The Reality of International Students in Canada

Lanre Ogaosun

By:Habeebah Ahmad

An international student from Nigeria has found living in Canada harder than he thought it would be. Between having to juggle three part time jobs to pay for his tuition and sustain his life, always feeling burned out and losing his social life, Lanre Ogaosun has had a tough transition.

Before Lanre moved to Canada, he thought that everything would go smoothly and life would be easier. He was not aware of just how difficult his living situation would be. With high costs of living, Lanre had to act immediately.

“Getting here, it was hard for me to get an accommodation. I had to stay at my Aunts place” Lanre said. “It was hard for me to get a job as well. I have skills in photography and videography but I was told I did not have the Canadian experience.”

Eventually Lanre was able to find a job, however it came at a cost. He is currently working three jobs, one as a part-time teaching assistant at Seneca, his second job as a staff at Seneca’s AV Loan desk and he works some nights at Walmart.

“It is definitely overwhelming, but I had to get 2 jobs to be able to pay.”

According to EduCanada, international students pay almost triple to quadruple the amount of tuition that a domestic student pays. Due to domestic tuition rates being frozen the government of Canada relies mainly on international students to help with enrolments. A large number of graduates from post secondary institutions are international students.

What are some steps students can take?

Many psychologists and mental health workers work closely with students to make sure they are at their full capacity. Irene Chegwin, a psychologist from Colombia has shared how she helps students navigate a difficult time.

“My first recommendation is priorities. Try to set up your priorities” Irene says. “My suggestion is to always talk to someone. Talk to a therapist, a councilor or a friend, but don’t leave this for yourself.”
Although Irene has dealt with clients around the world, there are also accessible services in Canada as well. Seneca College also has personal counseling where students can meet with counselors to talk about any issues they are facing.

Maria Chung

Seneca College councilor Maria Chung urges that students visit their offices if they are feeling overwhelmed.

“I encourage students to approach the financial aid office” Maria says for students that need help with their finances. “When you are connected to financial aid offices, you are connected with a financial aid advisor who will be able to help students look up bursaries and scholarships and they are hopefully ressources out there that help assist students financially.”

Why Come To Canada?

Just like Lanre, many international students are not aware of the hardship they are going to face when they come to Canada. Oftentimes, they are promised a better life but the harsh reality is never disclosed.

“I chose Canada in particular because it is a multicultural society,” Lanre said. “Based on the research that I did, Seneca has the facilities and equipment to help enhance the skills I already have.

Back in Nigeria, Lanre had already attended school for photography and videography. After graduating from his program he took some time off for himself to travel across Africa. Upon his return, that is when he decided to look into the journalism program at Seneca College.

At first, many international students are eager to begin their new lives. However, there are a lot of disparities they face. Despite the high costs of living there are other factors as well. One of them being culture shock. Having been in a country where it is predominately people that look like you can be hard to adjust to living in Canada.

“Even though Canada is a multicultural country, there seems to be some restrictions when it comes to expressing your culture,” Lanre said.

Making a move so drastic can also be lonely. Many international students have to leave their family, friends and the life they have made for themselves back home. A lot of students tend to fall into depression and mental health issues. They already have to balance a very hectic work and school schedule and doing it alone is certainly not an easy task. In some cases a lot of students have to talk with counselors to help them.

The Downside

Although there are many resources out there, the supply simply does not match the demand. Many international students including Lanre still feel like there are not enough resources to help them.

“This is my second year at school and I’ve tried to apply for bursaries, grants, scholarships, to help out with tuition but based on the research I’ve done most of the grants are for domestic students. It is hard to find something for international students.”

Finances is just a small aspect of the troubles international students face.

“Besides financial resources, we still need some services to help us out with networking and mental health.”

Moving Forward

Despite the difficulties being faced, international students will continue to come into Canada. Although it is not an easy journey many international students still feel like they will thrive and will have more job opportunities. A lot of them also feel like although they may be struggling right now it is only temporary and in due time will be able to live the life they desire.

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