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The grass on the other side isn’t all green for international students

Canada is one of the greatest countries for education and thousands of students from other countries come here to study a variety of programs. We have a quality educational system with a multi-cultural society that is cleaner and safer than most other countries.

There are more than 500,000 international students in Canada.  And the number has been steadily rising for many years.  But not everything is good news for international students.  Many of them struggle with things that a lot of people might not think about.

We spoke to three different students at Sheridan College about what they felt has been the hardest part about moving to a new country that is very different from their home countries.

Ganimat Kaur (From New Delhi, India)

Ganimat Kaur is a first-year journalism student from New Delhi, India.  She arrived in Canada in August of this year and has experienced a lot since then.

“First, I experienced a mental breakdown because of the distance and the change.  Adjusting in a new place for a student is difficult in terms of personal support, residential settlements, social circle and lack of assurance by someone you love or used to live with,” Kaur says.

The emotional side of change might be obvious when we think about moving to a foreign country.  But Kaur also shared the practical struggles she faced:

“Catching up to the advanced technology, different pronunciations, making new contacts and friends, finding a good job and adapting to Canadians brands and products used for daily purposes . . . and of course, the weather,” she said.

Anna Vagabova (From Kiev, Ukraine)

Anna Vagabova is a film student at Sheridan College from Kiev Ukraine.  She shares many similar struggles with Kaur. 

“Probably the most struggle is change of language. I’ve never spoken in English all the time; my family doesn’t know English almost at all. I used to mix languages as I speak,” she said.

Also, like Kaur, Vagabova feels like there are more nuanced things that foreign students are impacted by that Canadians don’t realize:

“The difference in mentality, starting from traditions and holidays to jokes and their sense of humor. There are also internal Canadian jokes that I have no idea what they talk about.”

She also said, “Plus, for a long time I was embarrassed by my English and some people do not understand that international students need more time to process information. Plus, I am not very good with slang and text abbreviations, for example, lmk.”

Elmira Persaud (From Georgetown, Guyana )

Elmira Persaud is a photography student from Guyana and has been studying in Canada since 2017. She broke down what her biggest struggles were into several categories:

  • Getting student visa and permit
  • Applying to universities/colleges
  • Paying international fees and health insurance
  • Adjusting to a new society
  • Language barriers
  • Homesickness

One thing that Persaud, like Kaur, pointed out as a struggle was adjusting to the weather. Although it might come across as humorous to Canadians, many international students come from drastically different climates. Being prepared for the winters in Canada is very important.

“Shopping for the right kind of clothing and winter gear (e.g. jackets and shoes) is very important, and I think this is information that many people may lack when moving to Canada (if they would have not experienced this sort of weather/climate before),” Elmira says.

So why stay?

With all these negative aspects to being an international student and having to face so many hardships, of the three students we talked to, they all had different reasons to stay.

Kaur said, “The perks according to me are: reputed institutions, humble people, good environment, good health. A student just needs support and acceptance here to feel like home.”

Vagabova said, “Safety is number one. I’m from Ukraine, so things are not the best there. Plus I’ve found people that I truly respect and appreciate. There are great people here.”

Persaud said, ” I want to stay here because it’s a more stable and developed country, and more art-centered tertiary education is not available back home. There are also many more job opportunities in Canada.”

These reasons are examples of why Canada has consistently been a top destination not only for international students, but for immigrants in general.

Written by
Ross Cadranel
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