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Married couple studying the same program together likely a first for Sask. Polytech

It’s common to find husbands and wives working in the same office but it’s less common for couples to study the same college program together — that is, unless you’re Carlito and Liezl Orino. 

It’s common to find husbands and wives working in the same office but it’s less common for couples to study the same college program together — that is, unless you’re Carlito and Liezl Orino. 

The Orinos, both 46, are taking the civil engineering technologies program (water resources option) at Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Moose Jaw campus. The institution believes they are the first husband and wife to take the same program simultaneously.

The couple is from the Philippines and acquired their chemical engineering degrees in the late 1990s. Decades later, Mr. Orino was working for oil companies in Saudi Arabia and Dubai when the opportunity to move to Canada arose in 2020. 

They jumped at the chance and found themselves in The Friendly City that September. Mrs. Orino acquired a job as a baker while Mr. Orino worked for the Thunder Creek Pork Plant. Four months later, their three children arrived from the Philippines. 

A year later, they acquired their permanent residency status.

Moose Jaw is different from Dubai because cities there have heavy traffic, and travelling requires advanced planning, said Mr. Orino. Here, it’s similar to their Filippino home since there’s little traffic, it’s more relaxed and the weather is acceptable — even if it does reach minus-40 Celsius.

“But still, I like the cold because if you feel cold, (you) just have to wear (a) jacket, but you cannot go naked (when it’s hot),” he laughed, adding the cultural adjustment has been manageable because of the large Filippino community.

Said Mrs. Orino, “We were lucky. … we’ve met some amazing Canadians (such as Rhonda Haukaas) who have helped us a lot when we were starting out. So, Moose Jaw’s community is really great … . Moose Jaw has really given us lots of opportunities.”

The Orinos initially questioned coming to Moose Jaw because they couldn’t find any jobs in the chemical engineering field. Mr. Orino had been a production supervisor in Dubai, so working at the pork plant was an emotional shock — especially since the salary was lower and the job was physically demanding.

Yet, they stayed because the community was good for their kids. Moreover, once they acquired their permanent residency status, they decided to return to school. That decision was made easier after they saw a Sask. Polytech open house advertisement on social media in 2022. 

Mr. Orino was skeptical about whether they could survive being mature students without a solid income but relented after learning that loans and scholarships could help them. They then asked Mrs. Orino’s mother to come manage the kids — she became a big help — while they became full-time students.

Carlito and Liezl met with instructors from the civil engineering course and learned about the water-focused specialty, which they appreciated since it was close to what they studied in the Philippines. 

Luckily, their work terms had a water focus; he worked with the Water Security Agency here while she worked in a laboratory with Clifton Associates Engineering in Regina. 

“It’s … streamlining our skills … (and) kind of getting skills that fits the requirements of the province,” Mr. Orino said.

The Orinos — who started their program in September 2022 — worried they might not keep pace with their four younger classmates, especially since they had finished school 24 years earlier. Yet, the industry-experienced instructors and learning services both offered help when necessary.

Before starting the program, the college had the Orinos take an online refresher course in math because “engineering math is not an ordinary math,” Mrs. Orino said. The course was helpful since they hadn’t been in school for over two decades.

“Yeah, when we did it, we still remembered (math concepts), so (we thought that) maybe this won’t be so difficult,” she chuckled. 

The Orinos were surprised to learn they were likely the first husband and wife to take the same Sask. Polytech course simultaneously. 

Mrs. Orino said it was “kind of hard, but enjoyable too” because they can discuss the same topic at home, but they must do their homework separately so the college doesn’t think they are cheating off each other. 

The couple will convocate in December and plan to remain in Moose Jaw long-term.

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