As per a UNESCO report, there were over 60,000 Bangladeshi students enrolled in higher education abroad in 2017.
While it is certain that the number has increased, among these outbound students, a significant portion are preferring Canada due to easier study permits and PR facilities to settle in future.
Towseef Hossain and Shahrier H. Arnab are pursuing their bachelor’s degrees in Canada. The writer has been in conversations with them about the lifestyle, study pressure as well as hurdles and opportunities in Canada for higher study.
Bachelor in the University of Waterloo, a student of Combinatorics and Optimisation, Towseef Hossain said that Waterloo along with some others like the University of British Columbia, and Simon Fraser University has a co-op program which means they can alternate between 4 month-long study terms and work terms. Currently, he makes about 35 Canadian Dollars an hour working 40 hours a week.
He added, “I make more than to bear my own living expenses throughout the whole year. As the study and work terms are separated, so it is not that tough to balance in between both of them.”
While it is possible to deal with some of the living expenses, it is not that easy to get long-term funding in Canadian Universities, especially coming from an NCTB background.
Shahrier H. Arnab, who’s currently in the final year of his Bachelor of Commerce degree at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, had availed of the entry scholarship from his university.
A student with a 10 on 10 GPA which means a GPA of 5.00 in both HSC and SSC can only avail of this scholarship offer. But this scholarship too barely covers the cost of one semester in Newfoundland.
While talking to the writer, Shahrier said, “There’s very little funding in my university; without an excellent result, it’s tough to get that for the next 4 years of bachelor's degree.”
“It is important to have a good amount of liquid cash deposited in Bank for emergency purposes here. I would not suggest anyone apply for higher education in Canada if their bank deposits can not cover the total cost of liquid cash,” Shahrier further added.
The costs and salaries of jobs also vary from region to region. Whereas for Towseef, it was easy to bear the living cost in Waterloo, in Newfoundland where Shahrier lives, trying to pay the whole tuition by working while studying abroad is an insanely impractical attempt due to being a regular student.
When it comes to the study pressure, being in his last year of graduation, Shahrier said to the writer, “The study pressure can vary depending on whether you are taking online courses or on-campus. It can also vary from professor to professor, course to course. I’m towards the end of my degree so the pressure is currently light.”
However, in between the study-work dilemmas, the Bengali community in Canada are quite active. They arrange several programs like- Pahela Baishakh, and Eid get-togethers, and also arrange welcoming parties for new students.
Towseef, being overwhelmed with the community, mentioned, “When I first came we had an active Bengali Students Association which hosted social events around the year to welcome new students and help them with meaningful connections. In general, Waterloo's population is also quite amicable and it's a nice city to live in, all things considered.”
Once the students get done with their degrees, they have higher work prospects in their required fields and can take the facilities of work permit also.
Ashiq Rahman, a Senior Software Engineer at CISCO–who got done with his master's from Concordia University, Montreal a few years ago, said, “Jobs are available in all fields if you have the correct set of skills and know-how to communicate during the interview processes.”
“Prospective job seekers are not discriminated against based on race/gender/colour (there are some exceptions but in general people are not discriminated).”
He also added, “In fact in all fields, even during the pandemic, hiring increased especially in STEM. Canada and the USA are in dire need of skilled people in STEM.”
Ashiq Rahman advised the ones who want to apply for higher education in Canada, that one should prepare and start planning ahead. Listing down the cities, and universities one is interested in and offering a master's programme that matches the required subject interest should be the top priority.
“During the last year of undergraduate study in Bangladesh, try to get done with IELTS. Plan and prepare for SOP letters, and recommendation letters as well.”
“Start reaching out to different professors and schools even before you finish your undergrad programme; share your interesting topic and how your study aligns with the professor's research field,” he guided the newcomers.
At times some universities in Canada do not even require GRE or SAT, only IELTS is enough to get admission to universities. In addition to the preparations, paying close attention to the deadlines is always important as Towseef mentioned in his conversation.
“For undergraduate degrees, people should start researching these at the start of 11th grade so they can stay on top of things to apply for undergraduate programs.”
“Other than that, it varies from university to university. My tip is to reach out to groups like Bangladeshis Beyond Borders and the university’s admissions department if you have any questions regarding the admissions process,” Towseef explained.
Apart from all the struggles and stress, mental health is an important issue throughout the whole process.
Towseef’s tip number one mentions, “You have to always make an attempt to reach out if you're having a hard time. Many of the international students, Bengali or otherwise, have been in the same boat with juggling studies, responsibilities, job anxiety, immigration whatnot, and most, if not all, people I know are always happy to help.”
He even mentioned an active community for the university subreddits, Discord servers and the local students’ associations are good places to start.
“Universities also know that moving to a new country is a daunting task and they will usually have tons of resources to help make that move as seamless as possible. And to an extent, you'll be in charge of your own life, so make an effort to make the best of it,” Towseef concluded.