International student realizes dream of studying in Canada

By Jackie Graves

After making a journey of over 7,000 miles from Vietnam to Canada, 24-year-old Minh Vu is realizing his dream of studying in another country. He says he chose Canada because of the country’s supportive policy in place for international students.

“I always wanted to try studying abroad,” says Vu. “Everything is really supportive to come here to study, so I decided to come here to Canada.”

Vu grew up in Hanoi city in Vietnam before making the move to Canada. He now rents a room about a 10-minute commute from Durham College.

Previously, he studied there and graduated from a business administration program. He says Durham College’s offered more specialized programs, which piqued his interest in the school.

He decided to study Durham College’s Supply and Operations Management program in Oshawa because he says he felt it was the best fit for his long-term goals.

“I chose Oshawa because I think Durham is a good college and it’s quiet enough for me [in Oshawa] to study and focus on my target,” he says.

Vu says his parents helped pay his tuition and has worked the past summer to also help fund his education. He is currently working at a nail salon as a receptionist so he can help pay his parents back and to make sure he has income.

“I decided to prepare that for myself as a backup plan because when I came to Canada because I know it’s very hard for foreign people to find a job here,” says Vu. “I know that kind of job is easy to find, especially for Vietnamese.”

However, according, international students are only permitted to work 20 hours per week and full-time hours on scheduled breaks without a work permit.

This means for some international students, paying back college and university debt could be difficult.

For Vu, he says one of the biggest challenges for him and other international students is getting from point A to point B – something he says he feels was much easier back home because the distance between buildings was shorter.

“For me, like an international student, public transit is a typical thing (we) have to deal with,” he says. “It’s not so regular here in Oshawa, so it’s hard for us to move from one place to another. It’s very difficult for me to travel in Canada than in Vietnam.”

Vu adds with winter coming, this issue is only going to be more difficult for international students once the snow falls.

While Vu says he is looking forward to his potential job prospects, he expects he will have difficulty finding a job as an international student. He points out many Canadian employers prefer to hire students with previous job experience, which not all international students have.

Since they have limitations on their ability to work, it’s possible international students may not have the necessary experience to be the prime candidate for hire. Because of this concern, Vu is applying for entry level jobs in his field in hopes gaining the experience he needs.

“I didn’t have that before, other than volunteer and extra activities at school,” says Vu. “I want to get as much experience as I can.”

Vu says he has struggled with the natural stresses of school but overall says his experience has been a positive one at Durham College after meeting friends who have helped him cope. He was joined in his interview by his good friend Wei Yuan, who was planning on joining him for an evening workout session once it was over.

“I couldn’t figure out the balance between the work, the life and the study, it was really hard for me,” says Vu. “I met a lot of good friends. A lot of them helped me get through the difficult times.”

He also says he has been enjoying his new-found independence.

“I have to work to pay my bills, I have to step outside of my comfort zone and meet new people and talk to new people,” he says. “I can also experience a lot of beautiful places. It’s really a great experience.”

Although Vu says international students may have a harder time finding a job in Canada, he doesn’t discourage them from studying abroad. He encourages prospective students to make sure to do their research.

“They should research as much as they before coming here about the living and about the jobs,” he says. “I found from my experience if you prepare your resume and your cover letters, with your new networks and your contacts here, it will be easier for you to find jobs.”