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Studying and Living in Chilly Canada

There’s a lot of disillusionment with the Indian education system. So what is the solution? The good ol’ US of A, right?

But then there is always the risk that the consular officer thinks you look like a leper and rejects you or your dad will have to sell cattle to put you through. Anyway I would urge all you potential foreign study applicants to -‘aim a little higher’ than the USA.

Before I get to the obstacles between you and the land of the maple leaf I should mention that the easy part of studying in Canada is getting admission as long as your papers are in order. The difficulty is getting the dreaded visa!!!

Internet Applications
Everyone knows how to get into an US University but few know about Canada – it has a rather different system and requirements. When applying to the Universities keep in mind that the Internet is your best friend. Online applications are very advisable if you have a credit card as they receive prompt attention and are quicker than mail. Do your homework and email Department/ Faculty representatives or International student centers of the University you wish to join for more information.

JAM FUNDA:
Canadians are extremely courteous and almost always reply to any international enquiries unlike their American counterparts. Even the rejection letters clearly outline reasons for declining admissions!

Snail Mail Applications
A big peeve is the postal lag between India and Canada which is anywhere from 20-30 days unless you use an ultra expensive DHL or UPS. That’s ridiculous considering that mails to the US get through in 10 days. So ensure advance planning and plan your admission more than 6 months prior to application. The Visa process will give you sleepless nights, so you need that extra time in hand.

Getting In
Canada does not require SATs for Undergraduate courses with a few exceptions (please contact the university for requirements). Always adhere to deadlines as Canadians are very particular about the dates they set. A TOEFL is mandatory and only scores lower than 240/300 are usually frowned upon by the top 30 universities. For PG courses a GMAT or GRE may be required depending on the program.

Tuition Fees
Although tuition is lower than in the US, the costs are still quite high. So if you have a scholarship it’s very beneficial (even for visa purposes). Assistantship jobs in University departments are available in certain faculties, however this is inadequate to cover rent or tuition. You cannot rely on that alone!

Accommodation Outside The Campus
Living costs in certain cities are much higher. The Quebec province has a higher sales tax system and living there is much more expensive than anywhere else. Toronto and Vancouver have very high rent costs. Anywhere from $350-700 CA per month depending on the living arrangement. Living on campus is also expensive and should be applied for at least 6 months prior to the semester as the spots are usually booked up. I have to stress on this once again! Canadians are obsessed with research so be sure to do your homework on the University you are applying to and their research interests.

Contact CEC:
For visa/admission queries please contact the Canadian Education Centre (CEC). They are extremely helpful and for Rs.1000 they will give you sound counseling advice on the admission and more importantly- the visa process (they’ll check your papers to see that they’re in order). Remember, if your paper work isn’t in order you walk out of the Embassy empty handed. Contact:
CEC NETWORK, INDIA
86, Paschimi Marg, Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi – 110 057
TEL: 011-614 6648, 614 6652
FAX: 011-614 6078, 614 6238
Email: praja@delhi.icco.net

Visa Woes:
The worst experience I had in the entire application process had to be obtaining my visa. It is a horrific and frustrating experience. To begin with, there is no consulate or embassy for obtaining visas anywhere else in India besides Delhi. There is a consular office in Mumbai for enquiries only! They have got to streamline this process as it takes more than one month to get a visa

  • The Three Stage Process
  • The First Stage: Applying for the Visa
    You better get there early, and I mean at least 6 AM. There will be around 150 people in line already. There’s a chap on the lawns outside the Embassy who maintains the line numbers so be sure to see him.

    The line trickles to the 1st gate where papers are accepted, checked and sent back to the Consular Building. It’ll be around 11:30 when you finally get in. You pay the visa application fee inside and wait for your call to one of 15 booths where your dreaded interview takes place. Since Sept 11th they’ve become pretty darned strict and will grill you over two issues.
    – Firstly your MOTIVE. Why Canada? Why the program you’ve chosen? Why the University?
    – Secondly, the MONEY. This is very important and only CEC can ensure that your financial sources are acceptable. They are also very concerned about the source of the money.
     

    JAM FUNDA:
    Be very clear and confident before going in because they may grill you for no less than 15 minute up to even 30 minutes in cases. Be honest! No Canadians take the interviews, they only see the notes made by the interview officers and grant you the visa based on those transcripts.

    The interview officer will then tell you to leave and return at 4:00 where you’ll have to wait again at the gate when your number will be called and the verdict announced. You do not get your Visa till after the Medicals and only a stamp will be on your passport indicating acceptance. If you’re rejected see if you can re-apply.

  • The Second Stage: The Medicals
  • If you clear the 1st Stage,you have to get the medicals examinations done. A list of centers will be provided to you and you can only get your tests done from one of these. It is recommended that the medicals are done in Delhi, or else another week is wasted in transferring reports from one city to the other (sic). After the Medicals go home and wait, wait, wait.

  • The Third Stage: Collect the visa
  • After 2-3 weeks you will get a phone call or telegram asking you to collect your Visa. You can mail your passport to them but that means a waste of 2 weeks. If you go personally you have to drop off your passport in the morning and collect it the same evening. Yeah you are exhausted…..but relieved that you can plan your trip at last (with a lingering hatred for bureaucracy).

Top 30 Universities
1 McGill University (Québec)
2 University of Toronto (Ontario)
3 University of British Columbia (Br Columbia)
4 McMaster University (Ontario)
5 University of Alberta (Alberta)
6 York University (Ontario)
7 Carleton University (Ontario)
8 Simon Fraser University (Br Columbia)
9 University of Manitoba (Manitoba)
10 University of Ottawa (Ontario)
11 University of Calgary (Alberta)
12 University de Montreal (Québec)
13 University of New Brunswick (N Brunswick)
14 University Laval (Québec)
15 University of Windsor (Ontario)
16 University of Western Ontario
17 University of Winnipeg (Manitoba)
18 Memorial University of Newfoundland
20 University of Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan)
21 Queen’s University (Ontario)
22 University of Waterloo (Ontario)
23 University of Victoria (British Columbia)
24 Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia)
25 Concordia University (Québec)
26 University of Guelph (Ontario)
27 University of Lethbridge (Alberta)
28 University of Regina (Saskatchewan)
29 Laurentian University (Ontario)
30 York University (Ontario)
NOTE:
* All Universities in the Quebec province usually require some level of French
* McGill and Toronto are the top Universities for Business Studies
* University of British Columbia is reputed for Agriculture and Biochemistry
* Carleton is the top Technical University in Canada
* Simon Fraser University is one of the best Universities for Economics in North America
* University of Lethbridge is reputed for Teaching and Arts
LINKS
ThisYahoo link provides direct links to University web sites

First Person Account
I am currently studying in the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. It’s been 4 months since I left home. While I miss so many things about home, life here is fantastic. People here are very physical and love their ice-hockey more than life. Most Canadians also love hiking and skiing. My first snow was an amazing experience and I take my first snowboarding run in a few weeks. For fun there are enough nightclubs and bars in most places to keep even the most ardent party people satisfied. There are many Indian restaurants in most cities too.

People don’t walk around too much, everybody drives and if you don’t live in a big city you sometimes won’t see people on the streets unless you head to the mall. If you plan to drive here I’d recommend getting an International license from India, which is valid for a year.

People are very friendly, annoyingly polite at times and like their own space. Truly worth mentioning is the dry Canadian sense of humor which makes life here all that more worthwhile. After all, Canada did give the world Jim Carrey and Mike Myers (Austin Powers). I would like to add one Canadian characteristic which cracks me up…they tend to say ‘eh’ after every second sentence. Like “No kidding eh??!” or “Rough weather out there eh??”

Why Canada?
Canada never wanted to bomb Iraq or sell weapons to Pakistan. Yet they have the same standard of life that their loud neighbors do and more culture too. Canada has been voted the best country in the world to live in for many years. It’s simple to see why. People are friendly, the land is clean and beautiful and it is more highly developed than you could imagine.

Canada needs skilled professionals as much as the US does. Job prospects are definitely positive for people who’ve completed their degrees, as University degrees are a very big deal in this part of the world and not as common as compared to India where every second person has a B.Com or an MA degree.

Canadian Universities are recognized and reputed very highly all over the world especially in the US and Europe. In fact I’ve met several European students from Germany, Holland and Spain here who believe that a Canadian degree will brighten their prospects back home. So the bottom line is- if you want a quality world class education at a cost lower than the US universities and in some cases even better and more focused than them, then look up to Canada.”

More About Canada
Certain provinces are more developed than others. Ontario is the most populated and developed. British Columbia and Alberta are very highly developed as well. The fastest growing city currently is Calgary in Alberta. Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal are the main metropolitan cities. Montreal in particular is unlike any other city in Canada as it has a stronger French and European influence rather than the north American influence visible in other cities.

Desis will be a lot more comfortable in Toronto or Vancouver as both have an extremely high Indian population. At times you’ll feel you are back in Mumbai. Ah and then there’s the cold weather. The four seasons are Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Even the warmest cities hit at least -10 degrees in winter, while most cities get a -30 degree temperature during winter (You got to bear with that but what is central heating for?) For the rest of the year the weather is very pleasant and not too cold.

Aaron Pinto
(Currently doing a Masters Degree in Strategic Management Research at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta)

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