When Pammy Uppal moved from India 10 years ago to start a new life in Canada, she looked to The Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL) and Selkirk College to help her with the challenging transition.
Today, Uppal and her husband own three thriving Cuisine of India restaurants in Castlegar, Cranbrook and Vernon. With two young children, the 29-year-old is managing to balance family life, work life and finishing up her two-year Business Administration diploma at Selkirk College. Thriving in her new home, Uppal credits both CBAL and the regional college for helping provide the building blocks of success.
Castlegar restaurant owner Pammy Uppal has used a Selkirk College education to enhance her new life in Canada and build on her skills for success.
“Selkirk College is a great place to be,” she says. “I love Selkirk College… I have learned what I needed to know and all the instructors are great, they devote themselves 100 per cent. You get full value for the time you spend here.”
Canada Offers New Challenges
Uppal grew up in a small community in India where her father was a farmer. When she was 19, Uppal moved to Canada to start a new life with her new husband.
“I was excited to move to Canada,” she says. “I only really knew what my relatives who lived here told me, they used to travel to India every year and I was inspired. They told me it was clean, very little crime and a good political system.”
Looking to find a community where they could plant their culinary culture, Uppal and her husband discovered Castlegar and opened their first Cuisine of India a decade ago.
Though she took English in high school and was working towards completing a degree in Commerce via correspondence from an Indian university, Uppal was directed towards CBAL as the right resource to brush up on her communication skills.
“My biggest problem was with speaking because I never practiced it,” she says. “It was difficult to speak at first, but once I knew that people understood what I was saying it was encouraging.”
Setting the Stage for Further Education
With her English skills enhanced, Uppal spent the next few years raising her family and building the business. In 2010, she wanted to take the next step in her educational journey with the Selkirk College Business Administration Program. In order to make it happen, Uppal decided to start with working towards her BC high school Dogwood Diploma and returned to Selkirk College’s Adult Basic Education Program (ABE).
ABE provides adults the opportunity to take high school courses to enter a college program or work towards completing their Adult Dogwood Diploma. Uppal registered in math and science courses to complete her goals.
“I had a really good experience with ABE at Selkirk College,” says Uppal. “The instructors were so kind and encouraging; whenever I needed a little bit of extra help it was there for me. It’s a great atmosphere to be in, there are a lot of students from different backgrounds that are working on improving their education and their opportunities.”
Like so many who enrol in ABE courses through Selkirk College, Uppal found the instructors provided the right tools for adult learners. She singled out Castlegar Campus math instructor Brad McVittie as a teacher who helped provide an extra spark.
“Brad was the greatest instructor I ever had, better than any of my Indian instructors,” she says. “I never understood math as well as when I learned it here.”
Building a Business and Expanding Knowledge
Uppal is in the final stretch of the Business Administration Program. Focussing on accounting as her specialty, she has one semester left and will graduate in the Spring.
“It was hard coming back and that acted as a barrier, it took me a little bit longer when I first came back to do the ABE courses,” she says. “But now in the Business Administration Program, I have taken what I have learned with how to study and applied it which has helped me a lot.”
With Cuisine of India thriving in the three communities—where they employ 20 part-time and full-time staff—Uppal and her husband are looking at opening up more locations in the future.
“People really appreciate our restaurant and we have been successful here,” she says.
Looking back, Uppal says she will be forever grateful for the educational experiences that were provided in her community.
“Selkirk College is a great start,” says Uppal. “If you have recently come to Canada, the ESL program and ABE program helps you interact with other people who are a from a similar background. You make friends and make connections that provide you a good start and end up being lasting.”