When Ana Karina Montilla arrived in Canada in 2010 to learn English at ILAC, she was put in touch with a fellow Venezuelan working in the school’s internship department. The pretty brunette, who was placed in Beginner 2, had very little English and was glad to meet someone who could answer all her questions in this new country.
“We became friends,” she recalls with a smile. The Venezuelan was Jimmy Battaglia, who arrived in Canada in 2009 to complete ILAC’s general English program and then went on to attend Humber College in Toronto.
During those eight months Jimmy was busy with school and Ana had fun making new friends and exploring Toronto, a city she quickly grew to love. Just three weeks before her program finished and she was due to go back to Venezuela; she met some friends at the Madison, a popular local pub for students.
To her surprise Jimmy was also there and the two hit it off as they realized there was an attraction between them. They spent Ana’s last three weeks together, often going to their favourite restaurant, The Friendly Thai, for Thai food and learning as much as possible about each other.
When Ana left the country she wasn’t sure she’d ever be back. The two kept in touch, talking every day on Skype. Several months later Ana knew she had to get back to Canada, and to one person in particular. She came back to ILAC in April 2011 to finish its English program and then got an internship with the school’s accounting department.
Jimmy was there to pick her up at the airport and the two were inseparable that spring, summer and fall. Jimmy was finishing up his education at Humber and in December, both decided to go back to Venezuela to be with their families for the holidays; Ana to Puerto Ordaz in the South and Jimmy to Caracas. The two were saddened at the thought of being apart over Christmas.
The night before they left Jimmy took Ana to the CN Tower for a romantic dinner. She gave him his present and he gave her hers – a big box – which he placed on the table. Inside the box was a smaller box and beautiful card he’d designed that told Ana his first gift to her was his time. She opened the second box and inside was another box with a card that said his second gift was his goals and dreams. Each time Ana opened a box there was another card and box with a promise from Jimmy. For the last box Jimmy told Ana that it was too nice to put in a box so he gave it to her in a designer bag. Inside was a beautiful diamond ring with a tiny card that read, “Will you marry me?”
Ana was in shock, “I don’t think I replied for ten minutes,” she laughs, but eventually, (and much to Jimmy’s relief), she accepted and they toasted their engagement high above the city lights.
The next day they each went home and Ana had to explain to her family and friends that she just got engaged to a guy nobody knew. As expected, her mother had a lot of questions. These were answered when Jimmy came to visit her family after New Year’s and spent some time with them. Ana also met Jimmy’s family on their way back to Toronto, as they flew through Caracas.
The couple planned their civil wedding service in Toronto 2012, which was attended by their friends in Canada, with Ana’s mother flying in for the special event.
Ana stayed on at ILAC in Accounting, (eventually becoming the Homestay Director in February 2013) and Jimmy finished college and interviewed with ILAC in October 2012, and became the Marketing Director for Latin America.
Although the two had a wonderful civil service in Canada, they wanted to celebrate their marriage with all their friends and families back home, so they decided to have a traditional wedding back in Venezuela on August 31st, 2013.
They chose to be married on Margarita Island, halfway between both of their towns, to make it easier for their families and friends to come together.
This January the happy couple went on their honeymoon in Malaysia and Thailand, in honour of all their time eating together at their favourite Thai restaurant in Toronto.
When asked what she loves about Jimmy, Ana lights up, “He always tries to make me happy and I really admire his commitment to family.” (She also adds that she thinks he’s extremely good-looking).
She says she was surprised at how quickly things progressed because though she talked about marriage, Jimmy was always very focused on school and didn’t seem the type to take on commitment so quickly.
She also wasn’t sure about marriage in general because she heard it could be tough, especially the first year, and after hearing about high divorce rates, was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. However she is happy to report that she’s been nothing but pleasantly surprised. “Being married is fantastic, you wake up next to your best friend every day.”
The couple is working hard in their careers at ILAC and has applied for their Permanent Residency. They would like to stay in Canada because they both love the quality of life, their friends and their work.
“ILAC taught me English, then gave me a job, then I got my husband,” Ana says, eyes sparkling, “everything I have in Canada is because of ILAC, I can’t thank them enough.”
So to all those students out there, you never know who you will meet at ILAC. Your future husband or wife might even be sitting beside you in your classroom.
Turn your head to the right or left and take a look.
By Alisha Sevigny