn how to spell and read and how to speak correctly.”
But she admits the journey was not an easy one.
“When I was going to school I still had to pay rent, so I had to work and I had to come to school and fit in my ESL and tutoring. But I knew how important going to school was and that it would help me reach my goals in life, so I had to make it a priority.”
Chalerm says the support of her instructors made all the difference in her success. “My teachers inspired me – when I told them I didn’t think I could succeed because my English wasn’t very good, they helped me get the ongoing ESL support I needed to make it through. At the end of my first year when I passed my classes, my teacher hugged me and cried.”
“MaKami has taught me a lot,” she says. “Not just about massage therapy but how to speak and write English better, how to better take care of people, and what I am capable of. I feel good, I feel more confident, I feel like I can do better and it has helped me a lot, it has opened my mind to see a different world, and that opportunity means a lot to me.”
For other people considering going back to school, Chalerm says to go for it.
“Don’t be scared – it’s a really great place – just come and everybody here will help you a lot. If you struggle with something just talk to your student advisor, or your teacher or tutor and they will guide you to help you to reach your goals.”
As Chalerm approaches graduation, she says she’s excited for the next chapter of her life to start.
“I’m proud to be able to help other people. If people say I’m hurt here or stiff there I can help them, I can explain to them what’s going on, and the anatomy and ESL has helped me speak correctly to others. I have never graduated anything, so this is going to be my first graduation. This is my dream come true. I can tell my kids, ‘Look here I am, I graduated from college!’ And make them proud. I never had a chance before so when you get the chance you better grab it, hold on to it and go for it.”