Studying in Canada is getting more and more lucrative by the day. So, what is it like to be a student in Canada?
Recent M.Eng. (Computer Engineering) graduate from University of Toronto, Shreya Rajput holds a specialization in Analytics. She is also working part time with a startup that focuses on ML solutions. She took Scholar Strategy services before heading to Canada. She shares her candid feedback on Canada below.
Why did you choose studying in Canada?
During my application process, I remember having applied to 10-11 schools. Out of which 8 were American Universities. Back then the only country that I had in my mind was the U.S.A. Initially, my parents weren’t completely on board with the idea of their daughter moving to a foreign land for studies. After continuous persuasion, they did agree. As my mom’s cousin stays in Toronto, Canada gave them a sense of security and they wanted me to consider it as an option. And honestly, that was the point when I started looking into Canada, as a prospective destination for my masters.
I did some research on Canadian schools and found that Canada has some of the world’s top schools. However, the number of good universities in Canada is much smaller when compared to the USA and most of these schools are competitive. I did not want to compromise on the quality of education. Having said that, Canada would have been an option for me only if I made it into the top Canadian universities. I received my admit from T.A.M.U in April, and I was going to apply for my U.S student permit, that’s when I received my admit from the University of Toronto, which led me to reevaluate my options.
While I was deciding between T.A.M.U and the University of Toronto, I spoke to my aunt. The only thing she told me was “In your age money and American lifestyle seems exciting but do consider a few years down the lane”. I think that statement greatly influenced my decision. Moreover, Canada is right next to the States. Then, Canadian schools not only offer one of the best educations but are more affordable compared to their counterparts in the U.S.A. The University of Toronto is one of the best computer science schools in Canada as well across the globe. I am happy with the decision I took. Also, Canada being an immigrant-friendly country makes a lot of things easier for international students.
Also read: MS in Canada compared to MS in USA
What have you most enjoyed in Canada so far?
Canadians are very nice people. With one-fifth of its population foreign-born, Canada is very diverse (at least Toronto where I live). I have found people accepting of different races. My favourite thing is the food here, you can literally find everything, from Mexican to Asian to Goan cuisine.
Another thing that I like here is that students can work part-time. It not only reduces the financial burden on the students, but also helps them gain some decent industrial experience before graduation.
What have you not liked about Canada?
Canadian universities are either research-intensive or Industry experience-oriented. The University of Toronto is a research-intensive school and in fact, most top Canadian schools are research-focused. I found the courses at the university are much harder and less industry-oriented (mostly thesis oriented) when compared to American Schools. I feel this is something that differs from school to school. Again, I am talking in the context of graduate courses.
Bachelor’s here is on par with the US. The job market is good. Toronto has many companies and it’s a growing market but, when I discuss the salaries and number of opportunities with my friend in Boston, the numbers are definitely lower. Then, rents are high in Toronto and Vancouver. As a student, it sometimes becomes difficult to afford it. The rent for a two-bedroom apartment in downtown (where most companies are located), is around 3500-3800$, while median salaries in software jobs are around 4500$ per month (after taxes).
Lastly, I am not a winter person, so I do find Canadian winters extremely long and harsh.
What advice would you give to a friend thinking of studying in Canada?
I would advise my friends to look into school ranking, courses, and the job market for the program/field they intend to pursue. Canada like any other country has all kinds of schools- good and bad, and all universities offer different levels and quality of courses/curriculum. As mentioned earlier universities could either be research-oriented or industrial experience-oriented, make sure that the courses and universities you choose align well with your goals and interests. One suggestion would be, getting in touch with the seniors, and understanding their experiences to make an informed decision.
Additionally, researching the job market before choosing a country is important if you wish to work after your studies. Hence, I would strongly suggest that you research job opportunities in Canada in your field of interest. For instance, my field of education is software and there are tremendous opportunities in the Software Industry, which perfectly align with my career goals. But I have seen my friends struggle looking for jobs in the Hardware, Aerospace and Chemical sector.
How easy or tough is it to get the work visa/PR in Canada?
Obtaining a work visa after post-graduation is easy. The graduate students receive an open work permit which allows them to work in Canada for 2-3 years without any employer sponsorship. The duration of the work permit depends on the course/program length. A course of less than a year entitles you only a year (or less) of work permit.
PR here is based on a point system and going to school in Canada can help you strengthen your profile. From what I hear, the ranking of your university also plays a role and, gaining at least one year of Canadian work experience could be beneficial. A lot of my seniors received their PR within two years of their graduation. While things are easy, being a part of illegal activities like working beyond 20 hours/week can jeopardize your stay in Canada.
Are you considering settling there – why or why not?
At this point, I am not sure about the settlement. I would like to stay another 4-5 years here. I want to live close to my family if that were not the case, then why not! Not being a winter person, the only reason I can think of to reconsider my settlement in Canada would be the winters, else I think it’s a great country to settle in, people here are very friendly and accepting.
To summarize, studying in Canada has its pros and cons. But for someone looking to settle in a peaceful, nature filled, warm hearted country that offers great quality of living, Canada is an option that cannot be ignored.