Study Abroad Experience in Canada, South Korea and Italy by Prasenjit Saha
It’s been a long time that I have been thinking to write about my experiences as an international student in Canada, Korea & Italy. However, somehow, I was not able to do so till now. Nevertheless, it’s better to be late than never.
Initial Challenges with My Study Abroad Dreams
Since my school days, I dreamt of going abroad for my higher studies. However, for a student like me who comes from a middle-class family, the cost of studying abroad and getting the right opportunity was always the biggest challenge.
I had tried to go abroad after 12th. There were multiple occasions when I had to drop my plans to study abroad either because the fees were too high or I was not able to get an offer from the university of my choice. However, I never lost my hope and ended up studying and working in three countries across three different continents.
Before I share my experience of an international student and an expat I would first like to go for a small rapid flashback.
My Initial Years in India
I was a student of commerce and so studied management in my Bachelor’s. Moreover, I always liked the art of business and wanted to be an entrepreneur. After my bachelors and a course in finance I scored a job with a financial services start-up. I was very successful with my first job and ended up grabbing a very high position in the company. Despite all the professional successes coming my way my dream of going abroad never went into oblivion.
Study Abroad Preparation
After a couple of years, I decided to pursue my higher studies abroad. With a little bit of my own savings and a bank loan, I decided to go to Canada. I had two options — first, write my GMAT and apply directly for my MBA or apply for courses that don’t require a GMAT. I chose the latter as I really didn’t want to wait anymore. Hence, the outcome was my admission to the PG Diploma program in International Business Management at Centennial College, Toronto.
Life as an International Student in Canada
My experience as an international student in Canada was truly overwhelming. Apart from the merciless winters, everything that Canada had to offer me was stunning.
Perks of Studying in Canada
I would start with the infrastructure; not only Centennial but all the other colleges in Canada possess amazing infrastructure. Whether it’s the classrooms, the library, or the engineering labs, everything is so modern and so well equipped.
The other perks of studying in Canada are the multi-cultural and cosmopolitan environment. It was a priceless experience to meet and make friends from Europe, Caribbean, Latin America, and even from Japan & China.
It was like experiencing the whole world coming together within a few hundred square meters. This multi-cultural experience had a huge impact on shaping my outlook, cultural tolerance, and networking. These virtues truly helped me a lot in the days to come.
Academics in Canada
The colleges like Centennial offer you with almost all possible programs available on the planet. From an aircraft maintenance course to a program on hospitality management, they have all.
Unlike most of the universities, something I liked about Centennial is the choice of lecturers. Most of the lecturers are from the industry and the way the courses are designed it gives you a hand on practical and theoretical knowledge, which becomes very useful when you present yourself to the job market.
Jobs for International Students in Canada
As an international student in Canada, I didn’t face too many challenges except the winter. However, the students who wanted to earn their living had to struggle a bit in the initial days. The part-time off-campus works were a bit tough to get by. The ones which were a bit easy to get required a good amount of physical labor.
Once I graduated, I got a job in an immigration firm. Being myself a potential immigrant I liked the job a lot. The job was not only about advising people on immigration but also helping new immigrants with business setups and getting franchisees of other businesses on the requirement.
My Thoughts on Canada as a Study-Abroad Destination
In brevity, I realized that Canada is a great place for international students, you will learn a lot; not only in the classroom but also from the environment around you. Couple of things that I found very important as a student are the choice of courses/program, to begin with, and then to learn the art of networking.
If you can’t network well when you are studying, you will struggle to get a job as around 80% of jobs in Canada are hidden or in other words not advertised.
Unexpected Setbacks and New Opportunity
Just when everything was going right, and I felt life is under my full control I had some emergency back home and so had to leave Canada without even serving my notice period.
After spending around two years in Canada I realized how different the way we do things in India. The events back home had some negative implications on my career, and I couldn’t return to Canada. Moreover, my immigration lawyer also messed things up for me.
However, those few months in India gave me an opportunity to reflect on my career and I felt that it’s high time to get my MBA done. In my quest of finding the right MBA, I came across to SolBridge International School of Business, Daejeon (South Korea). Though I had some good offers from Germany and the UK I decided to go with SolBridge.
Why I Chose Korea over UK & Germany for MBA
There were a few reasons behind it. First, I was able to get a global scholarship. Secondly, I wanted to do my MBA where I would get the exposure of a multi-cultural environment. SolBridge boasts of having students from more than 50 countries under one roof with 80% of Professors from around the world.
Apart from being one of the most well- known business schools in Korea, SolBridge took pride to be one of the youngest AACSB accredited business schools on the planet.
Life as an International Student in South Korea
To talk about the experience in Korea it was so exotic. The food is so different from the rest of the world so as the culture. When inside the school, I had a totally different cultural experience but as soon I get outside, I could see a totally different (Korean) culture.
Korea is a very developed country and has ample opportunity for deserving students. They believe in hard work and have a very hierarchal working culture. However, my experience in Korea says that as an international student your opportunities will increase in many folds once you learn the Korean language.
I have some great memories from Korea, be it the Karaoke or the famous Korean barbeques or even the K-Pop concerts. Moreover, I excelled in my academics as well. I topped my class and was announced as the Valedictorian. Apart from the academic success, the working opportunities that I got there in Korea helped me to decide on my next goals. Working in the International Relations Department and as a Research Assistant I discovered my love for research. I had a great opportunity from China. But, I forego the offer to work for a Chinese institute in China and decided to go for doctoral research.
Related Article: All You Need to Know about Study in South Korea (UG & PG)
Hunt for Funded PhD Positions
After Korea, my next goal to do research and apply for my PhD and mold my career to become a future strategic business consultant took over the driver’s seat. To get a sponsored PhD you need to have a great academic record and some publications, if possible. Though I had a good academic record, publications and a GMAT score were still missing. However, that wasn’t a deterrent as I almost applied everywhere with whatever credentials I had.
Maybe God was happy that day when out of the blue I got an interview call from LIUC, Italy for a PhD position in strategic management. To be honest I didn’t recall if I had even applied to the university or not (because of so many applications I sent and that’s never a great idea). Nevertheless, I cracked the interview and was one of the 6 candidates out of more than few hundred who applied to get a sponsored PhD.
I was doing pretty well and had half-way through my PhD. But, the recent pandemic has put a brake on everything, and all the research work is now suspended until further notice.
My Experience as an International Student in Italy
My experience as an International student in Italy was a bit different than the other two countries. Though Italy is in Europe, I felt the system is mired with red tapes.
The work culture is similar to India and people are a bit laid back. The standard of education is however very high and they employ creative ways to teach. The rich European architecture and history all around and the modern implementation of the education system had really fascinated me.
My Thoughts When I Look Back – Studying and Working in Three Foreign Countries
Living, studying, and working in different countries have helped me grow as a person more than anything. I believe the experiences that I have accumulated taught me to accommodate myself in any given situation.
I have become more tolerant and flexible, more culturally aware individual who believes in egalitarianism. On professional count, I got some invaluable first-hand experience of the education system and the job market scenario of the countries I lived in.
As a student, my experiences had led me to unravel the mystery of what the universities are looking for in an International student. Before applying to a university (abroad) it’s important to know what the universities in different countries are seeking from the student as many times that vary from country to country.
Moreover, as a former expat working in those countries has helped me to understand the expectations of the employers, the current trends and future job scenarios.
My Current Stint with Stoodnt
Now, fast-forwarding to my present situation. Sitting idle was the last thing I wanted and when things look so ominous, I got this amazing opportunity to work with Stoodnt.
With Stoodnt I hold two positions — one as a Consultant (Strategy & Alliances), where my aim is to help achieve the organizational goals. Secondly, I am on Stoodnt’s Counsellor Panel, where I would be glad to share my experience and knowhow to the aspiring students in realizing their study abroad and career dreams.
I have worked as an Immigration Consultant in Canada, within the International Relations Division & as Research Assistant in South Korea, and as a Doctoral Researcher (Strategy & Marketing) in Italy. So, I think I would be able to help aspiring study-abroad students.
As the last thing, I would really emphasize the fact which I think is very relevant in this present time and the fact is I have had a lot of setbacks, but I never lost hope.
This pandemic has resulted in the biggest setbacks for most of us in many forms and from my life’s experience, I trust that perseverance is the mantra. “Keep hope and keep trying”
If you have got quick queries, please post in the comments section below. For personalized queries and consultation, you can book a session with me.
Author: Prasenjit Saha
Prasenjit has done his PG Diploma (International Business Management) from Centennial College (Canada) and an MBA from the SolBridge International School of Business (South Korea). Currently, he is a PhD scholar at the Università Carlo Cattaneo (Italy) and working as a Counselor & Strategy Consultant with Stoodnt.com.
Prasenjit has been conducting his doctoral research in the field of Strategic Management & Marketing. Earlier, he has worked in domains of Financial Services (India), International Relations (Korea), and Immigration (Toronto, Canada). Prasenjit holds excellent knowledge about the education system, the job market, and visa/immigration rules in Canada, South Korea, and Italy.
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