(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring to you the experiences of students at different foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences — students tell us how life is different in those countries and things they are learning other than academics)
— Ananya Kamboj
Studying abroad was a decision that I made during my school years. Hello, I am Ananya Kamboj from Mohali, Punjab, and I am pursuing software engineering at Thompson Rivers University in Canada.
The reason I chose Canada for my higher education was the country’s infrastructure, technology, modern-day innovation and training programme. The Canadian education system is considered among the best in the world and pursuing higher education in an international, multicultural environment is an experience I didn’t want to miss. I knew I would be able to gain a global perspective on how people with different cultural backgrounds think, act and perform in a wide variety of complex engineering situations.
About the course
I am pursuing the five-year Bachelor of Engineering in software programme at Thompson Rivers University. It is different from the four-year programme in India, because of a system called co-op education or cooperative education.
The flexible learning experience at the university through an application of a variety of teaching methods, including lectures in small class size, tutorials, laboratory classes, group working and online resources will prepare me for specialised and rigorous professional training in all aspects of my chosen field.
In my first year, I chose Calculus, Linear Algebra, Programming, Physics, Engineering Design and C++ programming as the subjects.
The admission procedure is a bit long though not complex. I started preparing for college admissions in class 12 and appeared for IELTS in August 2021. By November-end, I submitted my application. The application form asks for a student’s scorecard of Class 11 and 12 (interim scorecard can work till the actual scorecard doesn’t come) and IELTS score.
In Canada, the admission criteria and application process can vary significantly depending on the university, the programme and the province. For most undergraduate programmes, the essential criteria for admission are successful completion of high school and competency in English language. The universities in Canada have limited space, so there is competition for admission. This is why completing high school and meeting the minimum average is not enough to guarantee admission. In British Columbia, there is a centralised application system — EducationPlannerBC — that helps students plan, search and apply for admission to universities. After this, I had to appear for a personal interview along with group discussions.
How Canadian education system is different from India
Everything in Canada is digitalised, we make notes on iPad. We have weekly quizzes on the syllabus of the previous week. We have two midterms which cover 50 per cent of the syllabus each and then, the final exam.
I was a little apprehensive when I joined college, but it turned out to be a great experience. The infrastructure and modern-day technology at the university attracted me the most in my initial days.
The main advantages of studying at this university are flexibility and stress-free education. Thompson Rivers University allows students to choose their own courses, and even schedule their timetable. I can choose to finish upper year courses early or choose to do electives in business, arts and even forestry and conservation. The Canadian education system is similar to the US education system. I have several opportunities to work with education clubs, participate in sports and other extracurricular activities and even do research at the undergraduate level.
The university offers three scholarships valued at CAD $6,000 each for the first semester. Undergraduate students under the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) accredited engineering programme can apply for the scholarship. The main criteria is that a student needs to score more than 90 per cent marks in CBSE Class 12 exams along with seven bands each in IELTS. To be eligible to receive scholarship in the subsequent semesters, students must score a minimum 3.67 GPA. I plan to apply for a scholarship after I complete two or three semesters as it would cover my fees for 3-4 courses/subjects.
Canada as a society
People in Canada are warm, friendly, and helpful. In the initial days, it was difficult to adapt to the taste of the food here but now I am used to it. Although I still miss homemade food, life here is more organised.
I am working in the hospitality department of the Sandman Signature Kamloops Hotel. It is a part-time job that helps me manage my finances. There are many part-time jobs in Canada for students to help them out with finances.
Other than academics, I have a keen interest in football. I have been selected for a football programme called ‘Football for Friendship’ where I wrote about football games for various journals. Also, I have my own venture — Sports to Lead — where we conduct activities for youth and women empowerment. I have also participated in various programmes promoting SDGs and published a book titled, My journey from Mohali to St. Petersburg.
The Covid-19 pandemic affected everyone. Initially, I was in a dilemma and contemplated studying in Canada. The pandemic resulted in closure of schools in India, which led to the postponement of CBSE Class 12 exams.
This meant a delay in results, which in turn affected my university application and student permit. But with the continuous efforts of the university and both Indian and Canadian governments, I am here to fulfil my dreams despite the crisis.
My advice to students applying abroad
My advice will be to do research before deciding to study abroad. I met representatives of various universities and tried to understand the immigration laws and student laws of the countries. Moreover, studying abroad also needs equal understanding of employability, investment to profit and stay visa regulations after completion of a study programme in that country. It’s better to talk to experts as well to get a clear understanding of where and what you wish to pursue. If you choose to study in Canada, get accredited to Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) – these institutions are approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students. A letter of acceptance from a DLI is essential to obtaining a Canadian study permit.