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Life as an International Student

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

By Gunkaar Singh

My dad always used to tell me a story about how he used to go back to his village from the city on the very first day of his summer break every school year. He has told me this story many times and every time my young mind would think “Why would someone go back to a place with such irregular electricity, no malls, and very few shops?” I asked my dad “Why did you keep going back? There’s nothing even good on TV there!”, and he would always answer “You wouldn’t get it.”. I came to Canada last year and being away from home for more than a year now, all I have to say is “Dad, I do get it now.

A Warm Restricted Welcome

When I came here last year, COVID was still making headlines. There were a lot of restrictions in place such as compulsory masking in public places, vaccination requirements for dine-in restaurants and entertainment activities (movies, bowling, etc). The university was just opening up again so there were no in-person classes. The pandemic had an impact on everyone’s social life since colleges and work environments both had restrictions in place. It was initially difficult to socialize and make new friends, but eventually, I got along well with everyone around.

Finding A Place To Live

I had my fair share of difficulties finding a place for rent. Apparently, the landlords are not too keen on giving out rooms to “student boys”. It took me a week to find a place to live for me and my friend who came with me. We moved in quickly after finding one. The good part about the place was that the University was just 30-40 minutes away since we had a GO train station nearby.

Beautiful Canada

As I got out of the airport, I was greeted with the sun shining brightly but the weather was not warm enough to make me sweat. It was just perfect, but I was pretty tired so I booked a cab and went to my hotel. The next day, my brother who lived nearby picked me up and took me to Niagara Falls. The falls were just as majestic as when I saw them on Youtube. There was a pretty rainbow showing up above the falls, and it was such a great icing on the cake.

Next week, I went to Toronto and visited the CN Tower. The huge buildings with the sun reflecting on their windows made the city look so beautiful and full of life. Watching the whole of Toronto from this magnificent skyscraper was a surreal experience. I’ll be revisiting soon to do the EdgeWalk.

The Struggle with Public Transportation

Since I live in Brampton, there are only three options to reach your destination if you don’t own a car: taking the bus, train, or cab. The train is infrequent - it arrives once an hour and does not run in the evening. Cabs are way too expensive to board daily. This leaves you with only the bus as an option. The good part about buses is all the information regarding schedules is available on Google Maps so you can safely reach your destination. I would appreciate it if the information could be a bit more detailed because a lot of times I caught the bus from the opposite side from where I was supposed to. The bus service gets slower during the weekends, and most local routes don’t run on Sundays and on national holidays. I am totally fine with buses and their early-late arrivals, but when it's winter you start questioning your decisions. I once had to stand for 1½ hours at a bus stop waiting for a bus in -2℃ temperature during peak snow season. At that time, I really missed the local transport back in my country. You could easily board any rickshaw and auto at any time, and anywhere in my hometown without any need of waiting for unreliable buses.

A Diverse Country

This country is diverse in culture. I have met people and made great friends initially belonging to different countries. I learnt a lot about how people live respecting the culture here while keeping their own faith and culture alive. It is fascinating to talk to people who come from four countries away from yours, yet fate brought us together on the same land.

New Family

You soon begin to realize that your friends are the only family you have here. So you have to make sure you pick the best of the lot, or else your experience could easily turn from heaven to hell. You not only hang out with them, but you also get & provide support to whoever needs it. You not only study with them, but you also celebrate festivals with them, because they are the only family you have here. You make decisions together and while many decisions turn out to be wrong because we almost all share similar ideas; you soon comprehend that the real decisional journey is the friends we make along the way and the final outcome doesn’t really matter.

New Way of Learning

The pandemic introduced me to a new way of learning; online learning. I took one semester online from India, and it was a great experience learning from a professor who taught us all the way from Sault Ste. Marie. I learnt about indigenous peoples, their culture, and their impact on Canada. This information was completely new to me and yet the professor made everyone feel so included that it went on to be one of my most memorable experiences at the university. Our campus organized a trip to Sault Ste. Marie a few months ago, and I was able to meet the professor in his full glory while working on the campus garden!

I personally found the curriculum to be much easier compared to my previous course which I studied back in my country. I think it is easy not because of less quantity, but because of how supportive the faculty are and the way all the courses have their syllabus divided into weeks; making it easier for the students to follow and finish their assignments on time. I once remember the English teacher here telling the students that she won’t include anything from the first test in the midterms, because that knowledge has already been tested upon. This was something totally new to me since in my previous degree I was given 3 tests for the same syllabus.

Part-Time Job

My first part-time job here was as a helper at a meat shop inside a Freshco store. I am from a marketing background so I have never worked in such an environment. I had to cut chicken and pack it while also serving customers with their customized orders. I believe doing different part-time jobs has made me a humble being and my respect for those who work in the backend at restaurants, hotels, or similar environments is now 100x higher because I have worked these jobs. These jobs are hard and not your average cup of tea; and if everyone decided to settle for a white-collar job, then the whole world would collapse. It is amazing to witness that people (at least the ones I met) here treat everyone equally regardless of their profession; something I sadly did not ever witness back in my country. All my friends work similar jobs such as security guards, cashiers, warehouse workers, servers etc. and when I asked them if they ever felt excluded somewhere because of their profession, all of them said no.

It is important that we must respect all professions, while we may not notice the people around us, they are the ones who keep the world going.


Canada is a country rich with experience and diversity. I am so glad to be a part of Algoma University which has made my university experience a memorable one. I am yet to finish school, but my time here has been amazing and I look forward to what the future holds for me.


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