International student leverages his DC education for success



By Shanelle Somers

Vikasdeep Singh, 20, grew up as an only child in Punjab, India He lived in a farmhouse with his mother, father and grandparents.

Together, the family owns a large farming business called Bhullar Farm where they grow grains and fruit.

“Punjab is the food bank for India,” says Singh.

Today, he is 11,291 kilometres away from home in his second year of Durham College’s (DC) Chemical Laboratory Technician program. The program is Durham College’s top program choice among international students.

This year, 354 international students have entered the program.

Singh decided to study at Durham College because of the way he learns in the classroom. He says in India classroom learning looks a little different when compared to Canadian post-secondary institutions such as DC.

“In India our studies are mainly theory but here we can do practical in everything,” he says.

Singh says his program is all about chemistry.

“So, we are those technicians that check PH levels for swimming pools or in big laboratories and we check PH levels for drinking water and lake waters,” says Singh.

He was first introduced to the field by his Grade 10 chemistry teacher.

“His classes were the best classes and from that I knew I had to do something in chemistry,” he says.

Singh began to research where he could continue his education in chemistry and came across the Durham College website.

“The thing that attracted me to Durham College is that 98 or 97 per cent of graduates get jobs from here. So, I thought there must be some quality education at Durham College,” says Singh.

However, he says it’s the hands-on learning that his having a positive impact on the way he is able to learn and understand. For example, Singh says he enjoys the ability to focus on practical work at DC and learn in a hands-on environment.

He says in India classes are structured as formal lectures and based on theory.

“Back home we have to write, cram, everything is different from here. My study patterns here are better,” he says.

At Durham College, Singh says getting one-on-one time with professors is easier compared to post-secondary schools in India. For example, at DC he says he is able to set up appointments with his professors during their office hours to gain further knowledge.

Living in a new environment and cultural context can be difficult at times as an outsider but Singh says he has adjusted to the Canadian lifestyle well.

He attributes being able to adjust easily to new environments to his family.

Singh grew up admiring his father, a farmer, and grandfather, an army veteran, who served for 32 years in the Indian army. He watched them work together to grow the family business into a success.

He spent time most of his childhood to himself playing with the cows and hens in the fields.

Singh says he grew accustomed to keeping to himself because he did not have any neighbours or other kids to play with nearby.

“When I started schooling, then I became socialized,” he says. “I didn’t have friends because I am the only son of my parents. Relatives refused to come and visit our house sometimes. Sometimes we used to go to relatives, but I was not a social person.”

Singh is closest to his mother and grandmother who are both housewives and says he values his father and grandfather very much.

“So, my grandfather, he’s all about discipline,” he says. “When I was back home, doesn’t matter if it’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I was to wake up at 6 a.m. and join him for the morning walk. His father and grandfather taught him about values.

Today, Singh has become more social. He volunteers at DC’s International Office and encourages students from other countries to attend its events.

However, despite being surrounded by plenty of new friends he has made at Durham College, he still values his alone time.

Winter is a challenge for him living in Canada. He says he was not prepared for the cold weather when he moved here

“I remember I had to wait for the 910 bus at Walmart at Laval Drive and I had to wait for 15 minutes. I didn’t have a winter jacket or winter shoes and I was ill for a week. That was crazy,” he says.

Another challenge has been tuition costs. Singh’s tuition fees as an international student in 2019 are $13,322 a year. For a Canadian student in his program the tuition cost is $2,722 a year. This means Singh is paying 20 per cent more for the same education.

“For international students it’s expensive everywhere,” he says.

For example, the average undergraduate international student tuition cost per year in Ontario is $35,029, according to Statistics Canada.