Life at a Foreign University: A Letter from a Student Juggling Masters, Part-Time Work, and Life in Canada

(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring you the experiences of students from different foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences, students tell us how life is different in these countries and the things that are. non-academic learning)

— Kriti Sharma

I’m Kriti Sharma and I’m pursuing a Masters in Public Relations at York University in Toronto, Canada. While working for three years in India as a sub-editor and content writer, I felt the need to improve myself. Blame it on the pandemic, but like all my peers, I stayed home for almost a year and a half and attended online classes. So I was keen to attend offline classes and hence decided to go abroad for higher studies. But why a foreign university? This is because studying abroad not only makes a person a more responsible person but also exposes them to a new culture.

It’s been over a month since I joined York University. Prior to that, I was pursuing a master’s degree in brand management at Seneca College in Toronto. I took two courses because a person has to take two separate courses or a single two-year course to get a three-year work permit in Canada. There are different types of work permits available in the US country. I opted for a graduate work permit.

If the institution has mentioned the duration of the course and it is two years or more, you can get a three-year work permit.

image of immigration

Why I chose Canada

I completed my graduation in Political Science from Delhi University and then pursued a Post Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication from the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai. Although I have studied in the most prestigious universities in India, I chose Canada for my higher education as it is not only more affordable than the United States of America or the United Kingdom, but the job market is also it is comparatively better compared to other countries.

This year I enrolled in another course, for which I have to attend classes in person. For the amount of money we’ve invested, physical classes make sense because it’s the experience we’re paying for and not just the Zoom calls.

India versus Canada: Pedagogical Approaches

Talking about academics, in India, while most educational institutions follow a theoretical approach, in Canada a practical approach is followed. The focus is on real case studies and the course content is up to date and industry relevant.

I missed the deadline to apply for the scholarships. So my suggestion to others would be: do a thorough research on the universities and the scholarships they offer to international students before you decide.

It took me a while to get used to the currency here, but I’m learning fast. I always end up converting everything to INR and worry every time I go out shopping. To cover my expenses and be independent, I have also taken a part-time job in a pizzeria. Striking a balance between college and work and still finding time for yourself is more complicated than you think. But the experience is worth it.

Different countries, different cultures

My experience so far has been mixed. Life here is exciting and fast-paced. While some days test your patience, there are days when I miss my family and home cooking.

For students who are planning to study abroad, I suggest that they learn basic life skills like cooking, cleaning, etc. Unlike India where you get domestic help, in Canada you have to do everything yourself as labor is expensive here.

I knew from sitcoms that people in Canada are polite, but experiencing it firsthand is different. The crowd is more diverse as you meet people from all over the world. Being a Noida girl from Uttar Pradesh, the experience for me is not only exciting but also helps me understand different cultures.

I was told that the Canadian winter can be extremely cold and intimidating. The temperature here now is seven degrees, which the locals say is good weather, but for me, it’s a bit cold. At first, it was hard for me to adjust, but since everything—the buses, the buildings, the subway, the trams—is centrally heated, it became tolerable. It’s just when you walk down the street that I feel cold.

As told to Agrima Srivastava

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