Moving to a new city – or, more so, to a new country – can be a rather daunting experience. Perhaps one of the more overwhelming aspects of a move is the question of where to move to. Ask just about anyone who has gone through the process of packing-up and relocating their lives, and they will most likely tell you that choosing the right city, the right neighborhood is key to a positive move!
Filipino-Canadian Aureabelle Cruz is well-aware of the perils and pitfalls of making the wrong choice of locale or neigbourhood, just as she is well-versed with the pluses of making the right one. Having immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in 1996, Aureabelle, then in her teens, recounts her biggest struggle as an immigrant was “generally adapting to a new environment and culture.”
“I felt I had no opportunities because I was home sick, missed my friends, relatives, and felt sad leaving my childhood in the Philippines behind,” she said.
She adds that specific to Montreal, the language barrier proved challenging, as did the bitter winter cold. “The specific challenges I faced in Montreal are mostly related to the language barrier. I had to attend a French high school where I only knew my brother, I found it difficult to fit in and make friends. There’s a level of peer pressure when you encounter both Filipinos and non-Filipinos at your new Canadian school – everyone expects you to act a certain way based on where you came from. It was important to find my way and become an individual. The weather was also a tough adjustment for me – the winters are crazy here!” she revealed.
Many years after the move, Aureabelle – now a well-adjusted 33-year-old professional – shares nuggets of wisdom gained over the years: “It’s important for immigrants to end up in an area that has what they need – this is a huge asset for having a confident settlement experience,” she shared.
Hence, the inception of Navut.
A timely idea
As Aureabelle explains, “Navut is an online web application for people moving to a new city to find the best neighbourhood.”
This impressive start-up web app was founded by four immigrants to Montreal: three Brazilians and one Filipino; Aureabelle. They created an algorithm that enables users toinput facts about their lives; such as how much money they make, the type of amenities they need and desire, their mode of transport to work, if they need schools for their children, what languages they speak, and more.
The site does the math and provides a map which indicates suggested neighbourhoods, based on the user’s lifestyle. Navut specifies all the properties for rent in the desired areas, and connects the user directly with realtors, property managers or landlords.
And as if that were not amazing enough, the site likewise provides information on local amenities; such as cable and Internet options, restaurants and bars in the area, school options, and just about anything a newcomer would need to feel successfully – and happily – integrated into the community.
Aureabelle shares that the next step they are looking into for the web app would be to connect users looking to buy a home, with properties on the market. “We’re in the process of having qualified real estate agents list their properties on the site so our users can browse homes in their budget and connect with a realtor who has what they need,” she said.
Now I am no technology bug, but this is definitely an idea whose time has come!
The sky’s the limit
Since moving to Montreal, Aureabelle has discovered that the opportunities for those who set out after them are, in fact, quite vast. As she so aptly puts it: “I eventually realized there are lots of opportunities for everyone in Montreal. Nothing is impossible if you persevere, be patient, be brave, work hard and most especially trust in God.”
Her perseverance and persistence have paid off. Aureabelle happily devotes her time to Navut in the capacity of graphic designer, a job and commitment which she finds not only fulfilling, but also pleasurable.
“Being a designer is like having my own world. I’m able to think freely and be imaginative. There are no restrictions or boundaries with graphic design – the sky’s the limit! The best part is being able to do what you love to do and be able to help people at the same time,” Aureabelle explained.
From process and pen and paper, to product
As a graphic designer, Aureabelle describes her style as minimalist; preferring to keep things “simple, easy to use, and nice to look at.”
“My day-to-day process for whatever task I’m working on always begins with looking at the whole picture and analyzing every little detail. I think about how something should work, behave, and look. I still start out with the good old pen and paper to sketch out my ideas. If I begin to feel stuck with an idea I take a break – I’ll go for a walk, cook or bake, spend time with my family – anything that’s unrelated to designing to clear my head,” she revealed.
Listening is also a skill that she has honed for the advancement of her craft, especially when it comes to ideas that clients – those hard-to-please or otherwise – may have. When dealing with clients, Anna advices to stay patient, as “you can always find middle ground if you stay patient.”
She does not like to procrastinate, generally opting to get things done prior to deadlines and to always be productive; no Mañana Mentality here, thank you!
As a woman in the graphic design world, Aureabelle feels that the oft stereotypically associated female ability of multi-tasking is a plus, while men tend to focus on one big project at a time. Although she is the first to admit that it is “hard to generalize in this field though, everyone has a different style and work ethic!”
Motivations, inspirations, and sound advice
Aureabelle looks forward to an even bigger, better and brighter future with (and for) Navut. “My professional goals revolve around helping Navut grow to its full potential – we have lots of new features to introduce soon and plan on expanding the site to the United States and accommodate even more newcomers,” she disclosed.
She is moved by these goals, as she is likewise inspired by fellow-Filipinos who strive to attain their own.
“Any other Filipino I’ve met who started a new life from scratch in a foreign land where they speak different languages and have a totally different culture really inspires me. I know people from the Philippines who moved to Montreal and can barely speak English or French, but are persevering to provide a better future for themselves and their families back home. That personal motivation speaks volumes about the Filipino immigrant community,” Aureabelle said.
This designer also has a word or two for those (especially the youth) seeking to – if I may play with words – design their own destinies: “My advice for Filipino youth is to keep trying different things, step outside your comfort zone and find your passion. Do things that will make you productive, keep feet on the ground, and don’t forget God. No matter where you end up living, try to never forget where you came from. Never stop learning! “
And if there were an algorithm we could apply to life, Aureabelle’s advice would be it.