by Dianne Jayne Lumines
Many foreign people from different countries like the Philippines come to Canada as international students to chase their dreams of quality life. Nevertheless, the high cost of tuition, groceries, and rent are pushing them to work more than one job and more than 8 hours a day.
Ontario sets the record of highest number of international student population in Canada. Ontario have around 920,150 international students for the 2021-2022.
Meca Castardo, a Seneca international student from the Philippines, is one of the growing populations of international students who decided to take a new journey in Canada. She juggles her time as a full-time student, at the same time working on two jobs to support her studies and living expenses in order to reach her dream of becoming a professional in the hotel and restaurant business in Toronto.
She recalls her despairing feeling in the first weeks living alone as she has no family member or even relative, she can be with.
“It was so hard for my mental health and also like if you do study and work at the same time, it is so hard to handle and I have to save a lot of money to pay for like my tuition fees, my rent, my food, my like phone bills and anything else, and also like I have to do everything alone and my English is not that fluent as well, so it’s hard for me to communicate and to interact with other people,” she expressed.
After a few months, she was able to adjust with the new environment she is in like the work hours, piling of expenses, and even the fast pace of studying.
Meca realized that her allotted funds were barely enough following the increasing prices of groceries and rising rental rates in Toronto.
EXPENSES OF AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
The chart summarized the cost of living in Canada for an International Student with a monthly budget of $1900.
The overall cost of living in Canada is the sum total of the following factors. The data shows the least to the most of the essential expenses in Canada for international students.
Added to that, the rising cost of the international tuition fees that mostly covers the budget of the students. It shows that an international student pays 10 times greater compares to the tuition fees paid by a domestic student.
International tuition fees sit at an average of $38,081 for the 2023-2024 academic year, making it the most expensive tuition for students in Canada.
WORKING ON TWO JOBS
Meca then takes on working on two jobs to sustain her needs. She would get up early for her first job in an event center as a server. After that, she travels another hour to go on afternoon job as a service crew in a fast-food restaurant.
Later at night, she would get home and still have to allocate more energy for her to stay late to finish up her assignments.
“Even though I have a bachelor’s degree back in my home country, which is the Philippines, it’s so hard for me to get a job there. That’s why it will be a good opportunity for me to finish my studies here in Canada,” she said.
She would enumerate the numerous days she felt the exhaustion, lack of sleep, and devastation coming at the same time that many of the international students like her are also going through.
SENECA COLLEGE HELPS THE STUDENTS
Shannon Gaskell, Manager of Seneca College Annual Programs said that the institution has been working to support the students in terms of food insecurity through the two current programs they are funding. The first program is the SSF food bank by the Seneca Student Federation where there are about over 1200 students who access a bag of groceries every month. And the Feed to Succeed fund which is called Seneca soup. It is a free program for all Seneca students that basically offers free soup from any cafeteria of the school. Students just need to register with their one card to avail the daily free soup.
“It’s a struggle to be able to afford to go to school and to live in the GTA, and a lot of our students are working part-time and so trying to balance that. These are programs that help support not only their academic journey, but it’s hard to focus and it’s hard to be successful in your studies when you’re stressed out, not thinking about where’s my next meal coming from, and so these services are really important,” she explained.
LOOKING ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE
Despite all those struggles she had encountered and more to be coming around, she sees these challenges as steppingstones toward her goal of a better career. She believes that these are essentials for her to become an effective employee and also share as reflection for others.
She then relates how she had overcome everything by trusting herself with the line ‘I can do it’ meaning it’s her choice to come here so she has to deal with it.
Many are also going through the same struggles may it be financial, mental or emotional, but it has shown that most of them have succeeded through the continuous assistance of people they care for, the school institution and the government.