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Dropped everything and went to study in Canada. How do international students live?

Dropped everything and went to study in Canada. How do international students live?

An unusual story of our client who manages to live in Toronto on $1,000 including rent.

We met in Toronto with our student Maksim. Maksim manages to live in the most expensive city in Canada for just US$1,000 per month. Today, he is ready to share his knowledge, experience, and life hacks with you.

Maksim is from the city of Shymkent, Kazakhstan. We first met when he signed up for a consultation with our company. As Maksim says, he immediately understood that the most likely optimal option for him would be to immigrate through education. And that turned out to be the case.

Maksim made a grave decision — to go to Canada alone, leaving his wife and two children so that his family could comfortably relocate and start a new life in Canada later.

The main reason for Maksim's move was the future of his children. According to him, the quality of Kazakhstan education is lower, so he learned everything on his own in his work. As for his children, sending them to a prestigious university in his home country would be expensive. In contrast, with Canadian citizenship, they can get a quality education at a very affordable price.

Now Maksim is studying Computer System Technical Networking at Georgian College. The program lasts for 2 years and includes a mandatory paid internship.

Student housing in Toronto

Maksim booked his accommodation before arriving in Canada. He had to pay for the first and the last month upfront.

Maksim rents a student room in a four-bedroom apartment. He has three roommates: a student from India studying business at York University, a graduate from Mauritius who has already completed a cybersecurity program in a Canadian college and is currently looking for a job, and another roommate who is already working.

It can be challenging for a family person to return to student life, especially sharing an apartment with other students. But Maksim, as he says, has more or less gotten used to it. He stays in touch with his wife and children every day, which helps him cope with the long separation.

Admission with poor English skills

It's impossible to study in Canada if you lack English. Maksim studied English online at the International Language Academy of Canada (ILAC) through the University Pathway program. This is a special program for preparing for study at a Canadian higher education institution, which allows you to enroll in dozens of universities and colleges in Canada without taking a language test.

"Very useful, especially for college," Maksim shares his impressions of studying at ILAC.

In the University Pathway program, students improve their language skills and learn how to make presentations and write essays in the format used in Canadian higher education institutions. This greatly facilitates their further studies.

It took Maksim 4 weeks to master English to the required level, but he decided to stay for another 2 weeks because he was confident with written assignments, but still needed to improve his spoken language.

Combining studies at ILAC and work was not easy. The intensive course takes place 5 days a week for 3 hours. Maksim worked from morning to evening, then slept, and woke up at 4 AM for ILAC classes, studying until 7 AM. Of course, studying in the morning is not obligatory as ILAC offers different time slots, and many choose to study in the evening after work.

Features of studying in Canada

Maksim is studying to become a system administrator at Georgian College, but he is not new to the field. So far, the only new thing for him has been Cisco — network equipment that is very popular in Canada and the U.S., but not widely used in his home country. After his studies, Maksim will even be able to get a special certificate from Cisco. According to Maksim, nothing else has been new for him so far, but there will be more later, as at the time of our meeting he had only been studying for a month and a half.

In many Canadian universities, students create their own schedules. For the first semester, Maksim took more online classes to have time to study English and look for part-time work. He goes to college once a week.

Important: If you want to get a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after studying, you must attend at least 50% of your classes in person. At the time of Maksim's admission, a temporary measure allowed students to take more online classes without losing the right for a PGWP.

Due to each student having their own schedule, the concept of a group does not exist in Canadian universities and colleges. There may be different students in each class. Online classes attended by Maksim usually include 40-45 people and in-person classes up to 25 people. They are all of different ages: from 18 to about 40 years. But that's not the limit.

Be prepared that you may have to buy textbooks. Maksim needed to buy only one textbook, but this depends on the program. For example, business students at his college purchase many books.

"The teaching is interesting, each teacher is probably a professional in their field," Maksim says about the professors and adds that different accents can be challenging to understand.

International students in Canada have the right to work up to 20 hours a week, and from fall 2024 — up to 24 hours.

Maksim has already started looking for a job. The college has career advisers who can help with resumes and interview preparation, give job search advice, and offer volunteer opportunities. Some people from abroad find it unusual, but volunteering in Canada is highly valued and can even be an advantage when applying for jobs.

Life hack: How a student lives on $1,000

When we met, Maksim had been in Canada for a month and a half — his memories are very fresh. Maksim likes Canada, especially the cleanliness, many parks, and greenery in the city.

Maksim spends only CA$200 per month on groceries. He has studied all the stores, tracks promotions, and buys different products in different stores where they are cheaper.

The average rent for a room in Toronto is CA$1,000. Often utilities and internet are included in the price, so there is no need to pay them separately. Also, Maksim's room came furnished. If you rent an entire apartment or private house, you will likely have to pay for all or part of the utilities and home internet. Plus, such housing is often rented unfurnished.

Maksim, as a student, spends CA$35 per month on a mobile plan. This plan includes a good data package. A student metro pass in Toronto costs CA$112 per month.

In total, necessary expenses amount to CA$1,350 or US$990 per month.

Advice for those thinking about moving to Canada

The main advice Maksim wants to give to those thinking about immigration is not to delay and start pursuing your dream.

"I planned for about 5 years. I kept thinking, dreaming, and everything else," Maksim recalls.

Delaying immigration is often a losing option because there is a tendency for conditions to become more complicated and prices to rise. There are many examples of this.

When Maksim signed up for our initial consultation, rooms in Toronto were rented for CA$500, and by the time he arrived in Canada, they had risen to CA$1,000. Maksim was enrolled in 2023 and was required to have CA$10,000 in his bank account for a study visa. In 2024, the amount in the account must be more than CA$20,000. Additionally, not all colleges now provide a PGWP for their graduates.

Therefore, not delaying and getting the support of experienced specialists is the most important step on your way to Canada.

You can always seek help from us. The first thing to do is to book an initial consultation. We will select a suitable university or college and program for you, help with admission without taking a language test, and submit visa documents.

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